First Posted: 9/10/2014

The faces have all changed but the results remain largely the same for the Dallas boys cross country team.

After losing their entire top seven to graduation, the Mountaineers are back on top of the Wyoming Valley Conference standings early in the season.

Dallas took a major step toward a possible successful defense of its WVC boys title Wednesday afternoon when it edged defending state Class AA champion Tunkhannock, 27-28, in a meet at the Wyoming County Fairgrounds.

Kurtis Sod, Jack Zardecki, Jason Culp and Adam Borton crossed the finish line in succession in fourth-through-seventh places in the six-team meet, helping overcome the Tunkhannock combination of Jack Tidball and Jake Toczko.

“We had a nice pack,” Dallas coach Matt Samuel said.

That pack played a major role in pulling out a win over the Tigers, who scored first and second in the dual with Dallas because Tidball and Toczko were second and third overall on the day behind another dominant performance by Lake-Lehman’s Dominic Hockenbury.

The Mountaineers had enough to pull out the one-point win even without Josh Wyandt, who would normally be one of the team’s top five runners. The score was even once each team had four runners to the finish line, but Rob Martin finished next, giving Dallas the win.

“We were without one of our guys who was injured,” Samuel said. “Rob Martin kind of stepped into the fifth runner’s spot, which was nice. Our pack and the way that Rob ran today were the deciding factors.”

Tunkhannock lost just one WVC meet last season, finishing 16-1 in the league to take second behind Dallas before going on to its district and state championships under coach Randy White. The Tigers and Mountaineers were two of the six WVC boys teams to make it through the first week of cluster meets with unbeaten records.

“Randy has such a great program up here with his guys,” Samuel said. “They were state champions last year, something that we kind of know about. Any time we can come out with a victory against those guys it’s obviously an achievement.”

Hockenbury, a state individual runner-up last season, continued a strong start that began with a meet record performance at the Cliff Robbins Invitational. He finished the difficult 3.1-mile course, which includes an uphill finish, in 16:19 to win by 54 seconds.

Tidball and Toczko were next in 17:13 and 17:27.

Sod, a senior who was usually just outside the scoring combination of runners last year, followed in 17:46.

“Kurtis has done a great job,” Samuel said. “My seniors that graduated were such a strong influence on him. He was stepped up and filled a void.”

Sod showed the way for a young team.

Zardecki, Culp and Borton, two freshmen and a sophomore, all made it to the finish by 17:58. Culp was on the varsity squad as a freshman last year while Zardecki and Borton were enjoying success on the junior high level.

“We knew what we were bringing up,” Samuel said. “It’s a different ball game with the longer race, but they had a nice summer of training.

“Our young guys are really into it. They’re invested.”

Chris Sabol of Lake-Lehman was eighth in 18:04, followed by Jacob Kobulsky of Wyoming Valley West in 18:09 and Alan Grow of Tunkhannock in 18:28 to round out the top 10.

Martin placed 13th while helping Dallas sweep the three opponents it was scored against to improve to 5-0 in the conference.

“It’s a different squad,” Samuel said after his Mountaineers also defeated Wyoming Valley West, 16-42, and Lake-Lehman, 21-39. “For them to come up and do that today is good stuff.”

Tunkhannock is 4-1 after defeating Wyoming Area, 18-42, and Wyoming Seminary, 16-42.

Lake-Lehman won two of its three meets on the day, defeating Wyoming Area, 24-31, and Wyoming Seminary, 25-31.

Wyoming Valley West also went won two of its three duals while Wyoming Area and Wyoming Seminary each lost all three on the day.

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