Two overwrought Hanover Area junior high girls cross country runners planned their attack, jetted across the Wyoming Valley Conference Championships course and seized their moment, stealthily pursuing their mission – a selfie with Lake-Lehman senior Dominic Hockenbury.
At this point, Hockenbury has reached celebrity status.
Hockenbury’s super stardom will look to grow as he seeks his second-straight District 2 Class 2A cross country championship Saturday morning at Elk Lake High School in Dimock. He’s in pursuit of a repeat of last year’s state title.
Hockenbury enters the race as the hands-down favorite to win after taking the WVC title last week in a time of 15 minutes, 34 seconds. Hockenbury won last year’s 5K race in 16:08 at the Elk Lake course.
“The problem last year was that I was tired when it came to states and regionals,” Hockenbury said last week. “I wasn’t as good as I wanted to from racing too much in the beginning of the season, working a little too much harder and I faded at the end.”
Another defending district and state Class 2A champion is also looking to build her resume in the girls race. Dallas senior Ally Rome has her eyes set on reclaiming the throne after winning the WVC championship in a time of 18 minutes, 59 seconds. She won last year’s district title with a time of 19:10.
“She feeling well, no aches no pains,” Dallas coach Matt Samuel said. “She’s not showing any signs of stopping. So, she’s ready. She knows what she’s doing at practices and workouts and stuff. The indications are that she’s there.”
In both Class A and 2A boys and girls, the top two teams and fastest 10 runners from the remaining schools earn spots at the PIAA Cross Country championships held Nov. 7 in Hershey. In the Class 3A race, the top team and five remaining runners qualify for the state’s top race.
Hazleton Area are the defending Class 3A boys champions. Dallas finished second in both the boys and girls Class 2A standings in 2014.
Class 1A Boys
Elk Lake and Holy Cross are routinely two of the best teams in the state, and this year is no different with the Warriors’ top three and Crusaders’ quickest two runners from last year returning. Meyers’ Tim Snyder is the WVC’s top runner with an 18:02 finish last week, likely a contender to qualify.
Class 2A Boys
Dallas looks to be the favorite after taking the WVC title, despite missing two of its placing runners. Jack Zardecki (16:52) and Adam Borton (17:10) led the Mountaineers with top-three performances last week. The WVC should take care of the Lackawanna Conference fairly handily.
“Depending on what we see, if we get everyone healthy, we’re a pretty formidable team,” Samuel said. “We definitely can’t get caught sleeping here. It’ll be anyone’s race; we just see how we run that day.”
The Mountaineers’ top contender will be Berwick. The Bulldogs placed four runners – Ty Fisher, Beau Blass, Bao Le, Mason Kimbell — in the top 11 at the conference championships. Holy Redeemer’s Bryce Zapusek and Coughlin’s Franco Balbuena are in line for PIAA qualifying runs.
Class 3A boys
Hazleton Area seeks to reclaim its district title, and senior Matt Houser is on pace to have a photo finish with Scranton’s Andrew Lopez for the crown. Standing in its way will be Wallenpaupack, but the Buckhorns finished 10th at the prestigious Paul Short Invitation in early October. Watch for Wyoming Valley West’s Jacob Kobusky (17:29) to add to his top five finish at WVCs.
Class 1A girls
Just like with the boys race, Holy Cross and Elk Lake will be difficult to knock off at the top. Sisters Tara and Paige Kupsky will give Wyoming Seminary a shot after sixth and ninth-place performances, respectively, last week.
Class 2A girls
Even the WVC’s best may not be good enough this year to earn any PIAA qualifying teams. Scranton Prep and Abington Heights are running very well this season, and Dallas will have to improve on last week’s times from Rome, Rebecca Balara (19:40), Riley Oremus (21:30), Katie Grose (21:48), and Grace Jarden (22:06) to crack the top two.
“Man, I tell you what, we’re not going to come in as a favorite,” Samuel said. “We’re kind of on the outside looking in with that. If we turn it on at the right time, you never know how that’s going to go. Hopefully, we can come in and have some low sticks with Ally and Rebecca.”
Arguably the state’s quickest 2A field means that Holy Redeemer’s Lydnsey Williams, Lake-Lehman’s Jade Fry, Berwick’s Sam Dyer, and Tunkhannock’s Morgan Manglaviti will need special performances to make it to Chocolate Town.
Class 3A girls
This is a neck-and-neck race between Pittston Area and Wallenpaupack. Tara Johnson looks to make states for the fourth time after nearly cracking 20 minutes last week. Expect the Patriots’ Bailey Loyack to turn heads in Dimock.