Dallas ended the 2015 boys cross country season with the greatest accomplishment available.
In the first week of the 2016 season, the Mountaineers have also done as well they possibly can.
It is very early, but, for starters, Dallas has swept both the individual and team titles at the prestigious 42nd annual Cliff Robbins Sr. Memorial Invitational, then opened the Wyoming Valley Conference by sweeping its first two meets by the maximum, 15-50 score.
“We’re progressing,” Dallas coach Matt Samuel said. “We’re just trying not to put a lot on their shoulders right now.”
Essentially, the Mountaineers are the favorites to win every title available to them with seven of the eight runners who made up the lineup for postseason events returning.
As much potential as the team has, however, Samuel knows that nothing is given. Last year’s team was at its absolute best in the biggest meets of the year, peaking when it needed to in order to follow up another unbeaten WVC season with Class AA titles at the District 2 and Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association championships.
“At times, I have to reign it in just a little big to make sure they’re ready when the time comes,” Samuel said.
That included the Robbins Invitational at Misericordia University’s Letterkenny Fields Sept. 3.
Stephen Postupak, the team’s number-five runner at the state meet last year as a freshman, sat out the opener. Adam Borton, second on the team and 28th in the state last year, was not yet at the form Samuel is hoping for as the season progresses.
Still, the Mountaineers won the title in the 20-team field, beating out last season’s unbeaten Lackawanna League champion, Montrose, 42-67.
“We’re pretty pleased,” Samuel said. “We had some guys who were pretty nicked up going into it.”
Jack Zardecki, a returning individual state medalist for last season’s 25th-place finish in Hershey, opened with a win in 16:52, beating Berwick’s Mason Kimbell by 11 seconds.
Josh Wyandt finished fifth at the Robbins.
Zardecki and Wyandt reached the finish line together on their home course Wednesday to lead the 15-50 wins over Wyoming Area and Wyoming Seminary in the season-opening tri-meet.
Mitchell Rome was eighth in the 219-runner Robbins field. Jason Culp was 14th, Borton 18th, Josh Jarden 48th and Corey Osborn 57th.
Culp, Borton, Postupak, Rome and Jarden followed Zardecki and Wyandt to the finish line Wednesday, all finishing ahead of returning state qualifier Eamon Gibbons from Wyoming Seminary, to complete the sweep of the top seven spots.
Culp, the only senior among the Dallas runners likely to score in meets, was 36th in the state last season.
Rome and Postupak were in both the district and state lineups as freshmen. Wyandt ran in the district meet and Jarden replaced him in Hershey.
“What we did last year was great and it’s something to be celebrated, but I think that’s probably over with now,” he said. “When you’re on top, the only direction you can go is down.”
Lake-Lehman was 14th at the Robbins Invitational with Riley Newman’s 27th-place finishing leading the way.
Newman was also the team’s top finisher, taking second overall in a tri-meet to begin the WVC season.
The Black Knights lost to Wyoming Valley West, 23-36, and beat Tunkhannock, 27-29.
Tunkhannock also lost to Wyoming Valley West, 23-33, to start 0-2.
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