PIAA XC Championship Preview: Class AAA Boys

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Projected top 5 Teams and Individuals

Here is a look at our top 5 team and top 12 individual projections. We also include projected finishes for Central PA Teams. Central PA state medal contenders are outlined below.

Team Top 5 Projections (and Central PA Schools)

La Salle College and State College are our picks to finish 1-2 in the team race on Saturday, but this is one of the more wide-open team competitions of the day. We project 8 teams with a chance to earn a podium spot (top 2). Chambersburg earned the District 3 title last weekend defeating the likes of Manheim Township and Hershey. The Trojans got big time performances out of Liam Kirkpatrick and Owen Shrader to secure the victory. Both Manheim Township and Hershey seemed to have a few runners miss their mark at Districts. Not completely surprising depending on when each team started tapering their athletes. Look for both Township and Hershey to regain their groove at states. At this point we are splitting hairs between Chambersburg, Hershey, and Manheim Township and could see any (or all three) finishing within the top 5. As for State College, they have shown that they can run as a pack for the majority of the race. Their top 5 project to finish within the top 50 overall and within the top 31 amongst runners scoring on a team.

Individual Top 12 Projections

Drew Griffith enters as a heavy favorite on Saturday and that shouldn’t be viewed as a slight on the field. This is a very, very strong field. It’s just that Griffith may be one of the country’s top 3 prep distance runners this fall. He committed to Notre Dame last spring and has seen fellow PA distance stars and Footlocker XC Finalists Ryan Pajak (Ringgold) and Colin Whitaker (Lampeter Strasburg) also commit to Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish have one of the top 3 distance recruiting classes in the country for 2024.

Central PA State Medal Hopefuls (with recent performances):

Adam Kingston, jr Manheim Townhip – Kingston looked outstanding at the District 3 Championships. He won the event showcasing a strong final 1k to earn a 16 second victory over runner-up Vinay Raman (Hershey). He finished with a winning time of 15:41. He placed 2nd (15:42) at the LL League Championships to the aforementioned Colin Whitaker. He placed 10th at the Lehigh University Paul Short Run (15:45) and finished 7th at PIAA Foundation (16:55). His performances so far this post-season suggest he’s capable of a top 5 finish on Saturday. He placed 18th in the state as a sophomore in 2022.

Vinay Raman, jr Hershey – Raman was our pre-race pick to win the District 3 title. He has been great all season long and bettered Kingston earlier in the season at both the Lehigh University Paul Short Run (6th, 15:40) and at PIAA Foundation (5th, 16:44). He won the Mid-Penn title in 15:54 before finishing 2nd at Districts in 15:57. He won the Ben Bloser Invitational early in the season crossing the finish line in 15:47. He placed 15th at the 2022 State Championships and could contend for a top 5 finish this weekend.

Ari Snyder, sr Chambersburg – Just this week Snyder committed to run for High Point University next year. That has to be a relief to have the college selection process behind him. Snyder has been right on Raman’s heels all season. He placed 4th at the District 3 Championships (16:00) and was runner-up at the Mid-Penn Championships (15:58). He won the Gettysburg Invitational (15:56) and PTXC 14 (15:51). He had a breakout performance at states a season ago when he finished 14th. He’ll look for a top 10 finish this year.

Hayden Parks, sr Greencastle-Antrim – Parks has been running really strong over the 2nd half of the season. He had a breakout run at the Carlisle Invitational when he placed 4th and ran 15:47. He finished a close 3rd to Snyder and Raman at Mid-Penns (16:00) and finished just ahead of Snyder to place 3rd at Districts (16:00). He placed 21st in the state last year and will look for a top 10 finish on Saturday.

Zack Zerbe, sr Governor Mifflin – Zerbe has been inching closer and closer to earning a state medal over the past several years. He came close last year with a 29th place finish. Look for him to contend for a top 15 finish on Saturday. He placed 5th at the District 3 Championships running 16:01. He was 2nd at BCIAAs (16:21) and 15th at Carlisle (16:10). He has gotten stronger as the season has progressed.

Isaac Opperman, jr State College – Isaac and younger brother Theo (fr) will look to lead State College to a state team title on Saturday. Isaac took home the District 6 title in 15:55, 12 seconds ahead of Theo who placed 2nd. Isaac placed 4th at Mid-Penns (16:07), 20th at Carlisle (16:17), and 12th at PIAA Foundation (17:08). He projects as a top 20 finisher.

Cole Stevens, jr Manheim Township – Stevens has shown that he can run with the best in the state and even with an off day at Districts he still placed 12th. His 3rd place finish at the LL League Championship (15:51), 12th place finish at the Lehigh University Paul Short Run (15:51), and 16th place finish at PIAA Foundation (17:15) suggest he’s capable of a top 20 finish this weekend. Look for a bounce back performance from him on Saturday.

Kaleb Kabakjian, sr Penn Manor – Over the last 2 seasons Kabakjian and his coaches have shown that they know how to taper. His 6th place finish at Districts was his best performance in 2023 to date. He placed 4th at the LL League Championships (16:12) and 24th at the Lehigh University Paul Short Run (16:11). He placed 37th at PIAA Foundation (17:32). He finished 34th in the state in 2022 and should battle for a top 20 finish this year.

Ramon Urena Batista, sr Lebanon – Started the year on fire winning the Warwick Twilight 3k and LVC Invitational (15:47) in back to back weekend. His 11th place finish at Districts may not have been his season best performance, however his 5th place finish at the LL League Championships (16:18) and 15th place finish at Lehigh University’s Paul Short Run (15:57) suggest he could sneak into the medals on Saturday.

In a field with this much talent there are probably 50 different individuals who could finish within the top 25. Here are a few more state medal contenders from Central PA:

  • Eli Stoudt, sr Wilson
  • Theo Opperman, fr State College
  • Stephen Fowler, jr State College
  • Sam Endres, sr State College
  • Owen Coughlin, jr State College
  • Joel Asmutz, jr Greencastle-Antrim
  • Liam Kirkpatrick, jr Chambersburg
  • Kolbin Heberlig, so Carlisle