Could you ask for a stronger field on September 8th? This field is loaded with talent including four of of Flo50 Top 5 runners including #1 Cameron Ponder (Mt. Tabor), #2 David Melville (Northern Guilford), #4 Coleman Mitchell (Cary Acadmey) and #5 Finn McBride (Green Hope). The tricky part in projecting who will be up front in this field is that we normally see teams hold back and either tempo or run as a team at this meet. However, I do expect both Melville and Mitchell to go after it tomorrow as both have run fast times already this fall. Melville was 2nd in this field last season and will be the top returner heading into tomorrow.
Some other studs in this field are #7 Ben Mitchell (FCDS), #9 Peyton Barish (Green Hope), #10 Sam Thornton (Cardinal Gibbons), #11 Ares Epps (Green Hope) and #12 Ian Delgado (Green Hope). With this being this field time we've seen Green Hope in a 5K this fall I think the four guys from their team I mentioned above will finish up front, but will be preparing for bigger meets in the future not showing their full hand. Ben Mitchell seems to be coming back from injury through the track season and will look to finish close, or ahead, of NCISAA 3A rival Coleman Mitchell who beat him at WNC two weeks back. This will be Thornton's season debut and he's looking to prove he belongs among the top guys in NC.
Though his team is entered in the Invitational race, I expect #13 Dakota Mendenhall (Forbush) to compete in the Championship race as an individual. Mendenhall had a strong debut at Providence taking 2nd finishing as the top NC athlete and I think can contend with the front of this field. Other guys I'd expect to compete for a top 5 spot are #14 Michael Moerk (Mount Tabor), #17 David Cart (Apex), #18 Chase Coley (Cary Academy) and #19 Wesley Provost (Apex Friendship). Moerk looked good in his season debut in a 2 Mile at Norman Trzaskoma, but it wouldn't surprise me to see him run easy and look to push it next week at adidas XC Challenge. Coley has been really good early on and was not too far back from teammate Coleman Mitchell at WNC. Coley has looked really strong early on finishing a few seconds back at WNC and it'll be fun to see how he does against a stronger field up front. Cart has one of the better PRs in the field at 15:42 and took 3rd in this race last year kicking off his break out season. Can Cart repeat that impressive performance again this weekend?
Guys I'm also keeping an eye on are #24 Kyle Durham (Weddington), Russell Engle (Providence), Will Mazur (Weddington), Jamie Witmer (Hoggard) and Elliott Schultz (Providence). These guys have already debuted and all have set PRs in their first race of the season, or been just a second or two off.
Team wise, this meet is going to shake up the team rankings in a major way with 14 of North Carolina's Flo50 Preseason squads lacing it up. A big question is if #1 Green Hope does hold back, and if holding back will still be good enough to take home first place. Their talent is unreal, and even if they tempo this race they very well could come out on top against some of NC's best squads. #5 Weddington boys look to be the biggest threat to the Falcons after an extremely impressive display at Providence two weeks ago. They have two great frontrunners in Durham and Mazur and a 3 through 5 that isn't far behind! We'll find out if the Warriors are the real deal this weekend.
I'm really excited to see debuts from former SWAC rivals #6 Apex Friendship, #7 Cary and #8 Panther Creek. Apex Friendship has a very strong top 5 with a mix of young talent looking to step up this fall. I think Friendship has as strong of a top 3 as anyone in NC with Wesley Provost, Alec Atterberry and Tim Haughton. Cary boys have the tightest 1-5 gap in the field at 30 seconds and they have a ton of guys that could break through as a leader of this team. We really haven't seen much from them this season as they were missing a lot of guys at Wake County Kickoff a few weeks back. Panther Creek has a strong squad of sophomores that I think can boost them to North Carolina's top tier and we'll see if that's true over the next two weekends. #10 Providence looked strong two weeks ago at the Providence Invitational, and with a strong top 3 showing, we'll look to see if their 4/5 have progressed since then.
Other teams that could surprises some people this weekend are Northern Guilford, Apex, Cardinal Gibbons, Charlotte Catholic, Holly Springs and Millbrook. All come in outside of the top 8 teams in our virtual meet, but have a ton of potential to break through this fall. I'm really excited to see all of these teams in their first big meet of the year.
Also, not counting out the host school #3 Mt. Tabor, as even though their top guys will likely run easy this weekend as they have in years past. Though I think they could still bring home a top 5 finish. The bigger thing to watch with them is if they've developed a strong 5th man over the summer.