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Race To Top Of WVC Wide Open

September 10, 2018

If the first week of Wyoming Valley Conference cross country showed the league anything, it’s that the field is a bit more wide-open than usual. On the boys side, 10 of the top 15 finishers at the District 2 Class 2A meet — the deepest of the three classifications — graduated. That group includes Dallas D2 champion and state medalist Jack Zardecki as well as three teammates who captured a pair of state championships during their time with the Mountaineers. While Mitchell Rome returns to the Mounts with a shot to keep the D2 individual title at home, much of team runner-up Holy Redeemer returns with a shot to shake up the leaderboard. The WVC’s girls picture isn’t much clearer, as Holy Redeemer’s former D2 champion Lindsey Williams is among the notable graduates. Plenty of talent returns, but Crestwood freshman Molly DeMarzo beat everyone — including last year’s D2 champ — at the season-opening Cliff Robbins invitational. There’s plenty to decide as the season continues for some teams, while other schools run their first WVC meets of the season this week. Taking 2017 and 2018’s early results into consideration, here are some runners to keep an eye on across the WVC. Berwick Classification: 2A Coach: Karen May Home course: Evansville Lake How the 2017 season ended: Boys: 14-4, T-4th in WVC; 4th at D2 meet. Girls: 5-10, T-12th in WVC; no team at D2 meet. One runner to know: Boys: Senior Griffin Keller took 23rd at districts, making him the Bulldogs’ top returnee from the meet; he could return to states for the first time since Berwick qualified in 2015. Girls: Regan Metz leads a mostly-young team after she placed 51st at districts as a freshman. Columbia-Montour Vo-Tech Classification: 2A Coach: Lora Learn Home course: CMVT. How the 2017 season ended: Boys: 3-15, T-16th in WVC; 18th at D4 meet. Girls: 0-14, T-16th in WVC; no team at D4 meet. One runner to know: Boys: Last year as a sophomore, Norman Verbeck was a second off CMVT’s top time at the District 4 championships when he took 81st place at 19:41. Girls: Haley Masteller was fast enough for 65th in the D4 championships, also as a sophomore, the team’s top finish. Coughlin Classification: 2A Coach: Paul McGrane Home course: Kirby Park. How the 2017 season ended: Boys: 11-7, T-7th in WVC; 12th at D2 meet. Girls: 0-14, T-16th in WVC; no team at D2 meet. One runner to know: Boys: Nate Searfoss has a shot to claim a spot in the state meet; two years ago, he took 22nd at districts (17:34) and wasn’t far off the cut. Girls: After setting the school’s 1600 meters record in track and field, Emma Fortune has the potential to build off her 35th-place district finish last season (22:17). Crestwood Classification: 2A Coach: Robert Moulton Home course: Crestwood High School. How the 2017 season ended: Boys: 14-4, T-4th in WVC; 3rd at D2 meet. Girls: 10-8, 9th in WVC; 10th at D2 meet. One runner to know: Boys: The Comets are filled with sophomores and freshmen, but Kyle Price showed plenty of promise as the top freshman at 2017’s D2 championships (18th place). Girls: The sample size is obviously as small as can be, but freshman Molly DeMarzo entered the D2 discussion right away when she won the Cliff Robbins invitational ahead of last year’s district champ and other top-10 finishers. Dallas Classification: 2A Coach: Matt Samuel Home course: 42nd St. Fields. How the 2017 season ended: Boys: 18-0, 1st in WVC; D2 meet champions; 4th at PIAA meet. Girls: 18-0, 1st in WVC; 2nd at D2 meet; 15th at PIAA meet. One runner to know: Boys: His team won state titles in 2015 and ‘16, and Mitchell Rome earned a state medal in 12th place last season; a fourth strong postseason should be in store. Girls: Kaitlyn Hodakowski led the Dallas team at states as a freshman when she took 65th, and she and others like Megan Borton and Madison Baloga return to defend the Mountaineers’ undefeated WVC title. GAR Classification: 2A Coach: Len Witczak Home course: All away meets. How the 2017 season ended: Boys: 6-12, 13th in WVC; 17th at D2 meet. Girls: 5-10, T-12th in WVC; 14th at D2 meet. One runner to know: Boys: Daniel Perez is rounding out his Grenadiers career as one of their senior leaders following a 57th-place finish at districts a year ago. Girls: A young team in 2017 is a year older, and sophomore Hannah Cook is among those looking to build on that experience after leading GAR at districts (77th) place. Hanover Area Classification: 2A Coach: Carl Daubert Home course: Hanover Area High School. How the 2017 season ended: Boys: 11-7, T-7th in WVC; 9th at D2 meet. Girls: 13-5, 6th in WVC; 8th at D2 meet. One runner to know: Boys: Junior Joey Rowley is part of a young but experienced core back for another season, and last year’s top-25 finisher at districts got off to a nice start in 12th at Cliff Robbins (18:44). Girls: Alicia Orzechowski placed top-25 as a freshman at districts (22nd), and another strong year could be in order after a 22nd-place showing at Cliff Robbins. Hazleton Area Classification: 3A Coach: Joseph Smolinsky Home course: Valley Middle School. How the 2017 season ended: Boys: 16-2, 3rd in WVC; 3rd at D2 meet. Girls: 16-2, 3rd in WVC; 6th at D2 meet. One runner to know: Boys: Following the graduation of consistent state qualifier Franklin Cunningham, junior Gabe McKittrick (16th at D2 meet) has a chance to keep the Cougars in Hershey this season. Girls: Katie Balay made her states debut as a sophomore and took 179th in Hershey; three of the five runners ahead of her at the D2 meet have graduated, and the other two were five seconds ahead. Holy Redeemer Classification: 2A Coach: Nick Capaci Home course: Kirby Park. How the 2017 season ended: Boys: 17-1, 2nd in WVC; 2nd at D2 meet; 14th at PIAA meet. Girls: 15-3, 4th in WVC; 5th at D2 meet. One runner to know: Boys: Senior Bryce Zapusek took 9th in the district and 57th in the PIAA, and classmates Dominic Capaci, George Strish and Lukas Volpetti return with another trip to states on their mind — this time, possibly, as the D2 team champions. Girls: Former D2 champion Lindsey Williams has graduated, but Anna Capaci can keep the Royals represented at states after she qualified last year as a freshman (14th at D2). Lake-Lehman Classification: 2A Coach: John Sobocinski Home course: Lake-Lehman High School. How the 2017 season ended: Boys: 13-5, 6th in WVC; 8th at D2 meet. Girls: 17-1, 2nd in WVC; 4th at D2 meet. One runner to know: Boys: Chandler Longstreth made a nice varsity debut last season (39th in D2), and the sophomore’s 22nd-place run at Cliff Robbins could set up an even better fall. Girls: Two state qualifiers (Jade Fry and Jace Garnick) have graduated, but the Black Knights’ other — junior Abby Paczewski — returns with an opportunity to improve on a 13th-place D2 finish. MMI Prep Classification: A Coach: Jon Weaver Home course: MMI sports complex. How the 2017 season ended: Boys: 3-15, T-16th in WVC; 11th at D2 meet. Girls: 3-12, 15th in WVC; 6th at D2 meet. One runner to know: Boys: Losing a top D2 finisher in Jack Malay to graduation is a tough blow, but the Preppers still have senior leadership in runners like Danny Demelfi, who took 67th at the D2 meet. Girls: All three of MMI’s runners at Cliff Robbins were sophomores, and Samantha Sparitch led the way in 120th; the class could grow into team leaders. Nanticoke Area Classification: 2A Coach: Jeff DeRocco Home course: Nanticoke Area High School. How the 2017 season ended: Boys: 0-17, T-18th in WVC; no team at D2 meet. Girls: 0-14, T-16th in WVC; no team at D2 meet. One runner to know: Boys: The Trojans could have strong individual seasons from runners like sophomore Levi Vick, who won his first league meet of the year this past week. Girls: Rebecca Ottensman led her team at districts as a freshman, in 54th; she figures to pace the team again, as she did as its lone finisher at Cliff Robbins. Northwest Classification: A Coach: Brian Barchik Home course: Evansville Lake. How the 2017 season ended: Boys: 4-14, 15th in WVC; 12th at D2 meet. Girls: 6-9, 11th in WVC; no team at D2 meet. One runner to know: Boys: Caleb Cumberland set the team pace at districts in 48th last season, and the junior stayed at the front for the Rangers as the league season opened. Girls: Freshman Alivia Wright has gotten off to a hot start for the Rangers, taking 83rd as their lone runner at Cliff Robbins and then taking second at a league-opening meet. Pittston Area Classification: Boys: 2A; Girls: 3A Coach: Boys: Dave Jiunta; Girls: Joe Struckus Home course: Pittston Area High School. How the 2017 season ended: Boys: 9-9, 10th in WVC; 11th at D2 meet. Girls: 14-4, 5th in WVC; 5th at D2 meet. One runner to know: Boys: Senior Dominick Angradi took 37th in the district last season, and he and teammate Nathan Ridgley could both lead the Patriots after Cliff Robbins, when Angradi placed just ahead of him for 50th. Girls: Nicole Zambetti placed 17th in the district as a freshman and 7th last year; with 2017’s top-three gone, anything can happen this postseason. Tunkhannock Classification: 2A Coach: Randy White Home course: Wyoming County Fairgrounds. How the 2017 season ended: Boys: 8-10, 11th in WVC; 7th at D2 meet. Girls: 4-11, 14th in WVC; no team at D2 meet. One runner to know: Boys: Peter Sayre finished just outside the district’s top 25 last postseason and his back for his senior season. Girls: Madelyn Franko was a sophomore leading three other Tigers freshmen at districts last season; after taking 49th then, she and the rest of the team can improve. Valley West Classification: 3A Coach: Anthony Dicton Home course: State Street Elementary. How the 2017 season ended: Boys: 11-7, T-7th in WVC; 7th at D2 meet. Girls: 7-11, 10th in WVC; no team at D2 meet. One runner to know: Boys: Tavian McKenna made a strong varsity debut as the sixth-fastest freshman at districts (31st overall). He’s already off to a fast start, winning the Spartans’ opening league meet. Girls: Chloe Inniss, another sophomore, was the fifth-best freshman at districts (32nd overall) and led the way for the Spartans at Cliff Robbins. Wyoming Area Classification: 2A Coach: Kristen Lombardo Home course: Luzerne County Sports Complex. How the 2017 season ended: Boys: 5-13, 14th in WVC; 15th at D2 meet. Girls: 11-7, T-7th in WVC; 9th at D2 meet. One runner to know: Boys: Look for one Katulka or another to help lead the Warriors — senior Nicholas and sophomore brother Jacob finished a second apart for 43rd and 44th to open the season at Cliff Robbins. Girls: Three seniors graduated, but sophomore Aubriana Marranca already made an impact when she led Wyoming Area at districts in 2017, in 50th place. Wyoming Seminary Classification: A Coach: William Stanton Home course: Kirby Park. How the 2017 season ended: Boys: 7-11, 12th in WVC; 9th at D2 meet. Girls: 11-7, T-7th in WVC; 2nd at D2 meet. One runner to know: Boys: Sem has a deep roster, but freshman Angelo Lombardo has already found room to impress by leading the Blue Knights at Cliff Robbins for 46th place, the second-best finish among ninth-graders. Girls: Heather Pagila made her mark as a freshman last season, when she was fast enough for 19th in the district and the second-best time for a ninth-grader in her race. Contact the writer: eshultz@citizensvoice.com; 570-821-2054; @CVEricShultz on Twitter.

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