PIAA District 3 Class AAA XC Championships – Boys Preview

When: Saturday, October 30 – 2:00PM

Where: Big Spring High School

240 runners and 28 scoring teams make up the field that will take on the course at Big Spring on October 30th for the PIAA District 3 AAA Championships. District 3 class AAA is one of the deepest in the state. 7 state medalists from the 2020 PIAA State Championships are in this field.

The top 4 teams and the top 20 individuals not on one of those 4 teams will advance to the 2021 PIAA State Championships. At least 9 teams should be in contention for one of the four team qualifying spots. We detail all of them below.

First, here is a look at the teams that will score at the District 3 Championships:

Team Race

The team to beat continues to be the Hempfield Black Knights. They have been ranked #1 in our CPAR District 3 team rankings for the entire season and are coming off of another LL League team title. They have two low-stick runners in juniors Aidan Hodge and Joe Fahrney. Hodge has been nearly untouchable this year. Team #3 Dale Winand (sr) joined Hodge and Fahrney as a district medalist last fall, but has been dealing with some health issues of late. Sam Freedman (so), Isaiah Hollinger (jr), Emerson Long (jr), and Sam Meyer (fr) all stepped up for Hempfield at leagues with only 15-seconds separating them. Hempfield has been ranked in the top 3 of the state by PA Milesplit for the majority of the season. Look for them to take home their 2nd district title in a row.

Manheim Township gave Hempfield a scare for the LL League title. The Blue Streaks placed 2nd, but were only 9 points back of the Black Knights. While only 7 runners officially score, the LL League permits each team to enter 8 runners. Township’s top 5 all finished in the top-16 and all 8 boys placed inside the top 24 (top 25 medal). Not sure if that has ever happened before. Tyler Stevens (sr) leads the way for Manheim Township and has been getting healthier over the past several weeks. The 11 days between leagues and districts should serve him well. Jacob Mathers (sr) has been running strong over the 2nd half of the season after missing the first few meets. Mathers, Luke Papadimitriou (jr), Adam Kingston (fr), Cole Stevens (fr), Cole Schwartz (sr), and Aaron Wood (jr) were separated by only 19-seconds at Leagues.

Ray Bondy (sr) and Kevin Shank (jr) placed 2nd and 3rd at the Mid-Penn Championships and should provide Carlisle with at least 2 low-sticks at districts. Andrew Diehl (jr) may have been a bit off at the conference meet, but has top 20 potential. Briar Thompson (sr) had a great day at the conference meet running a PR of 16:54 while placing 18th. If these 4 perform as they are capable of, then Carlisle has a shot at the title. Colby Williams (jr), Ryan Brody (jr), and Connor Morrow (jr) round out the team’s top 7.

Chambersburg has a solid #1-7, but they have yet to have their top 5 all be “on” at the same time in a big meet this fall. That said, if this group puts it together on the same day, then they have the talent to secure a team trip to states. The Trojans may have the smallest spread between their #1 and #7 runners. Nick Monheim (sr), Ben Colli (sr), and Ari Snyder (so) have been the team’s top 3 this season. All 3 have a chance to place inside the top 20. Karter Reath (sr), Zack Yourkavitch (sr), Billy Prentice (sr), and Kaden Rife (fr) are a strong #4-7. This team reminds me a lot of Hershey’s 2019 state qualifying team.

Cumberland Valley has been getting a boost recently from the performance of Jordan Tiday (jr). Tiday has been coming on of late and looks ready to challenge for a top 5-10 place finish at districts. Shane O’Connell (so) and Andrew Hampton (so) had great days at Mid-Penns and will join Tiday in giving the Eagles a really strong #1-3. Joseph Butler (jr), Teodor Hellgren (sr), Dominic Devlin (jr), and Kevin Santos (jr) provide a solid #4-7. You can go ahead and pencil in the Eagles as the #2 team in the district for 2022, behind Hempfield.

A trio of seniors could lead York Suburban to Hershey. Cole Adams, Grant Kern, and Shea Walsh are all experienced runners with a ton of post-season success. Adams and Kern are returning state medalists and both will challenge for a top 5 finish at districts. Walsh looks like a top 10-20 place finisher. Freshman Neil Oestereich has filled in nicely as the Trojans #4 performer. Nick Hoke (sr) and Jacob Pflaum (jr) will look to push each other to a strong #5 finish to finalize their team’s scoring. Suburban may be one of the teams most impacted by the addition of 5 scoring teams. Will the low scoring of their top 3 carry them to a state team berth?

Exeter Township won 2 team titles throughout the season, taking home the Ben Bloser Invitational title and most recently the BCIAA title. Exeter has great depth throughout their top 7 and a low-stick performer in senior Alex Holbrook. Cody Schabener (sr) and Jack Sahaida (jr) will both be looking for top 25 finishes as the Eagles #2 and #3 runners. Nathan Wentling (jr), Slater Von Stetten (fr), Denis Fantilli (sr), and Michael Sherman (so) round out the roster. Fantilli has only been back racing with the team since week 5 of the season. He’s gotten stronger each race and the 11 days between BCIAAs and districts will certainly help him.

Cohen Manges (jr) and Carter Paul (jr) have both taken time this season as Mechanicsburg‘s #1 runner. No matter who is the team’s #1 on Saturday, both athletes should lock up individual state qualifying berths if the team doesn’t advance. For Mechanicsburg to move up and snag one of the team qualifying spots, their #3-6 runners need to close the gap/reduce the spread between themselves and Manges and Paul.

Hershey started off the season really strong and they look to have the depth to compete for a top 4 finish. Dillan O’Shell (sr) has run great this season and gives Hershey a much needed low-stick runner. The emergence of freshman Vinay Raman has been an encouraging sight, especially in lieu of an injury to Ayden Bertoldi (sr). Adam and Nathan Nielsen, both seniors, and Nick Kelly (jr) will be counted on to have big days for Hershey.

So, how do project the team race to unfold? Here is how our projections play out:

Individual Race

Class AAA is absolutely loaded in District 3. As many as 12 to 13 guys could win state medals the following week at Hershey. Aidan Hodge (jr, Hempfield) enters Saturday as the individual favorite He won the Paul Short Invitational in 15:16 several weeks ago and more recently took home the LL League title. He placed 21st in the state last fall and looks like he could challenge for the state title this season. Cole Adams (sr, York Suburban) has brought home a pair of invitational wins this season as well, winning the Ben Bloser Invite and PIAA Foundation. He is the #2 returner in the state from last year’s AAA championship. A newcomer to the field is Lebanon’s Caleb Hershey (sr). He missed the post season last year due to COVID issues at his high school. He has run under 16-minutes multiple times this season and won’t be afraid to mix it up with the leaders on Saturday. Manheim Township’s Tyler Stevens (sr) has battled through health/injury adversity this season and enters Saturday the healthiest he has been all year. He was 20th in the state last fall and will look to save his best for the 2 biggest meets of the year. Cole Perry (sr, Northeastern) won the Whippet Invitational in 15:50 a weekend after running 15:51 at Carlisle. He was only 7-seconds back of Adams at the YAIAA Championships. Perry placed 15th in the state last year. Grant Kern finished one spot back of Perry at YAIAAs. He was 2nd to teammate Cole Adams at Ben Bloser early in the season. Kern was 11th in the state in 2020. Alex Holbrook (sr Exeter Township) was runner-up at BCIAAs, placed 3rd at Ben Bloser, and was 6th at PTXC 12.2 earlier this year. He looks well positioned to earn his first state medal this season. Ray Bondy (sr) and Kevin Shank (jr) were the top 2 class AAA finishers at Mid-Penns (Weber Long took home the title). Bondy ran 15:52 at PSU early in the year and crossed the Mid-Penn finish line 1-second ahead of teammate Shank. Expect both to challenge up front for a top 5-10 place finish. TJ Roden (jr, Central Dauphin) and Jordan Tiday (jr, Cumberland Valley) were 5th and 7th at Mid-Penns. Both were state medalists last fall. Roden took home the LVC Invite title running in 15:48 early in the year. Joe Fahrney (jr, Hempfield) figures to be in the lead pack on Saturday as well. He finished just behind Stevens at the LL League meet and ran an impressive 15:45 time at Paul Short. A wildcard entry could be Ryan Wolfe (sr. Cedar Crest). Wolfe has been battling a knee injury for parts of the year, but over the last 2-3 weeks has been coming on strong. He was 33rd in the state last year and could be in for a big day at Big Spring.

With the field being so deep up front, here is a look at our top 15 ranked runners in class AAA entering the race Saturday. These individuals are listed alphabetically. Who are you picking to take home the title?

Here is a look at our next 40 ranked individuals, in alphabetical order (so many athletes are closely ranked this season!!):