As we move through the 5th full week of cross country competition in North Carolina, there has been one thing lacking: a meet with a really strong male field. The year has been dominated by the amazing girls' competitions we have seen, but there is not as much clarity among the boys' teams. Although this is a bit of a down weekend in terms of the number of invitationals being held, it looks like we'll get our wish from the adidas Cross Country Challenge (plus some more great girls racing to boot).
The Meet: adidas Cross Country Challenge
Organized by the NC State staff, the meet has a long history and has been held on a number of different courses over the years, including the Centennial Campus and one on the land around Carter Finley Stadium where yours truly ran a few races in his (questionable) prime. Always a big draw for the Raleigh-area teams, plus a sprinkling of good teams from around the state and elsewhere, the meet has grown stronger along with the stature of the WakeMed course. This year's field is as strong as it has ever been, especially on the boys' side, where several of the top teams and individuals will come together in a championship race that should provide more clarity to the rankings and polls. NCRunners correspondent Paul Lockwood will be on site Saturday to keep us posted on all the important results.
The Course: WakeMed Soccer Park
At one time, the WakeMed course had a reputation for being one of the most challenging in the state, and it produced some slower times as a result. Although fundamentally similar to its original configuration, the course has undergone a few changes in recent years (most notably the downhill start) that have transformed it into one of the faster courses in the state. If you compare last year's adidas meet to the one from 2008 (see below), the course has become almost a minute faster; considering the field has become larger, which brings in more slower runners as well as the faster ones, that's a significant improvement. Of course, competition level is always a factor, and the WakeMed course plpays host to several big meets in addition to this weekend's invitational: Great American in October, Nike Cross Nationals Southeast in November. You can make a strong case that, behind McAlpine, this is second on the list of important courses in the state.
Course Records (High School)