Kirshenbaum takes ninth at PIAA Class AAA Championships

HERSHEY >> It can’t be said Jeff Kirshenbaum doesn’t move at a fast pace.

Certainly not on cross-country courses around the state. And not even in his future beyond high school, for which the Methacton senior is planning already.

Kirshenbaum had capped a stellar 2015 season by scoring a Top 10 finish in the boys’ Class AAA race of the PIAA Championships Saturday. While awaiting the post-meet medal presentation, he chatted with a coach from Brandeis University about his college plans … plans that now include more options with his ninth-place showing at Parkview Cross Country Course.

“That’s one I’m looking into,” he said of Brandeis. “But right now I’m seeing what is out there, especially since I have more success.”

His career-capping finish added even more luster to the record Kirshenbaum compiled this fall. He was unbeatable in Methacton’s regular-season meets, and again in its championship race, before scoring a sixth in the District 1-AAA race last weekend.

And the way he ran Saturday — out at the front of the field in the opening straightaway, in third place after the first mile — further enhanced Kirshenbaum’s brand in his college hunt.

“I’ve been talking to American, Temple and Penn State coaches,” he said. “I’m hoping this race will open a few more doors for me. I’m looking forward to seeing what my options are.”

The fast start was in contrast to the way Kirshenbaum usually started races. He decided it was time to change his approach.

“I wanted to be more aggressive,” he said. “In a lot of big races, I went out too conservative. Today I wanted to get over than, to test myself.

“It was the perfect plan.”

Kirshenbaum’s finish this year was in significant contrast to the 2015 state race, where he placed 70th. He also achieved another personal mark this time around.

“I went in wanting to break 16 (minutes),” he said. “My 15:58 improved on my Foundation Meet time by 15 seconds.”

One of five District 1 runners to place in the Top 10, Kirshenbaum’s time was two seconds behind eighth-place Jake Susella of Plum. His early run was cut into upon hitting what he termed the “third major hill” of the course, around the two-mile mark.

“That’s when I started hurting,” he recalled, “At that point, I knew I had to hang on.”

Hang on he did, again emerging as the PAC-10’s leader. Owen J. Roberts sophomore Liam Conway was 28th in 16:22, followed by 30th-place Sean McGinnis of Phoenixville in 16:27.

“I’m very pleased,” he said. “I was 70th at districts last year, so to come across ninth … I’m happy. I couldn’t ask for a better way to end my high-school career.”

Another Phantom, Dylan Smiley, came home 72nd (16:56) while Boyertown’s Bryton Henry placed 81st (16:58) and Perkiomen Valley’s Jeff Montgomery 103rd (17:09).

The boys’ AA race had a very small local contingent: Pottsgrove’s Michael Neeson and Pottstown’s Justin Beasley-Turner, both of whom medalled at districts. Neeson missed a state medal by finishing 33rd, timed at 17:03 for his best run on the course, while Beasley-Turner placed 120th in 18:03.

“I ran a fast first mile,” Neeson, a third-place finisher in the District 1-AA race last weekend, said. “I was trying to hang in the second mile … pass many people and keep the momentum going.

“I got swallowed in the (starting) horde. A little before the one-mile mark, things cleared out.”

Though Kirshenbaum was the lone boys’ runner from the local contingent to medal, two others came close.

NOTES >> Both Kirshenbaum and Neeson are planning some time off before the start of winter track. “I’m definitely taking two weeks,” Kirshenbaum said, while Neeson is looking forward to a “week of nothing.” … Central Bucks East’s Jake Brophy was the AAA individual champ, his 15:39 run of the Parkview Course one second better than second-place Jaxson Hoey of Downingtown West. … The Whippets were the runaway team champ in AAA, placing two other runners — Josh Hoey (third) and Henry Sappey (sixth) high in the final order. … Lake Lehman’s Dominic Hockenbury was the AA champ while Dallas emerged the team titlist. … In the Class A competition, Griffin Mackey of Sewickley Academy was the race winner, and Camp Hill the team champion.

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