Last season Natalie Tyner (Laney) emerged as North Carolina's next star running 17:58. Unfortunately we won't see Tyner debut for a couple more week, but the field is still loaded with Katherine Dokholyan (Chapel Hill), Olivia Lackner (St. Thomas More) and Jenna Pellizzari (Hoggard). Dokholyan is the favorite coming into returning with an 18:12 PR from last fall. Dokholyan didn't race at Jungle Run last fall, but looks to take the individual crown as a senior. Dokholyan has shown very strong performances in her career holding a track PR of 4:57. Could Dokholyan be NC's first sub 18 runner this weekend on a fast Jungle Run course?
Olivia Lackner (St. Thomas More) had a great junior year with a 4th place finish at the Jungle Run being one of her high points. Lackner had a breakthrough race running 18:55. This year we'll see if Lackner is truly a contender for the NCISAA 2A title as we expected. Jenna Pellizzari (Hoggard) is someone I'm banking on having a breakout XC season after a great freshman year on the track. Pellizzari ran 5:11 for the 1600 taking 6th at states. Last year she was 10th at the Jungle Run in 19:32, but I expect her to be under 19 this weekend. Ava Lathan (Cary Academy) was 6th last weekend at WNC Carnival running 19:44. She holds a PR of 19:18 and after running 25 seconds faster than last year on a slow Jackson Park course I'd think she could be in for a sub 19 weekend as well.
Chapel Hill girls have a ton of talent on their squad in Anna Stouffer, Madi Marvin, Grace Tate, Lilly Crook and plenty more. They're essentially a lock to bring home the team title unless things just really unravel for them. But I behind Dokholyan up front I think their are plenty of girls ready for a breakthrough after a strong summer of training. Stouffer and Marvin hold the best PRs from last fall of 19:11 and 19:16 respectively.
The real story I'm excited to watch is a slew of freshman looking to run a fast time in Paxton Chitty (Ashley), Sloane Fleming-Hickey (Hoggard), Makayla Obremski (Topsail), Victoria Swepson (Research Triangle) and Isabella Bufalini (Topsail). Swepson ran 20:28 winning at Wendell Park last weekend crushing her competition. We'll see if she is going to be in contention for the 1A Individual title this fall after impressive middle school track times of 4:50 and 10:48 for 1500 & 3000. I'm expecting at least one of these freshman to have a break out performance the Saturday night. Also I'm keeping an eye on upperclassman Caitlyn Burkett (Franklin Academy) and Faith Roy (South View) to mix it up in the top 10 finishers.
Team wise it's going be tough to take down Chapel Hill. The Tigers got to watch 3A rivals Weddington and Cuthbertson post fast times last weekend, but will look to prove they're still the favorites for the NCHSAA 3A crown this fall. We'll see a battle out of the 4A East Region for 2nd against Hoggard, Broughton and Heritage. Hoggard has added some young stars that have moved them at the top of the East rankings and come in with a score of 142.5. Broughton is a really solid overall team and just need a little more firepower in the front of their top 5. Heritage has a tight 1-5 gap of 30 seconds coming in. They'll look to prove they're contenders for the East regional title this season as well.