First Posted: 9/2/2014
High school cross country titles will be determined in the fall, but much of the work that went into creating the top individuals and teams may have already taken place this summer.
Lake-Lehman’s Dominic Hockenbury was rewarded for his off-season efforts when he knocked one of the most accomplished runners from District 2’s recent past out of the record books while the school’s girls team showed sign of its promising future with a strong finish at the 40th annual Cliff Robbins Memorial Invitational.
“We meet in June before the school year is over and we talk about putting the miles in over the summer to give us a chance to do some great things in the fall because it is a summer sport that’s played out in the fall,” Lake-Lehman coach John Sobocinski said. “It’s all about your summer.
“Dominic did the work and he put himself in position to do some great things this fall.”
Hockenbury showed he did not stop running when he captured a Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Class AA 3200-meter run state title at the end of his sophomore year. Last year’s Class AA runner-up in the state cross country meet opened the season by running the 3.1-mile Letterkenny Fields course in Dallas Township in 15:51 to win by 52 seconds. He broke the course record held by Rico Galassi, a state cross country and track champion at Holy Cross.
“You’re humbled when you break someone’s record like that,” Sobocinski said. “It was an accomplishment.”
It was an accomplishment for which Hockenbury prepared.
“I wanted to make a statement,” Hockenbury told The Times Leader after breaking Galassi’s two-year-old record by 22 seconds.
Hockenbury ended the 2013 season by finishing the Hershey Parkview Cross Country Course in 16:36 to finish 15 seconds behind the state championship effort by Dominic DeLuca from Dallas.
“That’s a slow course,” Sobocinski said of Letterkenny Fields. “It’s rolling hills and grass and a lot of stride-breaking turns.
“It’s not a real fast course, so to start the season at 15:51 out there is really impressive.”
Hockenbury’s was not the only strong effort from Lake-Lehman.
An all-underclassmen lineup, including three freshmen among the team’s top five, carried the Lake-Lehman girls to third place out of 20 teams.
Among the teams Lake-Lehman beat out in the strong field was fourth-place Abington Heights, last year’s 12th-place team in the state in Class AAA, and sixth-place Dallas, the defending state Class AA champion.
Freshman Jade Fry finished in 21:26 while junior Julia Hutsko came in 22nd out of 236 runners.
The other freshmen, Krystin Chaga and Olivia Vasey, were 22nd and 57th while Lindsay Pembleton was 34th.
“We kind of saw this coming,” Sobocinski said. “We knew our girls would be greatly improved with the addition of these three freshmen we picked up.
“Those three ladies definitely have solidified our top five in our lineup. Olivia did not have a great race; she is capable of a little more than what she showed. Given that, we definitely think we have a chance to make some noise.”
The Lake-Lehman boys had a second medalist with a top-25 finish.
Chris Sabol was 24th in 17:55. The Black Knights will need to close the gaps between their remaining runners to improve as a boys team after placing 14th out of 25.
Dallas finished third with 150 points, just 17 behind second-place Berwick.
Scranton Prep swept the varsity team titles.
Kurtis Sod was 19th, Jason Culp 21st and Jack Zardecki 22nd for Dallas to gain medals in the field of 261 runners.
Following DeLuca’s graduation, the Mountaineers have a young lineup. They had freshmen – Zardecki, Adam Borton, Josh Wyandt and Josh Jarden – in their third through sixth spots.
Lindsey Oremus finished second behind Scranton Prep’s Erin Feeney to help the Dallas girls take sixth as a team.
Dallas could still have better times ahead. It used just five runners in the opener, with Katie Grose and Riley Oremus coming in back-to-back in 31st and 32nd.
The Mountaineers were also third in the junior high girls and fourth in the junior high boys team competitions.
Mitchell Rome finished third and Stephen Postupak fifth for the Dallas boys.
Megan Borton’s 14th-place finished led a balanced girls team.
Ava Baur was fifth and Julia Sabol 25th for the Lake-Lehman girls, who were fourth of 13 in the team standings.
Dallas had four finishers close behind Sabol in the 153-runner field, Jackie Kalinosky in 26th, Emma Berger in 29th, Mackenzie Fleeger in 31st and Samantha Sorokin in 37th.