The infamous bottleneck at Jackson Park is just one of the features of the two big invitationals that highlight this weekend.
The first weekend of official competition for the fall season is upon us! As always, the initial round of 5K races is highlighted by the two big season-opening invitationals in Charlotte and Hendersonville. The two are very comparable, as long as the course at Jackson Park isn't too wet, and we often get very good combined 5K results from this first set of big meets. Not to be outdone, the eastern half of the state counters with two meets that are very young, although both appear to be gaining in stature.
Featured Meet: Providence Invitational (McAlpine Greenway, Charlotte)
Live Coverage by JasonCreasy
This meet would fit quite nicely in the middle of the season: it has a large number of teams and produces a high level of competition. Of course, McAlpine always produces fast times, even this early in the season. We will get a nice glimpse at both the individual talent and the team development, with a nice sampling of programs from around the state scheduled to compete. Of course, there will also be some things we want to see, that we won't get to see (for example, Marvin Ridge is holding out their top 7, and there are some key individuals who are sitting out for training or injury reasons). Here are some of the things to watch for and questions to be answered:
Who will emerge from the boys' lead pack to take the win? In the boys' race, you should see Patrick Sheehan (Lake Norman), Zach Langston (Lexington SC), Ian Milder (Mount Tabor), Wyatt Maxey (Providence), Ryan Brady (East Chapel Hill), Nik Kreiling (Jordan), and Philip Hall (Terry Sanford) all competing for the top spot.
The girls' field is also loaded with talented individuals, such as Sydney Foreman (Ardrey Kell), Kayla Montgomery (Mount Tabor), Malia Ellington (Community School of Davidson), Natalie Andrejchak (Robinson), Kristen Lospinoso (Green Hope), and Grace Sullivan (Providence).
Who will join the lead packs? This is a meet that inspires improved runners to step up and challenge the expected returning stars, and there are a few candidates in the field: Sophia Bhalla (Lincoln Charter), Tim Coffey (Mooresville), Tom Nobles (Green Hope), Daniel Beamer (Jordan), Andrew Fea (North Lincoln), Kayla Glova (Providence), Colton Hennessey (Hilton Head), and Elly Henes (Green Hopre) are just a few, and there is often a complete surprise in the field.
How strong and deep are the Green Hope girls? With a summer to develop their own talent, plus a strong runner that moved into their district, the Falcons can establish themselves as the 4A favorites (again) with a good opening race.
How will the North Lincoln boys fare in their move to 3A? The database ranks them in the top 5, and this will be an opportunity to show that they have developed enough depth to hang in the larger classification.
How will the Weddington and East Rowan boys stack up against the 3A powers racing up in the mountains? They won't be head-to-head with Chapel Hill and Cardinal Gibbons, but the Warriors are coming off a strong camp race and might be primed to challenge for a 3A title this year. East Rowan is strong every year, and would like to move up from the bottom of the top 5.
Can West Forsyth extend their success from the Clash of the Classes to the much larger and more competitive format this weekend?
Don't be surprised if Olympic is better than you thought they would be.
Who wins the first round in the battle of the Charlotte-area charter schools? Lincoln Charter, Community School of Davidson, and Lake Norman Charter all have strong teams, and they are all relatively close to each other, which makes for potential rivalries.
Meet Records: Boys | Girls
All-Time Course Records: Boys | Girls
WNC Cross Country Carnival (Jackson Park, Hendersonville)
Live Coverage by CoachGeorgeRJR
For over a decade now, teams have been starting off their 5K season with a trip to the mountains. You get cooler August temperatures, a beautiful and challenging course, and great competition - it's a perfect experience for the first big meet of the season. Here are a few things to look for if you're going to be at Jackson Park on Saturday:
With several NCISAA teams in the field, including perennial 3A powers Providence Day, Charlotte Latin, and Cary Academy, this will be a great early look at the strength of the independent schools. Along those lines, Asheville Christian starts the season with a new coach, but still has big plans for the end of the season, so keep an eye on them.
The likely top two teams in the NCHSAA 3A boys classification, Chapel Hill and Cardinal Gibbons, will square off in this meet. On the girls side, aspiring AC Reynolds will get to measure themselves against the Crusaders.
How does North Carolina stack up against the out-of-state teams? There are several South Carolina and Tennessee squads in the competition, including some traditionally strong ones.
How fit is Tanis Baldwin? The defending 3A state champ had a solid track season, but it seems like this is his favorite and best season. If he had a good summer, he might have postseason plans.
Along those lines, will Ben Huffman be able to run with Quintin McKinnish (Morristown-West, TN)? Huffman had a great junior year, but McKinnish ran 15:00 at Foot Locker South last November, so this could be quite an interesting battle.
Meet Records (from MileSplit database): Boys | Girls
Course Records: Boys | Girls
Wilson Night Relays (Gillette Athletic Complex, Wilson)
Started last year, this meet already seems to be gaining a following. Combining the evening race with a relay format makes it a pretty unique experience.
Wendell Park Early Bird Invitational (Wendell Park, Wendell)
This meet has been held for the last few years, and the course seems to produce quick times (I've never been out to measure it). There are a few strong teams planning to attend, and so the results could be very interesting.
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