HERSHEY — The pressure was high for the Dallas boys cross country team coming into Saturday’s PIAA 2A Boys Cross Country Championship.
The Mountaineers were coming off their second straight District 2 title, and entered the meet as the defending state champions. With all but one member of last year’s team returning, expectations were raised.
But even with all of the pressure, the Mountaineers did not disappoint, leading the race throughout en route to a definitive victory over York Suburban.
Dallas had an impressive five finishers in the top 37, led by junior Jack Zardecki’s seventh-place finish.
“Awesome feeling, just like last year,” Zardecki said. “We knew what we had to do this year to win. I crossed the finish line and immediately I looked back and wanted see where my team was. I saw we had our top five in front of York Suburban’s third, so I’m thinking we have to win it.
“Last year I rarely had any pressure on me at the start of the race, and once we finished it was awesome. This year, we had a lot more pressure. We were defending champions, but we got beat by (York Suburban and Greensburg Salem in September). Just an awesome day for us.”
Like last year, the meet was expected to be a three-team show between the Mountaineers, York Suburban and Greensburg Salem. For much of the race it was, but by the end it came down to Dallas and York Suburban.
Dallas was able to avenge an early-season loss to the District 3 champion, pulling out the 20-point victory. Both York Suburban and Greensburg Salem beat the Mountaineers in the PIAA Foundation XC Invitational on Sept. 24.
Greensburg Salem finished eighth Saturday.
“Over the past two, three weeks we’ve looked at how York Suburban, Greensburg Salem’s guys play out throughout the season every single year,” Zardecki said. “We kind of realized what they do and we get faster. Our coach programs us so we get faster throughout the season, and that’s what we did. We knew we would be up there waiting for them.”
Having five runners place in the top 37 is an accomplishment York Suburban could not claim, and was the difference for the Mountaineers. In Dallas head coach Matt Samuel’s opinion, anyone on his team can contribute and place on any given day.
“They were 48 seconds apart today. I’ve been waiting all year for that and they saved it for the very last race, and that’s what I thought it was going to take to win this thing today,” Samuel said. “We always have somebody to step up if they’re not having a good day, or they fall down, or if they get tripped or get hurt, or if they get sick or whatever. That speaks to the depth of our team, and it’s amazing.”
Josh Wyandt placed 30th (17:15), Adam Borton was 33rd (17:21), senior Jason Culp nabbed his second straight state title behind his 35th-place finish in 17:21 and Mitchell Rome was 37th at 17:28.
“It’s a great way to end it,” Culp said. “I couldn’t have had it any better. Such a great group of guys to run with.”
Berwick’s Ty Fisher joined Zardecki with medalist honors. The senior finished 23rd, running his race in 17:02. Holy Redeemer sophomore Bryce Zapusek, who finished in 17:13, just missed out on a medal. He finished 27th.
“The start was pretty slow and I just kind of worked through the crowd, kind of picking people off,” Fisher said. “The hills really got guys today.”
Hazleton Area’s Franklin Cunningham was the top Wyoming Valley Conference runner in the Class 3A race, finishing 188th. Wyoming Valley West senior was right behind him, crossing the finish line 195th.