Dominic Hockenbury’s talent as a cross country runner was immediately evident to Lake-Lehman coach John Sobocinski.
The only surprise has been the pace at which Hockenbury has climbed through the ranks for the region and state’s top distance runners.
“When he first arrived on the scene in junior high, you could tell he was something special,” Sobocinski said. “I wasn’t so sure he would get this good this fast.”
Hockenbury was the only freshman to medal in Class AA boys at last year’s Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Championships when he finished 22nd out of more than 200 runners.
The sophomore added to his resume on Sept. 14 with the first invitational victory of his high school career, a win at the Lackawanna County Commissioners Invitational at McDade Park in Scranton.
“Last year, I knew he would be one of the best runners in the district,” Sobocinski said of Hockenbury, who was third in the District 2 race that was won by Kieran Sutton, a Lake-Lehman teammate who has since graduated. “Then, at states, it’s a whole different level.
“He’s a really small, gangly kid. His goal was to medal, but he was a longshot. He was able to go down and pull it off.”
That success on the district and state level puts Hockenbury’s emphasis on those events at the end of the season rather than on his regular-season success.
“It wasn’t a big goal of ours to go up there and win the invitational,” Sobocinski said. “It’s a feather in his cap, but it’s just one race along the way toward the ultimate goals we have for the season.
“ … First things first, he has to punch his ticket to states and that will go by way of Elk Lake in the district championships in October. So, he’s preparing for that course and getting ready for that particular race. Then, if he gets to states, we’d like to go down and improve on his performance from last year. We definitely would like to see him earn a medal in the top 10 in the state.”
Hockenbury continued to show that potential when he finished nearly a minute faster than at the same race a year ago, dropping to 15:54 for the 3.1-mile course to win by 14 seconds over Lakeland’s Nate Morgan.
“I didn’t expect to drop that like,” Hockenbury said.
Hockenbury was, however, aware of the opportunity to pick up his first invitational victory.
“In a race like that, I felt like I could control the pace and I was able to do that,” he said.
Hockenbury started the season with a second-place finish at the Cliff Robbins Invitational behind Dominic DeLuca of Dallas, with whom he could do battle again on the district level and perhaps in pursuit of higher goals.
“Dom’s a great runner,” Hockenbury said. “It’s nice having competition close to home like he is.”
Hockenbury’s winning effort helped Lake-Lehman place fifth as a team in the Lackawanna County Commissioners Invitational.
Jordan Lindley placed 14th and Chris Sabol was 19th.
Dallas did not use all of its top runners but was able to finish in the top half of the field in seventh.
Kurtis Sod led the way for the Mountaineers with a 20th-place finish.
The Lake-Lehman girls were fourth out of 13 full teams behind the efforts of two more sophomores. Julia Hutsko finished sixth in 20:40 and Lindsay Pembleton was 11th.
Dallas finished fourth of 18 teams in junior high boys by packing all five runners between 23rd and 37th place.
Kyra Apaliski finished seventh to help Lake-Lehman finish fourth out of 17 junior high girls teams.