The State College boys’ cross country team is looking to pick up where it left off last fall in Hershey.
It certainly helps to be pushed by dozens of teammates looking to take the place of anyone who falters.
Thanks to a roster loaded with top-end talent, the Little Lions had an impressive 2013, and despite some major graduation losses they would like to duplicate the success that left them with a top-five finish at the state championships.
And the Little Lions were not alone, with Penns Valley and St. Joseph’s also enjoying success at the state meet and nearly all of the key runners returning this season. Bellefonte won its third consecutive Mountain League crown and was third in the District 5-6 Class AA championships.
State College (7-1) is coming off one of its best seasons, capturing titles in the Mid Penn Conference Championships and the District 6 Class AAA title, and finishing fourth at the state championships.
However, a major portion of that lineup is gone, including Division I runners Will Cather, who was 25 th at the PIAAs and is now at Penn State, and Kyle Adams, who is now at Bucknell.
A younger crop takes over and there are several hopefuls to crack the lineup of seven runners among the 54 boys on the Little Lions’ roster. The three runners who ran in Hershey who are returning are senior Matt Beyerle, junior Alex Milligan and sophomore Nick Feffer.
A number of newcomers also are also in the running, including junior Izaiah Bokunewicz, a transfer from Methacton.
“I feel like our pack this year is going to be very tight,” coach Dave Felice said. “The guys have been running together all summer and we have a very close-knit team. I think we’re going to be competitive on a state level again.”
Penns Valley (8-3) finished second in Class A at the district meet and 16th at PIAAs, and most of the lineup returns with seniors Nick Fuller, Isaac DuVall and Adam Mothersbaugh, and junior Keith Griffith.
The group is led by Fuller, who was undefeated in dual meets last fall, finished second at districts and 65 th at the PIAA race
“I look forward to seeing what the boys can accomplish this year,” coach Terry Glunt said. “Hopefully they will find the secret to peaking at just the right time as they did a year ago. I thought we’d have to define our success differently last year, since we were so young and a bit untested, but at the end, it still came down to solid representation at the district meet.”
St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy (7-3) was fourth in the district AA race as a team, and sent a pair of runners to the PIAA meet.
Leading the way are Brian Hackman and Eli Urban, who qualified for the PIAA Championships last fall. Hackman also ran at the PIAA Track and Field Championships in May, along with Charlie Ross.
The Wolves drop down to Class A this fall after competing at Class AA the previous two seasons.
“It will be an exciting season with five of seven back from last year's squad,” coach Jayson Jackson said. “Brian, Eli, and Michael (Peters) will look to build off of their strong track seasons and move up in the district/state ranks. Our two new additions, Charlie and Andy (Rogan) will add considerable depth to our team.”
Bellefonte (6-0): The reigning Mountain League champs return a pair of league All-Stars in Michael O’Donnell and Matt Dabiero. O’Donnell placed fourth in the Mountain League meet, while Dabiero was seventh. Dabiero was 10th in the district meet, while O’Donnell was 11th.
As a team, the Red Raiders were third in the District 5-6 Class AA meet.
“Our team is looking to continue the success of their predecessors in the program,” coach Kim Gasper said. “We had a core group of boys that trained hard over the summer and have looked good in preseason workouts.”
Philipsburg-Osceola (4-9) saw only two runners leave for graduation, and this season’s team has just two seniors as well in Scott Yarger and Nathan Quick.
With most of last year’s team returning this fall, the Mounties are expecting improvement this season.
“I have high expectations for the boys team,” coach Heather Sagaities said. “We have a few strong leaders on the team that will bring out the best in the other boys. I expect to see significant improvements from last year.”
Bald Eagle Area (0-8) saw a big loss with graduation, but will be looking to improve as a team.
The Eagles lost a major point-earner last season in Zach Moody, who finished fifth at the District 6 Class AA meet and ran at the state championships. Three newcomers will help solidify the roster.
“(We are) looking forward to see our development of our runners,” BEA coach Jeff Jodon said.