North Carolina graduated their superstar Connor Lane, and this race is going to show what NC individual is going to fill his roll, and there are plenty of candidates. Our top 5 Flo50 Individuals are all set to compete headlined by #1 Cameron Ponder (Mount Tabor) and #2 David Melville (Northern Guilford). Ponder holds a PR of 15:31, but after a stellar track season running a NC junior class 3200 state record of 8:56 I think that PR is going to be shattered this weekend. Melville has had a lot of success on this course and holds his PR of 15:12 from NXNSE last fall where he took 3rd. Melville looked to be in good form at Guilford County's and will be pumped up for the first battle of the year with new NCHSAA 3A rival Cameron Ponder.
I also expect #3 John Tatter (R.J. Reynolds) and #4 Coleman Mitchell (Cary Academy) to battle with Melville and Ponder. Both have big wins under their belt with Tatter winning Jungle Run and Mitchell winning WNC and FNL. I said the other day that Connor Lane's 14:59 meet record will fall, and I think both of these boys are capable of breaking it this weekend. Ben Verchick (Union Pines) and Marshall Williamson (Myers Park) are two guys I'm excited to watch in this field. Verchick took 2nd to Tatter at the Jungle Run clocking 15:42 having a big breakout race. It'll be fun to see how he matches up in a big field like this. Williamson clocked a 15:19 last weekend at Royals Twilight last weekend. He had a great track season, so that time doesn't shock me, but we'll see where he ranks against NC's best guys this weekend.
Three guys that should be on your radar are Dakota Mendenhall (Forbush), Haven Honeycutt (Asheville) and Grant Northcutt (Cosby, VA). Mendenhall battled Mitchell to the line last week at Friday Night Lights, and I expect him to contend for a top 5 spot this weekend and shatter his 15:48 PR. Honeycutt hasn't seen a big field this year, and fell in the rankings due to an off day or workout at his county meet, but the credentials are there for him to have a big day. Honeycutt was the 3A state champ in the 1600 on the track last fall and clocked 9:18 in the 3200. He'll be looking to contend with 3A competitors Cam Ponder and David Melville up front in what should be a three man race. Northcutt has battled with injury over that last year, but was 7th in this race a year ago running 15:41. He and Ahmed Hassan (Oakton) will battle to be VA's top competitor.
Some other guys that are on my radar coming into the weekend are Chase Coley (Cary Academy), David Cart (Apex), Landon Maxwell (East Gaston), Noah Dolhare (Providence Day), Jamie Witmer (Hoggard), Andrew Hammel (Christ School) and Michael Moerk (Mount Tabor). These guys all have the potential to breakout this weekend and have been solid throughout the early stages of the season. Maxwell and Hammel are two I'm keeping an eye on as they haven't seen a big field of NC stars yet this season, but have both posted impressive performances. Hammel will look to prove that he's in contention for a NCISAA 3A individual title while Maxwell will battle with Mendenhall to see who is the NCHSAA 2A favorite this season.
This looks to be a preview of the NCHSAA 3A team title with powerhouse's Weddington, Chapel Hill and Mount Tabor going head to head for the first time this year. Weddington has been impressive early this season winning the Providence Invitational and coming in second behind US#9 Green Hope at FNL last week beating tons of other ranked teams. Chapel Hill also was strong at Jungle Run where I believe their entire top 5 set a new PR. This will be the first time we've seen Tabor show their hand over 5K this season as last week they just tempo'd at FNL. There are plenty of other top 10 NC programs in this field in Apex Friendship, Cary, Panther Creek, Cary Academy and Myers Park. We'll get to see if Myers Park is truly the real deal after an impressive performance last weekend. Blacksburg boys come in ranked 7th in the virtual meet and look to be the top out of state program headed to WakeMed this weekend.