Berks Catholic took home the Class AA title a season ago and I expect them to do it again this season. The Saints barely defeated Wyomissing last year, but this year’s team figures to be even better. Wyomissing appears to be the most likely squad to give Berks Catholic a challenge in 2021. They return a ton of experience, but did lose Grace Kuhn to graduation. The fight for the third state qualifying berth should be close. Look for 4 teams to battle for that 3rd team spot at Hershey. Berks County could sweep the state qualifying teams with Conrad Weiser. Expect Bishop McDevitt, Lampeter Strasburg, and Eastern York to also be in position to qualify for the state championships.
Individually, Peyton Ellis (jr, Boiling Springs) returns to defend her title. She placed 9th in the state last fall. During track this spring, she ran on the Bubblers state championship 4×800 team. Oley Valley’s Ava Lottig (sr), Conrad Weiser’s Sydney Werner (jr), and Wyomissing’s Addie Cohen (so) are the top returning challengers to Ellis from last year’s district meet. Werner posted the districts top 3200m time amongst XC returnees when she ran 11:26 this past spring. Bishop McDevitt’s Katelyn Deitrick (sr) is another name to watch. She is coming off a big junior track season when she ran a 1600m PR of 5:06. Lancaster Mennonite sophomore Claire Thomas is a new name to watch. At the class AA District 3 Outdoor Championships, she placed 6th in the 3200m, 5th in the 1600m, and 5th in the 800m. This will be her first XC season.
State Qualifying Breakdown: 3 Teams and the top 15 individuals not on one of the qualifying teams advance to the PIAA State Championships.
1. Berks Catholic – The Saints return everyone from last season, including Mackenzie Langdon (so). Langdon was the squad’s top finisher at the BCIAA meet, but did not compete at Districts or States. Michaela Burkey (jr) would pace the team at Districts and States. Both she and Langdon are top 10 medal threats for the district meet this season. Liz Esterbrook (sr), Caitlyn Bailey (so), Abby Wolf (sr), Grace Donato (sr), and Sara Holland (so) were separated by only 27-seconds at districts. Abbee Fries (jr) provides additional depth. The Saints also return Kierra Pickard (sr) who was injured most of last season. This team has incredible depth and have a couple of low-stick performers. They will be tough to beat and should be better than last season.
Coach Pickard: “Returns strong core of runners from last season and expects to challenge again for the District 3 title. Wyomissing and Conrad Weiser will push them and either three could win District 3. Strong depth, staying healthy, and the improvement of returning runners will be key to success this season.”
2. Wyomissing – The Spartans return 6 of their top 7 from 2020. The graduation loss of Grace Kuhn hurts, but expect a trip to states for this team in 2021. Sophomore Addie Cohen should compete for a top 3 finish at districts. Experienced upperclassmen will likely fill in most of the remaining roster. Seniors Maddie Hyde, Maya Smerek, Olivia Fisher, and junior Annika Gernert make up a strong supporting cast. It’s hard to see this team finishing out of state qualifying position.
Coach Hetrich: “After missing the district gold last year the Spartans hope to return most of last year’s line up and give the title run another shot. Key additions could be Lauren Riddle, Taylor Butler and Kylie Rosenberger.”
3. Conrad Weiser – Sydney Werner (jr) gives Weiser an individual title contender. She ran great this past outdoor season, lowering her 3200m and 1600m PRs to 11:26 and 5:12. Bella Auchenbach (sr) should compete for a top 10 finish this year and pairs nicely with Werner. Kamella Gechter (jr) provides some valuable middle roster support. Freshman Sarina Neiswender finished 3rd at the Berks Co Junior High Championships last fall and should contribute right away. Additional depth needs to be developed, but this team has a real shot at advancing to Hershey.
4. Bishop McDevitt – McDevitt returns 5 of 7 from last season’s district team. Anna Burke (jr) and Katelyn Deitrick (sr) are back to lead the Crusaders in 2021. Both are top 10 contenders. Rosa Carbon (so) and Victoria Spizzieri (sr) provide solid depth in the middle of the line-up. Additional depth is a bit of an unknown and could make or break their bid to make it to states.
5. Lampeter Strasburg – Aubrey Magagna (jr) and Jaclyn Martin (so) give the Pioneers 2 potential top 10-15 runners at districts. Morgan Wright (so) could push toward the top 20 this season. Can LS develop their #s 4-7 to challenge for a state’s bid this season? I think they can.
Coach Cunningham: “LS girls team lost two runners to graduation 2021. Seniors Molly Wissler and Tori Smith are prepared to provide leadership to this year’s team which includes several girls who are new to cross country. Junior Aubrey Magagna and sophomores Jaclyn Martin and Morgan Wright return with goals of top 7 again this year and improvement on their times/places from last year. Freshman Keira Smecker will be one to look for in the top 7 as well.
I am confident this team will become a close-knit group that will encourage each other to reach their potential individually and as a team. The mix of encouraging leaders, new faces and strong runners will be exciting to watch throughout the season.”
6. Eastern York – I have Eastern York on “State’s Watch” this season as well. They gained valuable experience at District’s last fall. Sophomore Kaydence Strange is a sleeper top 5 individual pick. She ran 11:52 and 5:33 for 3200m and 1600m, respectively this spring. Emma Nace (so) and Abigail Ferry (sr) are solid. Freshman Leah Flinchbaugh could make an impact.
7. Schuylkill Valley – The Panthers return everyone from last year, including 6 seniors. Averi Hidalgo (sr) is a district medal contender. Jayden Heck-Hoppes (sr) provides a solid #2. Sarah Gilbert (sr) dropped a nice 800m PR this spring and could see solid XC improvement this fall.
8. Kennard-Dale – A young team will get strong senior leadership from Ava Strickland. Sophomore Angelina Hammond could be a top 10 finisher at districts. Junior Charlotte Crowl will also be looking to medal. Underclassmen-heavy teams sometimes surprise. This Rams squad could surprise come post-season.
Coach Twigg: “Ava Strickland (12) is our lone senior this year, leading the girls team in practices. Angelina Hammond (10) and Charlotte Crowl (11) are looking to use their experience from last season to improve this season, and get the state qualifying spots that they earned and deserved to have last season. Putting in over 40 miles a week at this point in the season, the girls are going to have the base endurance needed to get some quality reps and races in to build towards the end of the season.”
9. Boiling Springs – The Bubblers will be led by 2020 District Champion, Peyton Ellis (jr). She was a top 10 finisher at the state AA meet last fall and will look to improve upon that performance this season. Julia Steel (jr) is a solid #2. 5 girls return from last season’s district qualifying team.
10. Lancaster Catholic – Catholic returns an experienced group, 5 of whom competed at districts last fall. Senior’s Ella Sheaffer, Annalise Kauffman, and Meghan Myers return to lead the way. Without a returning “low-stick” the Crusaders will look to have minimal spread between their top 7.
Coach Simpson: “Lancaster Catholic returns three experienced runners this year (Annalise Kauffman, Meghan Myers, and Ella Sheaffer). Behind them, there is considerably less experience, but the girls have been training hard all summer, so the team should do fairly well this year. We hope to be in the top third of Section II of the Lancaster-Lebanon League and to improve on last year’s record of 7-4. In particular, we hope to improve our finishes in both the LL meet and the District III AA meet where we did not do as well as we had hoped in 2020. As of the second week of August we have 10 girls on the roster. We open with the Harrisburg Diocesan Meet at Rudy Park in York County on September 3rd.”
Top Returning Runners: Annalise Kauffman; Meghan Myers; Ella Sheaffer
Other Varsity Returning Runners: Kirsten Resch; Allie Cellucci
Top Newcomer: Ella Hinchey
11. West York – West York returns 3 from last year’s district qualifying team. Makayla Appler (sr), Olivia Grimes (jr), and Katie Coats (sr) give the Bulldogs a strong foundation. Freshman Madison Strayer (fr) is someone to keep an eye on. She finished 10th at the 2019 Gettysburg MS Invitational as a 7th grader.
12. Kutztown – The loss of Erika Moriarty to graduation hurts. This is a small team with potential, but they must stay healthy. Lily Asplundh (so) and Sophia Arnold (sr) form a nice duo up front. Freshman Miranda Morstatt was 14th at the Berks Co Junior High XC Champs last year.
Coach Neyhart: “Small team of 5 runners. Two returners, Sophie Arnold and Lily Asplundh, both Berks Honorable Mention and District 3 qualifiers. A veteran returner, Bri Batz will be counted on to lead newcomers who must gain experience.” (Erika Moriarty has graduated and will be competing for Kutztown University this fall).
13. Susquehanna Township – Team returns 5 experienced seniors and juniors for 2021. Cassandra Zartman (jr) will look to lead the way. She ran well this spring, hitting 5:42 for 1600m. Alicia Green (sr) will look to join Zartman out front for Susquehanna Township.
14. Northern Lebanon – 6 juniors and a 1 senior return for Northern Lebanon in 2021. The experienced group will be led by Alyssa Marlowe (jr) and Erin Shuey (jr). Both individually qualified for districts last year. Newcomers could help push this ranking higher throughout the season.
Coach Schafebook: “After last year’s post season heartbreaker, the girls are back in force and ready to make it to the district meet, again. We have both strong returners and promising newcomers this season. We are hoping to make this a year for the record books!”
Key returners: Alyssa Marlowe, Erin Shuey, Toccoa Boyer, Faith Rhoads, Lauren Murray, Kadence Shuey
15. Octorara – Jessica Ferrara (so) has individual state qualifying potential. She ran great as a freshman a season ago and will look to build upon that success. Classmate Peyton Demsky (so) looks to be a strong #2 for Octorara. These two could provide 2nd year Coach Dave Thaler a foundation to build upon over the next few years.
16. Hamburg – This is a young team with an eye on the future. Sophomore Shannon Govern is the top returner. Freshman Amelia Gassert may be the team’s #1 this season. She placed 5th at the Berks Jr High XC Champs in 2020.
17. Fleetwood – Lauren Paules (sr) will lead Fleetwood again this year. She could challenge for a district medal this fall.
Coach Burkert: “Our numbers are up a little and overall should be more competitive this season.”
18. West Perry – Cassandra Lenza (sr) looks to lead the way for West Perry in 2021.
(Note – Teams are not-ranked (NR) if I don’t have enough returning performer information to project a team score.)
NR. Trinity – Lindsay Haser (sr) individually qualified for districts last season and will look to lead the Shamrocks this year. Freshman could compete for several varsity spots.
Coach Pushart: “The 2021 Trinity Girls’ Cross Country team returns only four runners from last year’s team. Luckily, we’re adding a senior and a number of freshman runners who have shown a lot of promise during summer workouts.”
The first test for the Shamrocks will be on September 3rd, at the Harrisburg Diocesan Cross Country meet.
Key returners: Lindsey Haser (SR), Isabella Mirachi (JR), Molly Boylan (JR) and Micah Stock (JR). Key additions: Ella Cloak (SR), Lila Shore (FR), Julia Schaeffer (FR), and Katie McGinley (FR).
NR. Lancaster Mennonite – This will be a new look Mennonite roster for 2021. Sophomore Claire Thomas looks to be the real deal and should provide the squad with a low-stick performer heading into the season. She won three district medals in track this past spring as a freshman.
Coach Gehman: “The LMH XC Women lost their only runner and senior last year, however we now have 4 girls (still hoping for 5). One of them, Claire Thomas, was a stand out freshman in Track. The women’s goal is to bond as a team and grow as runners / people. Claire is hoping to place highly in the District meet and compete at States.”
NR. East Pennsboro – Rebuilding year for East Pennsboro. Look for many new faces this fall.
Coach Muhlhauser: “With the loss of Alex Isbell our girls team is in rebuilding mode. Our team will be lead by returning senior Lillian Marshall. Most of the rest of our team will be first time HS cross country runners looking to rebuild our girls program.”
NR. ELCO – Isabel Zwally (jr) and Nina Milosevic (so) give Coach Gerberich a nice foundation. Zwally qualified for districts in 2020 and both she and Milosevic had solid spring track seasons. Zwally will look to qualify individually for states this year.
Coach Gerberich: “The girls team has two top girls, led by Izzy Zwally (Jr.) who medaled at the district meet last year. Nina Milosevic (Soph.) will return to see if she can build on her freshman season, which she qualified for districts, but had Covid tracing the week of the meet and did not compete. We will have enough to score each meet, and each girl will be trying to improve to improve on their personal bests.”
NR. Oley Valley – Ava Lottig (sr) will look to win the individual district tile this fall. She is a state medal threat, having placed 27th in 2020. Meghan Higgins-Haas (jr) also returns and will lead the team’s chase pack. Graduation hit the Lynx hard, so this could be a bit of a rebuilding season.
NR. Big Spring – Returns a really solid 1-2 from last season, but depth beyond that remains an unknown. Mikaela Ward (jr) is a strong #1 and could advance to states individually. Tayloer Wickard (sr) shouldn’t be far behind.
NR. Pequea Valley – Pequea returns a strong 1-2 combo in sophomores Carly Anderson and Caleigh Vincent, both of whom qualified for districts as freshmen a year ago. This is the 2nd year for Pequea Valley’s program.
NR. James Buchanan – Sydney Fleming (jr) is back to lead the Rockets in 2021. She competed at the district meet a season ago.
NR. Littlestown – Abigail Reidel (jr) provides Littlestown with an experienced #1 runner. She gained valuable district championship experience last year.
NR. Bermudian Springs – Hannah Fletcher (sr) is the top returner for Bermudian Springs this fall.
NR. Biglerville – Kaiti Kline (jr) is Biglerville’s top returner for 2021.
NR. Middletown – Kalie Brown (jr) will look to lead Middletown this year.