Hare & Hounds boasts one of the most diverse fields of any meet, plus arguably the largest middle-school race of the fall season.
What do you get when you put 35 public and private schools on a fast course in good conditions? We will find out Saturday in Charlotte, when the gun fires for the Hare & Hounds Invitational at McAlpine Park. The meet also features a large middle school race, with 25 teams entered (unfortunately, we don't have enough data to run a virtual meet for that one, which would be interesting). Many of the state's top independent schools (especially those from the Charlotte area) will be in attendance, as well as some of the top 3A talent in the public school ranks, among others. The weather should be good, although warmer than it has been this week (very similar to the conditions for the Providence Invitational earlier, and we all know how that went).
(Teams entered, schedule)
Teams to Watch
Marvin Ridge has the best times so far this year, and is the favorite coming in. Don't discount Reagan, however, which has strong returning talent but hasn't run a 5K invitational yet; they defeated Mount Tabor at the Forsyth County Meet earlier this year. Charlotte Catholic has a strong team, and their 3A rivals Jay M. Robinson are close behind. Also in the hunt for the top 5 will be Spartanburg Christian and Charlotte Latin, two teams that the database considers perfectly even in this competition.
Individuals to Watch
Malia Ellington (Community School of Davidson) appears to be the class of the field, although she has come back down to Earth a bit after her great first race at the Providence Invitational. Logan Morris (Spartanburg Christian) is the closest to her, being the only other runner in the field that has broken 19 minutes this season. Margot Corcoran (Charlotte Catholic) and Natalie Andrejchak (Jay M. Robinson) are pretty evenly-matched for third place, although it will be interesting if either of them guns for the top two and a shot at breaking 19 themselves. Expect Emily Grimes to run in the top 5, perhaps leading a few of her teammates that way, as well; they haven't run in a 5K invitational yet this season, and their only marks come from a dual meet. Similarly, Alden Kessenich (Marvin Ridge) should contend for the top 5, leading her teammates in their title attempt.
(Using times submitted to MileSplit this season)
Teams to Watch
Watch out for the Asheville School boys; they have already vaulted into the top spot in the NCISAA 3A team rankings (and WAY up into the All-Classes rankings, released tomorrow) and could move up even further after a cool race at McAlpine. Marvin Ridge and Charlotte Catholic, two 3A programs known for solid running and vibrant uniforms, grade out almost perfectly even in what could be a great battle for second. After that, there could be a big gap back to the next group of contenders, which includes Jay M. Robinson and Cox Mill. The "wild card" is Reagan, a team that hasn't run much this year (only one 5K, a weekday dual meet) but could have improved significantly with almost a month of solid training.
Individuals to Watch
This should be a great race up front, as it seems likely that the lead pack will be larger than usual and stay together longer into the race. That's because there is no big runaway favorite in this meet, although there are a number of good runners. Clifford Buck (Jay M. Robinson) and Ben Fiedler (Asheville School) have virtually identical times so far this year; if anyone does pull away it could be Fiedler, who ran in the 15:30's last fall. Close behind, at least based on season bests, would be Buck's teammate McCann Sheridan and Fielder's teammates Robert Cook and Paul Jordan. Don't be surprised to see Northern Guilford's Jimmy Hollingsworth in that front group; he hasn't really pushed himself for a full 5K yet this year, but does have a PR of 15:39.
(Using times submitted to MileSplit this season))