Some of North Carolina's best are taking on national caliber talent at the Great American Festival! We preview how some of our state's best will stack up!
Boys Race Of Champions
Cary, Chapel Hill, Providence Day, and Weddington are the four full boys team representing North Carolina in the Nike Race of Champions! Weddington's close knit pack led by Jake Toomey and Kyle Durham will look to stay up front as a group early as they compete for a team championship. Look for Jackson O'Hara and Will Mazur also of Weddington to both try and dip under the 16:00 barrier for the first time in their careers. Cary's top three of Brian Picone, Jackson Martin, and Anton Idhammar have all broken 16:00 in the past but look to do so for the first time this season on Saturday. Cary's 4th and 5th runners, Stephen Atkinson and Ted Sielatycki, will be feeding off of their teammates as they both look to approach, if not dip under, the 16:00 mark.
Ben Verchick (Union Pines) has only seen one race this season, a victory at the Jungle Run, where he clocked a still standing NC #1 time of 15:28.91. He will be looking for a big PR in what will probably be the best field he sees this season. Verchick will be joined by Nickolas Scudder (Millbrook) up front who has the second best time in North Carolina this season. Scudder ran 15:32.67 at the Hare and Hounds Invitational where he was North Carolina's top finisher. John Malach (Broughton) comes in with a 15:37.89 personal best and will look to stick in the front with teammate Jack Rooney. We'll also see junior Andrew Hammel (Christ School) tackle this loaded field after running 15:46 earlier this season.
Christian Landis (Providence Day) comes in with the fastest 5k time among the full North Carolina teams having run 15:46.59 earlier this season at Hare and Hounds Invitational. He and Ben Hawley (Chapel Hill) will look to stay in the front pack and drop their personal best times as low as possible in a fight for team supremacy. From a team standpoint Weddington has been arguably as strong as ever so far this season and look to only improve on their US #8 ranking this weekend as they battle US #1 Loudoun Valley (VA).
Chapel Hill currently sits second behind Weddington so far this season based on best times, but their varsity squad has not raced since Jungle Run over a month ago. However, if all of Cary's runners have strong performances, look for this Imps squad to have a strong presence at the top of the team leaderboard.
It's going to be really exciting as the top 5 boys in North Carolina so far this season are slated to compete!
Girls Race Of Champions
Carmen Alder (Pinecrest) looks to continue her dominance this Saturday as she lines up against some of the toughest competition she's ever faced. Alder will be upfront with US #4 Kelsey Chmiel (NY) who has ran 16:46 (!!!) this season. Alder likes to take the pace out quickly early in the race so it will be fun to see how she and Chmiel match up. However, there is no way you can forget about Natalie Tyner (Laney). She is back in North Carolina and ready to make her in state debut after a 4th place finish at New Jersey's Bernie Magee Class Meet. Tyner comes in with a 17:37 personal best from last season and will be a definite force at the front with Alder. Tyner has gotten the best of Alder both times they have faced off on the cross country course. Alder does have a victory over Tyner in the 3200m at the 2018 Raleigh Relays. Last weekend at Hagan Stone Alder ran 17:59, the 3rd fastest time in course history so the momentum is on her side.
There are a bunch of girls from North Carolina sitting around the 18:00 mark who will be pushing towards the front pack and trying to crack sub 18:00. Maggie Springer (Chapel Hill) has been tough competition for Alder and Tyner in the past and will look to improve on her 18:50.78 time from last month's Jungle Run. Weddington's Emma Jones and Anna Davis will try and break the 19:00 barrier for the first times and will be pushing the rest of their tight pack with them. They will have familiar faces around them as the Chapel Hill's Lilly Crook and Megan Marvin will be trying to get under 19:00 for the first time as well.
Emma Jones (Weddington), and Abby Weber (Chapel Hill) can be game changers in the team competition as both freshman have broken 20:00 early in the season! In a highly competitive and notoriously fast race, these girls will have the chance for a breakout race. Especially Jones, who ran 19:12.02 this season at the Hare and Hounds Invitational. She will be looking to drop down into the high 18:00's this weekend and help her squad in the team battle.
Chapel Hill and Weddington will be squaring off for the second time this season. At Friday Night Lights, Weddington narrowly edged Chapel Hill by a single point. Neither of these teams ran at Great American last season so it will be interesting to see how they match up against out of strong out of state talent. Chapel Hill girls will be without one member of their top 5 in freshman star Amelia Maughan this weekend who is healthy, just had a prior engagement.
With schools from six different states running in the Invitational it is bound to be a packed race. Patrick Shields (Laney) looks to defend our state's home turf as he comes in with the fastest time among runners from North Carolina having ran 16:04.01 at Jungle Run. There are five seniors entered in this race who have ran under 16:20, but are still looking for the coveted sub 16:00 mark. That list includes Shields, Preston Jones (Leesville Road), Jackson Lawrence (Middle Creek), Travis Leach (Southwest Guilford), and Tamer Metwalli (Cannon School).
Jones' performance will have a huge impact on the team scores as Leesville Road has a legitimate chance to walk out of Cary with a victory. Colby Crenshaw and Andrew Macemore will also need big days as they look to set personal bests for the first time this season! James Blizzard ran 16:50.17 last weekend at the Bo Run and will be pushing teammates Jamal Mohamad, Will Bell, and Hayden Reed to break 17:00. Mohamad, Bell, and Reed all sit within a half second of each other and are looking to finish at Leesville's #4 or #5 Saturday with a standout race.
Middle Creek, Millbrook, and Southwest Guilford all have a chance to have breakout races this Saturday. Millbrook will be without lead-man Nickolas Scudder as he is running in the Race of Champions, so it will be on his teammate, Joshua Navarro, to lead this Wildcats team.
Carolina Day School returns to Great American after a 3rd place finish last season in this race. They return four out of five runners from last year's squad including Olivia Sutter and Ella Dockendorf! Erin Hovendon has had a breakout year already dipping under 20:00! Carolina Day School also has a rising star in 7th grader Abby Smith who ran 20:16 earlier this season which is NC #3 and US #33 for her age group!
Leesville Road and Providence Day School will both be competing for a shot at the team podium. Providence Day School is lead by senior Justine Cronk who holds the fastest personal best entering the race of 19:06. Leesville Road's triumphant 1-2-3 of Dalia Hasan, Hannah Comeskey, and Ashley Tysiac who all will look to drop down into the low 19:00s and help their team! All of Providence Day School and Leesville Road's 3-7 runners are within just over one minute of each other! This tight pack will be fun to watch as this race progresses.