This past summer, Boyertown senior Mark Dennin increased his mileage and focused on improving his speed in preparing for the cross-country season.

The change of routine - and hard work - paid dividends at last month's PIAA Cross-Country Championships, as Dennin captured the Class AAA title with a 5,000-meter time of 15 minutes, 30 seconds.

"I was really an underdog, so to come out and win it was really exciting for me," said Dennin, who won the race by 29 seconds. "I had no idea that I would win it."

Dennin almost pulled off another major victory two weeks ago. He finished second at the Northeast Regional with a time of 15:24, to qualify for today's Foot Locker Cross-Country Championships in San Diego, Calif.

Dennin was one of three Pennsylvania runners to finish in the top 10 at the regional. Chris Aldrich of West Chester Henderson was fifth, and Vince McNally of Conestoga Valley was seventh. All three will run today against the best the nation has to offer.

Dennin said he had to overcome nerves at the regional race in the Bronx, N.Y. "I wound up leading the pack," he said.

The Gilbertsville, Pa. native is looking forward to life after high school. He has narrowed his college choices to Georgetown, Columbia, Princeton and Penn. But right now, Dennin is focused on a solid performance at the national level. "It would be really nice to finish in the top 15," he said.