WVC boys cross country preview: New contenders aim to dethrone Dallas

By Tom Robinson - For Dallas Post
Dallas’ Mitchell Rome takes the lead during the Cliff Robbins Invitational on Saturday. - Sean McKeag | For Times Leader

Two of the most remarkable winning streaks in Wyoming Valley Conference sports appear to be ready to be put to the test when boys cross country season opens Wednesday.

After seven straight championships and 120 consecutive wins in the conference, Dallas is not the favorite entering this season.

That role goes to Holy Redeemer by the slimmest of margins over Hazleton Area.

Those were the two teams chasing Dallas last year with second- and third-place finishes, but even with an overhauled lineup the Mountaineers are regarded as the next-best title threat.

Lake-Lehman, Berwick and Crestwood are expected to maintain their positions near the top of the standings.

Dallas returns only Mitchell Rome, a 12th-place medalist in Class 2A and the WVC’s top state finisher a year ago, from the top seven runners who consistently figured in the scoring for a team that won conference regular-season and championship meet titles as well as the District 2 title. The Mountaineers were state champions in 2015 and 2016 before finishing fourth in the state a year ago.

Holy Redeemer joined Dallas at the last two state meets after taking District 2’s second-berth in Class 2A.

The Royals have a new coach, but many familiar faces in the lineup.

First-year coach Nicholas Capaci has a team led by seniors Bryce Zapusek, Dominic Capaci, George Strish and Lukas Volpetti, who all finished in the top 22 in District 2 last year.

Zapusek joined Dallas’ Rome as first-team Times Leader all-stars last fall. Capaci was a second-teamer and the only other underclassmen recognized among the all-stars.

“With the loss of so many seniors from last year’s squad, it will be a difficult year for us,” Dallas coach Matt Samuel said. “We’re playing catch-up a little right now.

“However, with the leadership of Mitchell Rome, our boys are going to become better as the season rolls along.”

Rome opened the season with a second-place finish, the best by a WVC runner, at the 44th annual Cliff Robbins Invitational Saturday at his home course.

The Robbins Invitational does not include team scoring, but if it did, Holy Redeemer would have been champion Saturday at Misericordia and Hazleton Area would have also finished ahead of Dallas.

Both Capaci and Joseph Smolinsky, coach of Hazleton Area, which competes in Class 3A as part of the District 2-4 Subregional in the postseason, pointed to district titles as goals for their teams as well this season.

Hazleton Area has to replace four-time state qualifier Franklin Cunningham, but has a strong senior class.

Crestwood’s Kyle Price joins Rome and Holy Redeemer’s four leaders as returning district medalists and state qualifiers. Price made it last year as a freshman.

WVC CAPSULES

DALLAS

2017 WVC Record: 18-0

2017 Postseason: Finished 1st of 18 teams in District 2 Class 2A meet. Finished fourth out of 21 teams in state Class 2A meet.

2018 Classification: 2A

Outlook: State medalist Mitchell Rome is the only returnee from last year’s top seven, which had been largely responsible for two state titles and two other finishes in the top eight in the state in the last four years. There are some runners who were part of the program, training and running with that successful group that has graduated. A strong conference has helped ready Dallas for state competition, but that same conference depth could make things tough on the Mountaineers as they pursue an eighth straight title. “The WVC will certainly not make it easy,” coach Matt Samuel said.

LAKE-LEHMAN

2017 WVC Record: 13-5

2017 Postseason: Finished 8th of 18 teams in District 2 Class 2A meet.

2018 Classification: 2A

Outlook: Sophomore Chandler Longstreth is back to lead a deep roster. “We have 19 boys on the roster and we expect to gain valuable experience and should be very competitive in the WVC this season,” said John Sobocinski, last year’s Times Leader Cross Country Coach of the Year, who is entering his 16th season. Senior Dillon Ide, junior Bryan Morio and sophomores Sam Lukasavage, Neil Dougherty and Liam Pendleton also return from last season’s young district lineup. Will McCarroll and Brady Newman led a strong freshman group in the Robbins Invitational.

TUNKHANNOCK

2017 WVC Record: 8-10

2017 Postseason: Finished 7th of 18 teams in District 2 Class 2A meet.

2018 Classification: 2A

Outlook: Peter Sayre, A.J. Hodge, Nathan Meyers and Isaac Clark are the top returnees for the Tigers in coach Randy White’s 20th season.

WYOMING SEMINARY

2017 WVC Record: 7-11

2017 Postseason: Finished 9th of 12 teams in District 2 Class A meet.

2018 Classification: A

Outlook: Freshmen Angelo Lombardo and Caeran Green joined returning senior Cameron Shedlock as the team’s top three runners in the Robbins Invitational.

Dallas’ Mitchell Rome takes the lead during the Cliff Robbins Invitational on Saturday.
https://www.mydallaspost.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_TTL090118XC2-1.jpgDallas’ Mitchell Rome takes the lead during the Cliff Robbins Invitational on Saturday. Sean McKeag | For Times Leader

By Tom Robinson

For Dallas Post