Throughout the season it had looked as if Ben Verchick (Union Pines) and Weddington were going to be tough to be for the team and individual title. While that outlook still remains the same for the team scores, George Hotelling (East Chapel Hill) beat Verchick at the Mideast Regional. With a bunch of other fast 3A times around the state it gave many other athletes more hope of taking home the individual crown.
Verchick has run the second fastest time in North Carolina this year of 15:20, the fastest mark in 3A. Last week it came down to finishing speed between he and Hotelling, and everyone should be aware Hotelling is arguable the fastest in a finishing sprint in the state. Their times were 15:43 and 15:45. Both of these boys will be up front this weekend as their sites on set on a individual title.
Out in the West Region Hunter White (North Henderson) clocked 15:44 to get a big win over top 3A competition in Michael Zapherson (T.C. Roberson) and Haven Honeycutt (Asheville). The mark for White set a new PR and was just one second off of his school record that he'll look to achieve this weekend. Zapherson has a 15:43 PR from this season and will look to bounce back off his second place finish a week ago.
Jackson O'Hara (Weddington) came out on top of a very competitive 3A Midwest Regional. Jack Trabucco (Cox Mill) and John Ciprich (Piedmont) had gapped the field through 2 miles, but O'Hara put together a strong last mile to take the win in 15:51. Trabucco and Ciprich and coming into peak form at the right time. Last week they showed they weren't afraid to push the pace up front and will contend for top 5 finishes this weekend. Also out of the Midwest is Kyle Durham (Weddington) who holds the second fastest time in 3A of 15:30. He's certainly got the talent to take home the individual title if the race can go his way. Teammate Stephen Larson holds the 4th fastest mark in 3A and freshman Nate Jaster the 7th fastest mark in 15:43 and 15:47 as both will contend for a top 5 spot tomorrow.
Out east Frank Rushok (West Carteret) was able to outlast Jordan Richardson (Northern Nash) in 16:24 to 16:30. Both of these boys are seniors and have been at the top of the East Regional ranks throughout their high school careers. I'd expect a strong finish from both tomorrow.
Weddington is going to be truly tough for anyone to beat as they have 6 boys that could put together an All-State finish tomorrow in Kyle Durham, Jackson O'Hara, Nate Jaster, Stephen Larson, Jake Toomey and Will Mazur. Durham and Mazur finished 7th and 8th respectively a year ago. These guys could put together not just the best team average in 3A meet history but the best in state meet history if everything goes right.
The battle for 2nd should be a good one between Chapel Hill, T.C. Roberson, Cuthbertson and A.C. Reynolds.
Despite losing a lot of guys to graduation Chapel Hill has rebuilt to be as strong if not stronger than last year. On the season the Tigers have averaged 16:07 with a 46 second 1-5 split. This year they've been led upfront by sophomore Ben Hawley and junior Owen Rogers. The pair have run 15:46 and 15:56 this season. They're going to need a strong day from their 3,4,5 in James Clabo, Emil Arangala and Jacob Meredith-Andrews to hold off teams gunning for them and to be right there if Weddington has an off day.
T.C. Roberson has emerged over the last month and continued to perform phenomenally. They won the West regional last weekend over A.C. Reynolds with a 16:29 average. Currently T.C.R. is just one runner short of having a very strong top 5. Their gap from 4-5 is 1:19 which will allow a lot of teams to have 7 runners through the chute before the Rams have 5. They have a group of three athletes from 5-7 and they'll need one of them to have a breakout day while their 1-4 run well to have a shot at the podium.
A.C. Reynolds has a team that's capable of a podium finish tomorrow, but they haven't put it together on the day so far this season. They would have been close with T.C. Roberson at the Regional meet, but had top runner Dwayne Lillie DNF. They should have 5 boys under 17 minutes tomorrow, and if they can finally put everything together they could end up in 2nd place.
Cuthbertson boys focused on having a pack mentality throughout the regional race. Their performance was impressive as they posted a 16:44 average with a gap of just 25.8 seconds. With this strategy leading to their best race of the season at the regional level I'd be surprised if they didn't go with it again this weekend. These guys will need to have their pack up with Chapel Hill's group and if they can post a big day for their top 5 they have a shot to be on the podium as well.