Preview: 2020 PIAA District III AAA Championship

When: Saturday, October 31st

Where: Big Spring High School

Time: Girl’s Race – 1:45p; Boy’s Race – 2:45p

BREAKING NEWS: Derry Township School District announced earlier today that Hershey HS is closing to in person education and have cancelled all extracurriculars, including XC, until later next week. This is gut wrenching news for the Trojans as they qualified teams in both boys and girls races.

To qualify into the class AAA championships, athletes had to be on one of the top 2 teams in their respective conference/leagues or one of the top 10 athletes not on one of those 2 conference/league qualifying teams. To earn a berth to next weekend’s PIAA Championship one must be on the winning team, or be 1 of the top 12 runners not on the winning team. The goal for many will be to place in the top 12 and thus earn one of those few, coveted spots for the state meet next weekend. AAA receives 21 less competitors than their counterparts in class A and AA, making these races incredibly competitive.

Weather may make a difference this weekend. Those who prefer the cold may have a leg-up on those who enjoyed the warmth of the season to date. Hopefully, the wind on Friday will help dry out the course come Saturday morning.

Spectators will be allowed as each athlete will be receiving two vouchers that can be exchanged for $5 to enter the school parking lot. Spectators are asked to leave immediately following their athlete’s race to minimize any social gathering.

Boy’s Race

The competition for the team berth to states will be fierce in AAA. As many as 5 teams have a chance to be the one that moves on. Pulling Hershey out of the projections shuffles things around a bit. Due to the close nature of the team race we will project out the top 5 teams below. We head into the championship meet with Hempfield as the slight favorite over York Suburban, with Twin Valley, Carlisle, and Cedar Crest close behind. Come race day, this is a toss-up. No one inside these team’s top 5 can afford to have an off day, its that close. Twin Valley enters with arguably the best depth and the most flexibility if someone has an off day. They have the smallest spread 1-5. York Suburban (Cole Adams, jr and Grant Kern, jr) and Carlisle (Kevin Shank, so and Evan Peachey, sr) have the top 1-2 combos. Hempfield and Cedar Crest could each place 3 runners inside the top 20.

Individually, Graham Thomas (sr. Penn Manor) is our pick to take home the individual title. He showed break away speed at the LL League meet and proved he had more in the tank. The Temple University recruit looks to be a top 5 runner in the state. There are a significant number of runners that could give him a challenge come race day. The top challengers from the YAIAA are Suburban’s Adams and Northeastern’s Cole Perry (jr). Adams took home the YA title winning by 6 seconds. Mid-Penn sophomores TJ Roden (Central Dauphin) and Jordan Tiday (Cumberland Valley) have split their season races to date, each bettering the other by only 1-second when they won. Reid Weber (sr, Northern) ran his season’s best race finishing 1-second back of Tiday at Mid-Penn’s. All 3 look ready to roll. Berks County’s Noah Taylor (sr, Twin Valley) and Alex Holbrook (jr, Exeter) and the LL League’s Aidan Hodge (so, Hempfield), Stephen Schousen (sr, JP McCaskey), Tyler Stevens (jr, Manheim Township), and Ryan Wolfe (jr, Cedar Crest) could all factor into the top 5-10 as well.

Expect as many as 28 athletes to have a chance at one of those 12 state berths.

Projected Team Finish (top 5):

1. Hempfield – 71 points – STATE QUALIFIER

2. York Suburban – 72 points

3. Twin Valley – 81 points

4. Carlisle – 87 points

5. Cedar Crest – 88 points

Projected Individual Top 12 + additional State IQs (in alphabetical order)

Cole Adams (jr, York Suburban)

Jakolby Fackler (sr, Palmyra)

Aidan Hodge (so, Hempfield)

Alex Holbrook (jr, Exeter)

Grant Kern (jr, York Suburban)

Cole Perry (jr, Northeastern)

TJ Roden (so, Central Dauphin)

Stephen Schousen (sr, JP McCaskey)

Tyler Stevens (jr, Manheim Township)

Noah Taylor (sr, Twin Valley)

Graham Thomas (sr, Penn Manor)

Jordan Tiday (so, Cumberland Valley)

Reid Weber (sr, Northern)

On the Bubble:

Tommy Bildheiser (sr, Cedar Crest), Jacob Bordatto (sr, Gettysburg), Drew Cole (jr, Gettysburg), Evan Eshleman (sr, Hempfield), James Herman (sr, Northeastern), Luke Hinegardner (jr, Cedar Crest), Carter Paul (so, Mechanicsburg), Evan Peachey (sr, Carlisle), Jakob Rager (so, Dallastown), Kevin Shank (so, Carlisle), Shernan Singh (so, South Western), Eli Spence (sr, Shippensburg), Shea Walsh (jr, York Suburban), Dale Winand (jr, Hempfield), Ryan Wolfe (jr, Cedar Crest), and probably others. This is a deep group!!

Girl’s Race

With Hershey now out of the race, this appears to be a two team race for the district title and the 1 qualifying spot to states. Northeastern and Mechanicsburg both looked really strong at their respective league meets. Northeastern dominated the YAIAA, winning with only 34 points and placing their top 5 in the league’s top 10 finishers. (Note – Dallastown put up a valiant effort to finish second with only 59 points.) Mechanicsburg placed 2nd in the Mid-Penn to State College. No shame in that. State College may be a top 3 team in the state. Mechanicsburg and JP McCaskey have 4 runners that can match-up well with Northeastern’s, but to challenge the Bobcats for the title they will both need big performances out of their #5 runners. Mechanicsburg is better positioned to do this. While they did not qualify as a team out of the BCIAA, Governor Mifflin did qualify 5 individual runners and could play spoiler to someone by serving as displacers during the race. If all 5 finish, they will score as a team.

Individually, expect a battle between Northeastern’s Margaret Carroll (sr) and Wilson’s Caryn Rippey (jr). Both won their respective league meets with ease and will enjoy the competition the district meet is sure to bring. Looking to play spoiler will be Greencastle-Antrim freshman, Claire Paci. She looked great in winning the Mid-Penn class AAA title last weekend. Don’t be surprised to see her mixing it up with the upperclass(wo)men. This would be the time I should be calling out Hershey’s Brooke Preputnick (so) and Emma Taylor (jr). Both have top 5 potential, but will miss out due to Hershey closing today over COVID concerns. They both should be incredibly proud of their seasons. Lookout for both next year! Who else has top 5 potential? Hope McKenney (jr, Mechanicsburg), Winter Oaster (fr, Gettysburg), LL League Champion Alyssa Fedorshak (sr, Ephrata) and runner-up Anna Martin (sr, Warwick) all appear to be peaking at the right time. Oaster had a breakout run at YAIAAs, placing 2nd to Carroll and breaking 19-min in the process. While they didn’t finish top 3 at the LL meet, both Arielle Breuninger (sr, JP McCaskey) and Madeline Quinn (sr, Elizabethtown) have shown they are top 5 contenders by their performances throughout the year.

Projected Team Finish (top 5):

1. Northeastern – 49 points – TEAM QUALIFIER

2. Mechanicsburg – 71 points

3. Dallastown – 97 points

4. JP McCaskey – 104 points

5. Warwick – 112 points

In the end, my gut tells me this one will be closer than the projected score indicates. Mechanicsburg is firmly in this race. I learned last year not to count out Mechanicsburg and I am sure not going to do that again this season :).

Projected Individual Top 12 + additional State IQs (in alphabetical order)

Arielle Breuninger (sr, JP McCaskey)

Margaret Carroll (sr, Northeastern)

Alyssa Fedorshak (sr, Ephrata)

Camryn Kiser (so, Chambersburg)

Anna Martin (sr, Warwick)

Hope McKenney (jr, Mechanicsburg)

Winter Oaster (fr, Gettysburg)

Claire Paci (fr, Greencastle-Antrim)

Madeline Quinn (sr, Elizabethtown)

Caryn Rippey (jr, Wilson)

Brooke Sargen (sr, York Suburban)

Ava Shirk (fr, Manheim Township)

Helen Zardus (sr, Dallastown)

On the Bubble:

Katie Dallas (jr, Wilson), Nicole Dauberman (so, Susquehannock), Allie Engle (jr, Northern), Ella Hartel (fr, Warwick), Kaitlyn Highduch (fr, Governor Mifflin), Marissa Pritchett (jr, Northeastern), Lydia Tolerico (jr, Dallastown), Bella Treglia (jr, Northeastern), Raihana Yameogo (jr, Mechanicsburg), Gwyneth Young (sr, Cedar Crest)