Dude, sorry I didn't make it in time. Living in Seattle and transitioning jobs while trying to buy a house makes free time limited. I will do this before PSAC's though...until then, below were my original (before the season) predictions. Obviously, I have IUP and ESU out of whack...and, I haven't tracked Concord...will have to find out what they are up to.
Hoovis’ 2006 PSAC/Regionals XC Predictions
Last year, I gave the nod to the Boro in my early season predictions. I cited reasons such as “year in and year out they prepare well through the season and run their best when it counts” and that “Watts’ coaching experience coupled with the team depth” would be enough to get past Haven.
Well, this year, I think those same reasons – running at their best when it counts, good coaching, and team depth – will once again be the key to finishing atop the PSAC this year…however, it will not be the Boro but rather Haven that will shine on these three fronts. And, yes, I’m well aware of the fact that I bet wrong last year as Haven beat Boro by 7 points…and that depth I thought Boro had just wasn’t quite there. But, I’m not betting against Haven this year…despite the fact that some seem to think them an underdog, given Robson’s reported bout with mono and Blood’s notable absence from early races.
My top 10 team predictions are as follows:
#1 – Lock Haven
If Robson does have mono, then he will be tough to count on; however, it is likely that he will have some good races along the way. I would expect him to actually run well at states, but possibly to have trouble coming back the following week at Regionals…as back to back races are really tough with mono.
Blood…who knows. You have to expect that this guy is going to run at some point. And, he’s good enough to be one of the conferences top runners, even if he’s not totally healthy. So, I think he’ll be in the hunt when it counts.
And, of course you’ve got the other Haven Senior – Benson who seems to be running well. You couple that with Shawn Moore and what he brings to that team and you’d have yourself a stellar top four if they were all healthy. Given that there are some question marks, then let’s assume that only 2 of the 4 can really contribute at/near 100% at states and that one is worth only 70% (maybe fifth man on their team) and the other doesn’t run…that means you need to fill in with two more guys.
And, they’ve got some good individuals to choose from. Greg Davis…a bit aloof and mysterious with his absences…the kid is talented out the ass and can get it done. Pomerantz will continue to improve throughout the season and wouldn’t surprise me if he ended being their #4 or possibly even their #3 runner this year. And, Spidell can be a steady contributor. So, Haven needs two out of those three to step it up and I have a hard time believing that it won’t happen. So, this year, I say Haven wins hands down.
#2 – Ship
This is a tough pick for me. As I’ve stated previously, I really believe that this was the Rock’s slot had they not redshirted some key guys. But, they’re not here so…
I want to pick Ship for this slot, as in both my gut/heart I’m rooting for them. But, every year, Boro seems to find a way. With that said, I can not recall seeing a Boro team before that had such little depth. And, I’m going to make a slight bet that Hanslovan will get healthy and that Spence can pull together a fairly young team.
In my mind, Ship will be the most interesting team on the men’s side this year. Depending on how things go, this team could either be really good (top-15 at Nats) or totally fall apart and let Boro pass them by. I’d guess they’ll be somewhere in between but good enough to place 2nd.
It is a bit concerning that Hanslovan was missing from action at last weekend’s Bloomsburg race and that he was anything but “on top of his game” at the alumni race/season opener. I know it was just a race with the alum (including Alum Randy Lowe’s Frostburg team), but him finishing 10th means something is not right.
Thompson and Gracey seemed to run fairly well at Bloom. It’s tough to really tell, as it was a very deep meet. But they were both ahead of Bloom’s second guy. And, then the Ship depth took over putting four guys ahead of Bloom’s #3. One of these four was Pete Lobianco who may be redshirting as he ran unattached. And, when I think back to the good Ship teams over the years, this is pretty much what they looked like. Nothing stellar early in the season. Some depth and a bunch of guys running together…Ship always races well in packs of 2-3 of their runners where they pull each other along.
None of the times at Bloom were fast, but judging by some pics I’ve seen it looks like parts of it anyway were a mud bog. This makes it tough to say how good this team really is, but given their overall proximity to Shepherd, they’d probably be in contention for a Nats slot without Hansloven (although I think they would fall short). But, I’m banking on Hansloven returning and leading this team to Nats and, more importantly, leaving Boro home.
#3 -- Boro
The Fighting Scots will probably be tough up front with Niemira showing something early in the season. He’ll be tough come the end of the year, and could be in contention for the individual title. And, Boro will likely fair okay through their #2 and #3 spots as well. Right now, Arthur has been running as #2, but expect McCabe to pass him by season’s end.
And, after that – who knows. And, quite frankly, who cares. Unless Watts pulls something out of his bag of tricks (and I have a feeling that bag is getting a little old and empty), then these guys are sitting at home come Nats. And, I don’t think that has ever happened before…at least not in my time. Somewhere along the way, I promised myself I would NOT bet against the Boro. I used that philosophy last year when I picked Boro to upset Haven at PSAC’s. It didn’t happen and I’m not making the same mistake twice. Sorry Watts, but no Florida trip this November…unless you’re going to the Keys for some fishing.
And, now it gets interesting…
#4 – IUP
I’m going to go on a limb here and go with IUP here.
I might be a little biased here, but feel they are one of the few teams (beyond those already mentioned) that has a really solid #1 and #2 guy (with #5 Concord being the one potential exception). Medina is tough and was with Weiss much of last year’s psac race. It’s an early season race, but he is 1-0 against Weiss this year so far. I’m not saying he’s better than Weiss (remember, Weiss was top-five at Nats last year)…but he is one hell of a tough runner. Not the most talented, but one of the most dedicated. And, you’ve all seen me talk about Kruttschnitt’s talent on this board before. I predicted him to have a breakout year last year in cross and he did, finishing 15th at PSAC’s. And, I’m predicting him to make another big jump this year as well…finishing 7th/8th at states and 10th – 15Th at Regionals (longer distance and back-to-back races always hurt the 1500m runner – unless you’re from Ship or Edinboro).
And, soph Nate Shelly is running well early in the year….but it really drops off from there. I mean really drops off. There were a ton of runners between IUP’s 3rd and 4th runners at Buffalo including 4 Rock guys. That’s really pretty bad, considering that Rock is redshirting two key runners. If Rock were at full strength, they would have put 8 guys across the line before IUP’s fourth runner. That’s really pathetic, making me wonder if I have these guys ranked way too high.
But, Adam Shinksy was not in that lineup and sophomore Bobby Boston seems to be running well as of late. While disappointing early in the year, Matt Gaudet will likely come around as the season progress.
This should be a very solid team. One that returns most of what it had last year, only with more experience. I’m concerned that half of this team did their work over the summer and half did not and that could get exposed later in the year. This team could finish anywhere from 4th to 7th. Unfortunately, I think that they had the potential (although won’t live up to it) to be as high as 3rd this year.
#5 – Concord
I don’t know enough about Concord. Dirt made the call on these guys first, noting that they should be good, and on paper there’s some truth to that. Probably won’t really know until Ohio University (one of the few big meets they run). But, given that they have a good top three, that should put them in the top five at regions, as few other teams have that going for them. I’ll see what happens with their #4 and #5 runners and adjust accordingly.
#6 – Slippery Rock
This team could finish higher than this…and I could easily see them ending up fourth. Weiss taking the 1-spot overall at Regionals always helps the scoring. And, frosh Matt Grey looks really good early in the year. And Dustin and Combs are solid, with a few others such as Lubecki capable of being in their top-five. I also have to give a shout out here from my fellow “Chuck” – Adam Smelko. The dude improved a lot since last year, and I look for him to work hard and be the Rock’s 7th or 8th man in 2 years…on a team that will be pretty good.
#7 -- Bloomsburg
Shepherd’s legit. No doubt about that. Proved it by hanging back at PSAC’s last year and not getting sucked along with Weiss and Medina, only to bust one at Regionals when it really counted. He looks to be in good early season form, and he won the Bloom meet even easier than it looks on paper (and it looks pretty easy on paper). Marcoe mixed it up well with the Ship guys, but the rest of the Bloom team just seemed out of the race…although I thought Merkel had a good race for a freshman making him somebody to keep an eye on as freshman tend to move around a lot from the beginning to the end of the season (some get way better while others wear down and fall off toward the end of the long season).
This is a good team, but not a great team. They just don’t have the horses beyond Shepherd to be a legitimate contender this year. Their coach thinks they can be a top-five team at regionals, but I think they just miss and finish 7th.
#8 -- East Stroudsburg
This is such a fast growing region of the state, I don’t understand how this program isn’t better each year. Pinto is the first decent runner I can remember them having since Seth Kuchar back in 1993. Pinto will likely be an All-regional runner, but there’s just too big of a gap between him and the rest of their team. To some extent, this is the same problem that Bloom has, but Sheperd is a top-3 runner and Pinto a top-15 runner so the entire Bloom pack (while gapped from Shepherd) are all likely to finish further up overall than the Strous pack. Tough to say who good (or not good) this team really is, but I have a feeling that big gap between Pinto and the rest will get magnified this weekend at Spiked Shoe….errr, correct that – the Harry S. Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational as it is now called.
#9 -- Kutztown
Don’t know much about this team. They kind of remind me of Bloomsburg without the front runner. However, the Ktown 4 and 5 runners may be better than Bloom’s 4 and 5 guys. And, I know there are some Ktown fans on this board who think that they have a shot at Nats, but I’m not seeing that one. They just can’t compete at any of the positions – they can’t beat the aforementioned other team’s 1 guy with their 1 guy, 2 guy with their 2 guy, etc.
On an individual note, you’ve got to hand it to Pat Bone for doing the work, as he seems to be one of the PSAC’s most improved runners…however, his teammate, the other Pat (Coyne) who at one time was a top-40 at regionals runner seems to be heading the opposite direction, perhaps plagued by injuries (?).
#10 -- Millersville
Team didn’t show much at Bloomsburg. Andrew Butler ran pretty well, but that’s it. Just don’t think this team can compete.