2020 Mid-Penn Conference XC Preview (Boys)

The largest conference in District 3 will likely be won by a team coming out of District 6. State College finished 9th in the state last year and will likely make a return trip this season. They’ve won 8 consecutive District 6 titles and will make it 9 in a row this year. They return a terrific trio up front in Brady Bigger (sr), Bennett Norton (sr), and Sean Adams (jr). All three could be sub-16 min performers this fall. Looking to challenge State College will be Carlisle and Chambersburg. Cumberland Valley and Palmyra likely round out the top 5 teams. All 5 of the top teams have at least one low-stick performer with quality depth throughout their line-ups.

Individually, expect a very competitive top 20 as 19 athletes return with sub 17-min PRs. 2 athletes have sub-16 min PRs. Greencastle-Antrim’s Weber Long (jr) is the pre-season favorite. He’s the conference’s top returnee and has run 15:49 for 5k (Districts 2019). He ended 2019 with a 20th place finisher at Footlocker Northeast. He ran great indoors and is prepared to challenge for a state XC title in class AA this year. Long is the #2 returnee in the state behind 2019 champion Dylan Throop (sr) of General McLane. He can expect a challenge in the conference from State College’s Brady Bigger (sr) and Bennett Norton (sr), Shippensburg’s Eli Spence (sr), Mifflin County’s Brayden Harris (sr), Palmyra’s Jakolby Fackler (sr), and Central Dauphin’s T.J. Roden (so). Expect a bounce-back post season for both Harris and Fackler. Roden was class AAA’s top freshman performer at last year’s state championships.

Team by team previews and pre-season rankings

1. State College (AAA-District VI) – District 6 powerhouse State College appears to be the favorite to win the 2020 Mid-Penn Conference title. That said, the Little Lions have been known to hold out key runners at the conference meet to better prep for districts. They have that luxury since they haven’t lost a District VI title since 2012. If they do run a complete team at conference they could place as many as 3 runners inside the top 10.

Brady Bigger (sr), Bennett Norton (sr), and Sean Adams (jr) lead the way for State College. They went 1, 4, and 5 at the 2019 District 6 class AAA championships and have 5k XC PRs of 15:59, 16:01, and 16:17, respectively. All three had fantastic indoor track campaigns this past winter. Bigger set PRs of 2:01/800m, 4:26/1-mile, and 8:53/3k; Norton set PRs of 2:04/800m and 4:32/1-mile; and Adams set PRs of 1:57/800m and 4:28/1-mile. Charles Endres (jr) and Trent Dinant (jr), the #14 and #26 returnees from the 2019 Mid-Penn XC Championships, round out the team’s top 5 returnees. Dinant won the Mid-Penn JV Championship race in 17:25 last fall. Freshman Henry Adams will push for a varsity position this year.

2. Carlisle (AAA) – Carlisle returns everyone but last season’s #1, Casey Padgett (now running at Duquesne). Evan Peachey (sr) steps into the team’s #1 and low-stick position this season. He’s the #7 returnee from last year’s Mid-Penn meet. He really broke out at districts when he ran a big PR of 16:14 to place 7th and advance to the state championships. He set indoor track PRs in everything between 800-3k. He’ll look to bring home a state medal this season.

Carlisle’s next 6 athletes all ran within :43s of each other at Mid-Penns. Sophomore’s Kevin Shank and Andrew Diehl came on strong at the end of their freshmen seasons and both are likely mid-16 min runners this year. Diehl ran a strong 4:49 mile as a freshman this past indoor season. Junior Briar Thompson could be another mid-16 min performer this season. Andrew Booths (sr), Ray Bondy (jr), and Jacob Owen (jr) have all run in the low-to-mid 17s.

3. Chambersburg (AAA) – The Trojans will keep it very close with Carlisle this season. Our pre-season projections have the two squads separated by only 5 points at the conference meet (120 pts to 125 pts). Chambersburg returns their top 3 and has incredible depth that will challenge each other to fill out the remaining 4 varsity positions. Brayden Boyd (sr) is one of conferences top performers. He returns as the #6 ranked returnee from last year’s conference championship. He owns a 16:17 5k XC PR from last season’s Carlisle Invitational. He placed 9th at districts and advanced individually to states last fall. With his continued improvements each year he could challenge for a state medal in 2020. Zach Yourkavitch (jr) offers the Trojans another potential low-stick performer. He returns as the #17 runner from the conference meet. He really broke out at the district meet where he ran 16:42, placed 29th, and advanced to his first state championship meet. Returning as the #18 performer in the conference is junior Billy Prentice. Chambersburg will welcome back Nick Monheim (jr) in 2020. He missed the 2019 season with injury after being one of the area’s top freshman in 2018/2019. He has the talent to run with Boyd and Yourkavitch and his return could help the Trojans challenge for the conference title.

Chambersburg has any number of runners that could fill in their remaining varsity positions in 2020. Looking to lead this group will be Karter Reath (jr). Reath PR’d at the 2019 District Championships running 17:22. He was the team’s #4 runner that day and showed that he too could finish in the top 25 of the Mid-Penn Confernece this season. Ben Colli (jr), Dakota Strait (sr), and Lane Kuhns (jr) give the Trojans additional experience and depth. Freshman Ari Snyder could make an immediate impact. He had a successful middle school season in 2019 placing 3rd at Ben Bloser, 3rd at the Little Ship Invite, and 4th at the Carlisle MS Meet of Champions. Chambersburg has the best depth in the conference.

4. Cumberland Valley (AAA) – The Eagles were the team that surprised me the most last season. They flew under the radar until peaking at the perfect time to finish 4th at districts and advance to the state meet. While they graduated their #3 and #4 runners from a season ago they return a lot of depth and have a couple of freshmen who will challenge for varsity spots. Jordan Tiday (so) was one of the state’s top freshman in 2019. He got stronger as the season progressed and had his breakout race at districts when he ran 16:27 to place 19th. He went on to have a great winter track season and established a mile run PR of 4:40. John Williams (sr) is the #20 returnee from the 2019 Mid-Penn Championships. He too ran great at districts setting a 5k XC PR of 16:53. He is one of the conferences top middle-distance runners and owns an 800m PR from his sophomore season of 1:59. Reuben Thomas (jr) and Benjamin Connor (sr) give the Eagles a strong and experienced #3 and #4 runners. Thomas set a new indoor mile run PR in February. Watch out for freshmen Shane O’Connell and Michael Selan this season. O’Connell will push to be the conference’s top freshman this fall. He took home victories at the 2019 Gettysburg MS Invite and the 2019 Carlisle Meet of Champions.

5. Palmyra (AAA) – Palmyra was the Mid-Penn Conference Championship’s runner-up a season ago, but graduated 3 of their top 5 performers. Jakolby Fackler (sr) appeared to be off his form late in the season, but make no mistake about it, he is one of the area and state’s best. He ran 15:53 at the LVC Invite to place 3rd and then ran 15:55 at the very competitive Carlisle Invitational to place 6th. He will challenge for a conference and district title this season. He advanced to the outdoor track and field state meet in the 3200m as a sophomore running a PR of 9:36. Markus Votterro (sr) provides a strong #2 and owns a PR of 16:10 from the 2019 LVC Invite. He’s the #8 returning runner from last fall’s conference meet. Senior classmate Xander Topos is a strong #3. He could find himself on the medal stand this season. Quinton Townsend (jr), Jake Klucinec (sr), and Nathan Beraducci (jr) will provide a strong pack. Klucinec is an 800m specialist, running 2:01 as a sophomore (2019 outdoor season).

6. Boiling Springs (AA) – The top “small” school in the Mid-Penn season appears to be the Bubblers of class AA Boiling Springs. They return a really strong top 3, all of whom could medal at the conference and district meets. Looking to lead the team in 2020 is potential low-stick performer Evan Kase (sr). He’s the #10 returning runner from last season’s conference championship and owns a 16:43 5k XC PR from the 2019 Ben Bloser Invitational. Ethan Jones (sr) and Gibran Varahrami (sr) led the Bubblers at the district meet as Kase had a rare off day. Varahrami placed 23rd at districts to earn a spot at the state meet. I would expect this team to be in contention for a state team berth this season, but if not, then look for these three to all individually qualify. The remainder of the Bubblers roster will likely be made up of underclassmen as 3 sophomores (Tommy Crum, Jake Sokolosky, and Lucas Ballantine) made the post-season team as freshman in 2019. This season’s freshman to watch will be Connor Petula.

7. Northern (AAA) – The Polar Bears were 14th in 2019 and will look to make a big jump forward in 2020. Their top 4 return, including senior Reid Weber who was 22nd in the conference a year ago. He advanced to states last season and should expect a return trip this year. He set numerous PRs indoors and should be ready to see further improvements this fall. Northern has one of the deepest teams in the area and they will receive an influx of talented freshmen this season. Ian Mackay (fr) won the Ben Bloser MS Invite in 2019 by :08s. Look for him to link up with some of the returning upperclassmen to help solidify the squad’s top 5. Mackay’s freshman classmate Colin Snyder could also battle for a varsity spot this season. He was 5th at the Ben Bloser MS Invite. Shea Fisler (sr), Derrik Stine (jr), and John Noll (jr) are all solid returning performers that form a tight pack. Some additional freshman looking to challenge for a top 7 position include Pierce Nagel and Ryan Musso.

8t. Shippensburg (AAA) – The Greyhounds were an experienced bunch a season ago and return 4 seniors from last year’s top 7. Eli Spence (sr) leads the way and could challenge for the conference and district crowns this season. A state medal seems to be within his grasp this fall. You can follow along with Eli in our “Senior Journal” series here. Kyle Buchheister (sr), Todd Melisauskas (sr), and Gabriel Brandt (sr) form a strong pack behind Spence. Shippensburg will look to develop some underclassmen this year to keep their program pushing forward in the year’s ahead.

8t. Hershey (AAA) – Hershey returns no one from their 2019 district team. All 7 graduated and are now running in college. It was an impressive stretch for the Trojans, earning state team berths each of the past two seasons and taking home the Mid-Penn Championship title last season. The depth in Derry Twp is strong and they should find themselves back within the conferences top 10 again this season, even with a brand new roster. Pete Barto (sr), Evan Alander (sr), and Dillan O’Shell (jr) give Hershey a strong 1-3 trio. Alander ran an outdoor 1600m PR during COVID shut-down this past spring and will be ready to roll this fall.

10. Mechanicsburg (AAA) – Mechanicsburg returns a solid 5 with a really strong class of 2023. 3 of the Wildcats top 5 in 2019 were freshmen. Carter Paul (so) will be a low-stick performer this season. He’s the #16 returning runner in the conference and will challenge for an individual state qualifying berth this year. He ran a 16:48 PR at Lehigh’s Paul Short Invite last year. I expect him to have a great sophomore season. Titus Wiggins (sr) leads a strong pack of returning runners behind Paul. Freshman Travis Miller will look to link up with that pack this fall.

11. Central Dauphin (AAA) – The Rams will need to replace the loss of 3 graduates inside their top 5 from a year ago. Fortunately for Central Dauphin, they return T.J. Roden (so) and Logan Cook (sr). Roden was the state’s top freshman in class AAA last year, just missing a state medal finishing in 29th place. He’s the #5 returnee from the 2019 Mid-Penn Conference meet, but no Mid-Penn athlete ran faster than Roden at the District Championships a week later. He will push for a district title this season. Cook dropped a full minute between the 2018 and 2019 district meets. He is coming off an 800m PR indoors this past winter. Look for him to continue his rise up the individual ranks again this season.

12. Waynesboro (AAA) – Waynesboro was 16th a year ago and will be improving on that position this fall. They return 3 of their top 4 and have 2 freshman that should push for varsity spots. Isaac Moats (jr) returns this season as the team’s top returnee again. He will be followed close behind by Xavier Alvarez (sr) and Paytin Moore (jr). Freshmen Noah Bockstie and Owen Wilkinson could have an immediate impact.

13. Mifflin County (AAA-District VI) – Brayden Harris (sr) could push for a trip to Footlocker Nationals. He had an off year (for him) last season, but don’t count him out. He was 4th in the state as a sophomore and placed 12th at Footlocker Northeast that year, running 15:46. He had a strong 2020 indoor season this winter running a 9:26 3200m PR. Expect a big senior season from him this year. Mifflin County graduated 3 of their next 4 runners from the 2019 team. Chris Royer (jr), Conrad Coffey (so), and freshman Caden Bell will be looked to step into those vacated slots.

14. Red Land (AAA) – Red Land enters 2020 with only 1 returning performer from last year’s top 5. Fortunately for the Patriots, that returning runner is a good one. Matt Johnson (jr) is the #15 returnee in the Mid-Penn this season. He nearly qualified individually for a trip to states during his sophomore campaign, running a 16:51 PR on the district course. Red Land will need to rebuild the depth they lost through graduation. Freshman Chase Nunemaker is a good start. He was one of the area’s top 8th graders last fall and could push to be the Patriots #2 man this year.

15. Central Dauphin East (AAA) – CD East will look to move into the top 15 after finishing 20th in the conference in 2019. Noah Spayd (jr) figures to lead the team this season after posting a 17:24 time at districts last fall. He improved indoors this winter setting new 1600m and 3k PRs. Freshman Chai Brandenburg will be a nice addition for the Panthers.

16. Lower Dauphin (AAA) – The Falcons graduated their #1 and #3 runners from a season ago, but have enough depth where they should be able to rebound quickly. Two sophomores are likely to lead the way this season for Lower Dauphin. Mason English (so) and Cori Maduri (so) both contributed significantly as freshmen. Look for them to push each other to new heights in 2020. Without a senior in their returning top 5 look for Lower Dauphin to move up the rankings over the next 2 years.

17. Big Spring (AA) – Big Spring returns their top 5 from 2019. Matthew Ward (jr) leads the team and could challenge for a District III class AA medal this season. He owns a 17:27 5k XC PR from last year’s Little Ship Invitational. This team has a strong junior class that could push for a state’s bid in 2021.

18. Greencastle-Antrim (AA) – The Blue Devils will be led by District III’s top returning runner, regardless of class. Weber Long (jr) finished a close 2nd to Carlisle’s Casey Padgett (now running at Duquesne Univ.) in the Mid-Penn a season ago. He ran a 15:49 5k XC PR at districts finish 2nd behind Wyomissing’s Ben Kuhn (now running at Columbia Univ.). He then placed 3rd at states. He ended his season finishing 20th at the Footlocker Northeast Championships. He has a legitimate shot at qualifying for Footlocker Nationals this season. He could join the Penns Valley senior duo of Colten Sands and Brendan Colwell, and Mifflin County senior Brayden Harris as Central PA boys with a chance at nationals. Long continued his strong running indoors qualifying for states in the mile. Outdoors he ran several time trials setting new PRs in the 800m (2:01), 1600m (4:21.2), and 3200m (9:51.8). Caden Hudson (so) and Justin English (sr) give Greencastle a solid 2-3 duo.

19. Trinity (A) – Trinity will look to move into the top 20 of the Mid-Penn this season. They could make some noise at districts in class A. The Shamrocks could have 2 state qualifiers if they don’t qualify as a team. Both Jasper Burd (jr) and Connor Pushart (jr) have the talent to advance to Hershey this season.

20. Bishop McDevitt (AA) – McDevitt returns 4 from the 2019 post-season team. J.P. Katzenmoyer (sr) is poised to once again lead the Crusaders in 2020. He’s a top 20 returnee in District III class AA and could be an individual qualifier for states.

21t. Cedar Cliff (AAA) – The Colts continue their rebuild this season with 4 sophomores in their returning top 5. Jackson Green (so) had a really nice freshman season in 2019 and should be on the fringe for a conference medal this year. Freshman Isaac Burd should find himself amongst the team’s top 7.

21t. James Buchanan (AA) – The Rockets were 25th a year ago and should improve upon that this season. They return their top 3 performers from 2019 and have a solid 1-2 duo upfront in Brandon Boyer (sr) and Owen Cooper (sr). Both could be top 25 finishers at this year’s District III class AA Championships.

23. Middletown (AA) – Middletown has a legit low-stick performer in senior William Brown. Brown was 24th a season ago and comes back this year as the #13 returnee in the Mid-Penn. He owns a 16:55 5k XC PR from his 18th place District III class AA performance in 2019. That performance earned him a trip to the state championships. The team will need to fill in the middle of their line-up as their #3-5 runners all graduated.

24. East Pennsboro (AA) – East Pennsboro will look to move up from their 26th place finish in 2019. Their top 4 from last fall were all underclassmen so they should continue climb the ranks over the next 2-3 years. They have a strong #1 performer in Elijah McKell (jr) who is the conferences #19 returning athlete. He had strong indoor performances lowering his PRs in the 800m, 1600m, and 1 mile runs.

25. Camp Hill (A) – Camp Hill graduated their top 3 runners from last season’s conference championship meet team. Look for Harrison Mooney (sr) to lead the team this season.

26. West Perry (AA) – West Perry has 5 returning runners this fall and all 5 run in a tight pack. Without a senior in their top 5, this is a team that will continue to improve in the year’s ahead. Caleb Nickel (so) is their top returning performer.

NR. Harrisburg (AAA) – Harrisburg has opted out of the fall sports season. Only one runner would’ve returned this season, but he was a medal contender. Filmon Kesete (sr) was the #25 returnee in the Mid-Penn Conference. He owns a 16:58 5k XC PR and is coming off indoor 800m and one mile PRs this winter.

NR. Milton Hershey (AAA) – Milton Hershey has opted out of the fall sports season. This is unfortunate for their 3 senior athletes, all of whom are really solid runners. Devohn Page (sr), Dontrell Jones-Tobin (sr), and Daylan Ward (sr) all have sub 17:30 capabilities.

NR. Susquehanna Township (AA) – Susquehanna Township has two athletes returning. Both Landon Faulkner (so) and Alex Weinstock (sr) will challenge the 19-min barrier at conference this season.