What a weekend we have in store for you, running fans! Runners from 17 states will be competing in North Carolina Saturday, and many of them are looking to make statements about their status for state meets, national rankings, and post-season races. Two huge invitationals and two regular-sized invitationals will provide us with more information on most of the state's contending teams, and this weekend should have a huge impact on the rankings and polls to come.
The Meet: Wendy's Invitational
No cross country meet in North Carolina (or South Carolina, or Georgia, or Tennessee) has the long, deep history of the Wendy's Invitational. Meet director Larry McAfee says it best:
The Wendy’s Invitational began in 1975 at Davidson College as the Charlotte Track Club Cross Country Carnival, and was conceived by Richard Prince of Myers Park HS, Thermon Gibbons of the Athletic Footwear Specialty Store, and Larry McAfee of East Mecklenburg HS. It was held at Davidson College in conjunction with the European Cross Country Meet held there for colleges and age group runners. In 1976, there were no invitational meets in NC for HS athletes, so our runners had little or no opportunity to compete with athletes outside of their immediate area. The first year, we had 7 schools competing (Myers Park, East Meck, Independence, Charlotte Latin, South Meck, Lincolnton, and West Meck) with East Meck winning the event and David Hankins of East Meck taking 1st place individually. [Note: girls did not officially begin cross country in North Carolina until 1980.]
In 1979, the meet was renamed the Coaches Invitational (because Richard Prince, Larry McAfee, and Jimmy Steele of Independence HS provided the funds to put on the event), and was going to be moved to McAlpine Greenway (the 2nd year that competition was held on the newly developed cross country course, which was designed and built by Larry McAfee and the East Meck Cross Country team). However, heavy rainfall and flooding at McAlpine Greenway forced us to move the meet to Matthews where we ran the 5K road that was used for the Stumptown 5K. This was also the first year that we had individual competition for girls with Joan Nesbit (1996 Olympian) from East Meck winning the girls division, although the girls and boys ran together with the girls being scored separately.
The race continued as the Coaches Invitational for several years while the number of schools competing increased to about 25. In the mid-80s, Richard Prince approached Wendy’s about sponsorship of the event and they graciously agreed to be our sponsor, which enabled us to upgrade our awards and allow for increased numbers of teams and athletes. We broke the races into 2 divisions [Open and Invitational plus individuals (5 races)…eventually adding the 3A division and more individual races]. Over the years, we have had schools from NC, SC, VA, GA, TN regularly competing plus occasionally schools from NY, KY, FL, AL, and Canada.
This year we have 3295 runners registered and 96 schools from NC, SC, VA, GA, and TN competing. There are over 40 schools on our wait-list and we rarely have more than 1-2 schools who do not return from one year to the next. We do not solicit new entries and have limited the number of schools to try to provide quality races for each division. This meet could easily have over 5000 entries if we allowed every school that indicates an interest to compete; however, we do not feel that this would allow us to maintain the quality event we desire (we would either need to increase the number of races or have a facility that we feel would comfortably accommodate larger fields plus have more parking available). Richard and Larry have served as co-meet directors for this event for the entire 37 years. Kurt Niedenzu from Providence HS has become increasingly involved in the meet and has served as a co-meet director for the past 4 years. This year, Steve Touranjoe – Providence HS and Cameron Starr – Marvin Ridge HS are also assuming co-meet director duties.
Recent Top Wendy's Performances
(From the MileSplit database)
The Course: McAlpine Greenway
As central as Wendy's has been to cross country in this state, McAlpine has been even more important. The home for the majority of Charlotte-area meets as well as numerous regionals, the course was also the host for the NCHSAA state championships from 1980 until 2001, when the meet was switched to Tanglewood. And, of course, McAlpine has been the long-time course for the Foot Locker South Regional, which gives it more than just state-wide importance. Characterized by a long, wide start followed by a winding trip through the woods, the course is known for its firm footing, smooth curves, and its signature hill (somewhat steep going up, and a launching pad going down if you know how to run it). After the hill, which is roughly halfway through a 5K race, there is a figure-eight involving the lake in the middle of the course, an excellent point for spectators to encourage the runners, and another trail in the woods. The finish is a long straight with fans packed on the athletes' right, and strong kickers can gain a ton of places in the last 300m. In the middle of the pack, ten seconds can result in a difference of twenty or more places, and one big kick can swing the meet in favor of a team.
McAlpine Top 100 Performers of All Time
(Courtesy of George Phillips at NCPrepTrack.net)
McAlpine Top 100 from North Carolina
(Courtesy of George Phillips at NCPrepTrack.net)
Comparison of 2010 Wendy's to 2010 adidas Wolfpack
Comparison of 2010 Wendy's to 2010 Hagan Stone
(Same day last year)