Boys Championship Race
One year ago John Tatter (R.J. Reynolds) battled to the line with teammate Todd Holbrook coming up just short of a Jungle Run title. Tatter clocked a 15:33 in the second place finish and is by far the top returner and heavy favorite in this field. He just kicked off his senior season with a 9:48 2 Mile at Norman Trzaskoma on Wednesday, 29 seconds faster than last year. I think if Tatter had the right group to push him early he could challenge Blake Williams 15:07 meet record. Coleman Mitchell comes in atop the virtual meet, but he or teammate Chase Coley are both not entered in the event.
Last fall Jamie Witmer (Hoggard) set his PR after a 3rd place finish at the Jungle Run. Witmer is coming off a big year on the track where he ran 4:18. Also Witmer's teammate Eric Dahlgren should be contending up front. In two preseason meets Witmer and Dahlgren have flip flopped as the teams #1. I expect both to be in contention with Tatter upfront early on. Another strong 1-2 punch will be Jacob Wells and Ryan Brown (Broughton) who were both sub-16 runners as juniors. The duo ran 4:34 and 4:24 on the track last fall and will be making their 2017 5K debuts this weekend.
Ben Verchick (Union Pines) will be an individual to keep an eye on and holds a PR of 16:12. As a sophomore on the track Verchick ran 4:29 and 9:42 and was also All-State in 3A XC last fall. Laderique McNeill is Harnett Central's biggest star since Luis Vargas. McNeill has a killer indoor season running 4:31 and 9:45 and ran 4:26 early outdoors before likely ending his season due to injury. McNeill still has to prove himself on the cross country course, but is one of my break out candidates for the 2017 XC season. Jack Holbrook (R.J. Reynolds) looked very strong taking 4th at Norman Trzaskoma on Wednesday running 10:20 for 2 Miles, 35 seconds faster than 2016. He holds a PR of 16:58, but I'd expect a top 10 finish from him this weekend. Broughton's Jack Rooney also was very impressive in his 3K opener at Wake County Kickoff running 9:33. He certainly looked to be the real deal to me and should have a big PR this weekend if the course stays dry.
With Cary Academy likely not running a varsity squad the team battle looks like it'll come down to Chapel Hill and Broughton. The Tigers come out on top in our virtual meet 75 to 77 over the Capitals showing it's anyones race for the taking. Broughton likely has the stronger 1-2, but Chapel Hill's 1-7 gap is very strong. They'll likely have 5 boys in before Broughton, though the Capital's depth is nothing to overlook. They have a lot of young talent that could bring them to a team title this Saturday night. Though Chapel Hill has run as a tight pack in years past, could we see an individual break off and be a solid #1 for them this weekend?
Beyond the top two teams I'm expecting a strong performance from R.J. Reynolds after busting the rust off at Norman Trzaskoma on Wednesday. Though they're still needing some athletes to step up if they want to battle for a trophy. Hoggard will be in their first big race of the season, so we'll see if they are indeed a force to be reckoned with in 4A this fall.