Very fast times were run on the traditionally fast course in Charlotte. The weather was ideal for racing and the competition was unbelievable. 21 boys broke 16:00 and met the National elite standard, while 15 girls broke 19:00, the National elite standard for girls.
Ryan Hill and Griff Graves posted the fastest times of the day, running 14:55 and 15:03 respectively.
Jennifer Barbi, South Forsyth (GA), was the only girl to break the 18:00 barrier, running 17:50.
The race began with Hannah Orders (Hopewell HS) and Becky Hetherington (Providence) taking it out through the first 400 meters. At the mile mark, the two of them were chasing Battlefield's top runner, Elizabeth Walls, through in about 5:53. Providence's girls were packed up nicely behind Hetherington and Battlefield looked like they could give Providence a run for the title. Battlefield's team was packed right behind the Providence girls. Cary and Weddington looked to be battling for 3rd place by the 1-mile mark. Battlefield's Elizabeth Walls led at two miles in 12:12. The Providence girls were now making a real run at the top. Their pack was moving up on Hetherington, and their 1-5 spread at the 2-mile was 12:30-12:50. There was some movement in the back mile, with Cary's Kristen Azarelo moving up into 2nd place. The open champion was Walls in 19:04. Azarelo and Orders finished 2nd and 3rd and ran 19:17 & 19:26 respectively. Providence's girls won handily over Battlefield, 35 to 75, and put their top 5 girls in from 19:31-20:11, with their top 4 in under 19:50. Not bad seeing how they aren't running with their #1 runner Autumn Todd who is coming off an injury. She has done some workouts recently, but I guess wasn't ready to race quite yet.
Cary, South Meck, and Weddington were out very quickly the first quarter mile. Northwestern(SC), the eventual winner, was out well, but ran a more intelligently the first 600 meters. The leaders came through the first mile in about 5:04, and were led by Zach Schoenfeld of Northern Durham. Weddington and Northwestern looked to be battling for the overall team title. By the 2-mile mark it was obvious that Northwestern was going to win. They had moved up and had #1 and #3. Alex Wiggins(Vance) and Matt Snider (Weddington) were in 4th and 5th at 10:33. McDaniel came out of the back loop and across the line in 16:02. Schoenfeld was 2nd in 16:10. Northwestern dominated the team race placing 5 in the top 15. Weddington's boys placed 2nd and Cary was 3rd.
From the gun, there was one team that looked like had something to prove . . . Mauldin HS out of South Carolina. Mauldin had defeated Providence back in August and had lost to TC Roberson in the Race of Champions at Great American. Today, though, was very different. The Mauldin girls ended up putting their top 5 girls in from 18:10-19:09. This is a team that should jump into the NTN Souteast Rankings, and should jump up high!
Kimberly Spano, North Meck, took the race out very quickly, about 73 at the 400m mark. She was still leading at the mile mark as she pulled the girls through in 5:40. Andie Cozzarelli(Apex) and Courtney Whittington(Mount Tabor) were also up at the front as they came through in about 5:42. Cozzarelli actually took the lead as they approached the hill and hammered up it. However, South Forsyth's (GA) Jennifer Barbi took over the race around the lake and never looked back. She hit the 2-mile mark in 11:29, with Cozzarelli next in 11:33, Alyssa Kulik(SC-Mauldin) in 11:34, and Spano back a bit in 11:42. Nothing changed in the top 4 throughout the back mile, as Barbi led the Invitational race across the line in a very impressive 17:49. Cozzarelli finished the race strong as well, and sped to an 18:04. Alyssa Kulik ran about 50 seconds faster than August, as she came in 3rd running 18:10. Also, Spano improved her time from August running 18:28.
As stated earlier, there was never a doubt that Mauldin was going to win the meet as a team. However, the battle for 2nd was a tight one. Chapel Hill and TCR both looked very good today, but Chapel Hill's tight pack helped them to 2nd. TCR was all together at the mile, but their 5th runner fell off a bit too much for them to pull the upset. Chapel Hill's top 5 ranged from 18:51-19:34
This race was highly anticipated, as the top 4A schools were all competing as well as two of the top Georgia schools, Walton and Brookwood, and the top ranked SC team, Fort Mill. The race proved to be a great one.
The top guys were all at the front by the mile mark and were in a pretty tight group. Jay Heller, Walton (GA), the #4 returner in the SE region led the group through in about 4:49. With him was: Wacker(Pinecrest), Moredecai(Broughton), Gilland(Chapel Hill), Lowery(West Johnston), Holt(Mauldin), and Curtiss(Providence). At the hill, the 1.5 mile mark, Wacker, Heller, and Gilland had begun to separate themselves a bit from the rest of the field. Chapel Hill, Broughton, & Pinecrest looked to be the top 3 NC teams at the hill as well.
The leaders came through the 2-mile mark in 9:51, with Lowery and Curtiss right behind in about 9:55. During the last mile, Heller opened it up on Wacker and Gilland while Lowery and Curtiss stayed in contact with the 2 falling off the leader. As they hit the lake, Heller was against the clock. Wacker began to pull away from Gilland and Lowery and Curtiss seemed to be stalking. Lowery had a fantastic kick and was able to pull in front of Gilland during the last 20 meters or so. The top 5 looked like this:
Heller - 15:13
Wacker - 15:20
Lowery - 15:23
Gilland - 15:24
Curtiss - 15:27
There were many more under the 16:00 mark, most for the first time in their careers.
Chapel Hill hung on for the team title scoring 103 pts. Fort Mill (SC) was runner-up with 106 pts and didn't get the performance they were hoping for from top runner David Huckaby. Walton and Brookwood, 2 Georgia schools, finished 3rd and 4th. Then Myers Park, who moved through the field very well throughout the race came in 5th place, just 8 pts. ahead of Pinecrest.
Cardinal Gibbons' Heather Beichner led from the gun and never looked back. She was joined at the mile mark by Jordan Gaddy(Enka), Sarah Willingham(North Henderson), Kaylin Royals(Glenn), and freshman Dannielle Hobbs(Sun Valley) among others. By the hill, Beichner had pulled away and left the others to race against one another. Gaddy had also begun to pull away from the others and was running in 2nd place.
The team race was looking close at the mile mark. Gibbons, Charlotte Catholic, Enka, & Asheville all looked to be in the mix. Catholic looked to have the early lead on the others. But, by the 2nd mile, the Gibbons' girls had moved a lot and were looking very strong. They had taken over the race with one mile to go.
At the finish, it was Beichner coming across in 18:35 to win the 3A race. Enka's Jordan Gaddy claimed 2nd with her 19:00 run. The Cardinal Gibbons girls won the race with a team low 65 points. Charlotte Catholic, Asheville, & Enka came in 2nd, 3rd, & 4th and were separated by only 20 points.
At the front, the boys 3A race was the fastest of the day. Footlocker hopefulls, Ryan Hill (Hickory) and Griff Graves (Abingdon, VA) ran times that would qualify them for San Diego most years.
Graves led most of the race and pulled a group of guys through the mile in about 4:47. Hill was sitting a little off the lead in 4:50. Stefan Shealy (Broome, SC), Andrew North (Asheville), Sean Sewell (Cardinal Gibbons), and Josh Dubin (TCRoberson) were all among the leaders at the mile mark. Hill quickly moved up into 2nd before the 1.5-mile mark. As they approached the 2-mile mark, Hill and Graves were together. Both ran the tough 2nd mile in under 5:00 as they hit 2 miles in 9:41. At this point, everyone was expecting something very fast. Hill came onto the lake with a slight lead and was able to extend it the last 600 meters.
Ryan Hill crossed the line in 14:55, which ranks him 3rd all time on the North Carolina list. Graves came across in a very impressive 15:03. What's remarkable is that both of these athletes are juniors!
Not to be overlooked, Stefan Shealy of Broome HS in South Carolina finished in 15:31. North Carolina runners, Josh Dubin, Sean Sewell, and Andrew North were also under 15:45, running 15:38, 15:41, & 15:43.
Cardinal Gibbons' boys ran very impressively and upset the favorite in te race, Mooresville. Gibbons' top 5 ran 15:41, 16:20, 16:42, 16:43, & 17:05. Mooresville took 2nd place and put their top 5 at 17:00 and better. Westminister (GA), TC Roberson & Asheville took the next three spots.