2021 LL League Boy’s XC Preview

The Hempfield boys won the LL League and District 3 titles last season before finishing the year 4th at the PIAA State Championships. As good as that team was, this year’s team figures to be better. They return 3 District medalists from a year ago in Aidan Hodge (jr), Joe Fahrney (jr), and Dale Winand (sr). Their supporting cast is another year stronger as well. Sam Freedman (so) was a league medalist in 2020 and should build upon that rookie success this fall. Chris Titter (jr) joined Hodge on the Black Knights state medal winning 4x800m squad this past spring. Isiah Hollinger (jr) returns after running well at districts and states. I expect a big year from Ryan French (sr) who has steadily improved year after year and dropped his 3200m PR to 10:23 last spring. This team is very likely to end the season as one of the top 3 in the state! Check out my interview with the Hempfield boys here.

The team battle for 2nd should be very tight between Cedar Crest, Lampeter Strasburg (LS), and Manheim Township. In fact, in our projections its a virtual tie between these three. Cedar Crest returns 4 league medalists in Ryan Wolfe (sr), Luke Hinegardner (sr), Jake Perhonitch (so), and Ben McElroy (sr). Wolfe and Hinegardner both medaled at Districts with Wolfe advancing to states and finishing 33rd overall. Hinegardner was one spot out from individual state qualification a year ago. Depth beyond these 4 is a bit of an unknown. Freshman Viseth Meng could step into the #5 spot. He ran 5:02.91 for 1600m as an 8th grader. If the Falcons stay healthy and develop more depth, then they could be heading back to states. LS may be the top class AA team in District 3. Colin Whitaker (so) had one of the best freshman campaigns in the state last season and will look to improve upon his 12th place finish at AA states. An experienced supporting cast sets them up well come post-season. Their 4x800m relay team medaled at states this past spring. Manheim Township returns 6 of their top 7 from last year. Tyler Stevens (sr) will lead the Blue Streaks again in 2021 and will look to win his 2nd state medal. He was 20th in class AAA last fall. Township should have very minimal spread between their #2-7 runners. The team has also added several newcomers who could challenge for a top 7 spot this year. Freshman Cole Stevens won the 1600m, 800m, and ran on the winning 4x400m relay at the LL League Jr High Championships. He won the 1600m (4:46.69) and 800m (2:09.27) in convincing fashion, both times 2nd fastest in the state by an 8th grader.

Individually, Hodge, Stevens, Wolfe, and Whitaker look to be in position to challenge for the title. Hodge is the league’s top returner and put together a strong sophomore track and field campaign, lowering his 3200m PR to 9:24.86 while also running sub-2 minutes on Hempfield’s 4x800m relay team. He will look to improve upon his 21st place finish at states last year. After medaling at state XC, Stevens put together a nice spring track season, lowering his 3200m and 1600m PRs to 9:23.14 and 4:21.41. Wolfe was close to a state XC medal last year, but did win one in track as part of Cedar Crest’s 4x800m relay team. He lowered his PRs to 4:21.33 (1600m) and 1:57.50 (800m). Finally, Whitaker ran a superb 3200m PR of 9:28.12 as just a freshman. Expect big things from him in the year’s ahead. Others I like: Luke Hinegardner has so much post-season experience for Cedar Crest that you can’t count him out. I think he has a big senior season. Dale Winand seems to always put himself in contention and has improved year over year. He’s the #4 returnee from last year and could press for top 3 this season. Joe Fahrney’s breakout race came at districts last fall when he placed 11th. Lastly, Caleb Hershey (sr, Lebanon) and his Lebanon teammates missed the league meet a year ago due to COVID protocols. He has been running lights out this summer in a couple of road races. I think he finishes his HS XC career with a bang!

LNP’s John Walk is interviewing top returnees in the league this year. Here are his interviews to date:

Tyler Stevens

Ryan Wolfe

Here is a look at the top 25 returnees from last season’s league meet, with associated post-season XC and spring track and field results (where applicable):

Pre-Season Team Rankings

(More in depth team by team analysis to come as part of the District 3 previews)