This girls field is super stacked up front with a mix of in state and out of state talent. Sophomore Victoria Starcher (Ripley, WV) had an amazing freshman season running 4:53 on the track and also taking 6th in the Mile at NBON. This is Starcher's first XC season and she had been undefeated and clocked 17:34 already! She'll match up with a Virginia trio of Rachel Northcutt (Cosby), Ailene Edwards (Blacksburg) and Kaitlynn Wolfe (Blacksburg). Edwards and Wolfe went 1-2 at Knights Crossing last weekend running 17:49 and 17:56 showing that they're in really good form. This looks to be Northcutt's season debut. She was 4th in this event last season and ran 17:35 as a sophomore!
North Carolina will also send their stars in Mariah Howlett (Lake Norman Charter), Natalie Tyler (Laney), Katherine Dokholyan (Chapel Hill) and Carmen Alder (Pinecrest) who I'd expect to push the pace up front. Alder is one I'm very excited to watch, as we haven't seen her race in three weeks after running an 18:33 at Providence. We'll also see a season debut from Tyner and Howlett who holds PRs of 17:58 and 18:21. Both had very strong track seasons, and I expect both to contend with a fast pace up front. The battle between Tyner and Alder in this race very well could be one we see come November at the 4A State Championship. Dokholyan won the Jungle Run the other week, but didn't meet her time expectations. I think this is the week we see a quick time from her.
We'll also see Madeline Shook (Wakefield), Sophie Faircloth (Reagan), Calli Parlier (Apex) and Anna-Kathryn Kilby (Forbush). Shook was a transfer from West High School in TN and will make her first big splash in an elite field this season. She ran 18:44 and 5:06 as a freshman so I'd expect her to be up with this group of girls. Faircloth was 2nd at Providence to Alder and ran 18:17 as a freshman last fall. This was Faircloth's first big high school race last year where she clocked 18:50, but this year I'd expect her to be much faster as she's already run 18:44 at McAlpine. Kilby and Parlier finished 4th and 5th respectively last weekend at FNL in 18:41. Kilby will be eyeing Mariah Howlett looking to prove that she's going to make it tough for her to take the NCHSAA 2A individual crown from her.
Girls to also keep a close watch on are Mary Cagle Lockhart (Daniel, SC), Shannon Sefton (Panther Creek), Sarah Bechtel (Weddington), Elise Wright (T.C. Roberson), Sarah Parrish (Providence) and Frances Whitworth (Mt. Tabor). If I had to pick one girl to have a breakout performance from this group it'd be Wright. She looked really good at WNC and I think she has a massive PR this weekend.
The Blacksburg girls are going to be really tough to beat. They'll likely place two in the top 5 and are projected to score only 72 points in the virtual meet. Their biggest threats will be the packs of Weddington and Chapel Hill. If Blacksburg has an off day these squads each have a frontrunner followed by a tight pack from 2-5, and even beyond 5. This is the biggest team battle to watch in the girls race as two of the NCHSAA 3A frontrunners square off in what will be the first true test for Chapel Hill this season. West Forsyth girls were strong last weekend in their first 5K of the year at FNL. I think the Titans very well could mix it up with Weddington and Chapel Hill this weekend.