We missed out on the adidas XC Challenge a year ago due to Hurricane Florence hitting North Carolina. We'll see a stacked field square off in the Championship race tomorrow morning on a fast WakeMed course.
Carson Williams (Cardinal Gibbons) comes in as the top seed returning to WakeMed with a 15:22 PR on this course a year ago. He's kicked off the season with a big win in Virginia at Knights Crossing where he ran 15:31. He'll certainly be in the lead pack throughout the majority of the race.
Jake Toomey (Weddington) beat Williams earlier in the year at the Providence Invitational where he ran 15:34 to finish 2nd overall. Toomey took 6th at Friday Night Lights 2 weeks ago and is one to watch down the stretch in any race if he's up front.
Ian Harrison (Panther Creek) holds a 15:25 PR and is set to make his 5K season debut. Harrison ran 9:09 on the track and was 2nd at 4A states in the 3200m. This should be a major debut for the Panther Creek senior.
Jack Rooney (Broughton) looked strong at Providence a few weeks ago finishing just behind Toomey and Williams running 15:40. Rooney finished ahead of Harrison in a 3K at WakeMed earlier this year and will be eyeing the win after nearly a month off from racing. Teammate John Malach will be up front as well with a 15:37 seasons best.
Thomas Vo (Green Hope) was 2nd at Friday Night Lights in his first race of the season just off the previous meet record. Vo clocked 15:50 and should be well under his 5K PR of 15:39 this weekend.
The top two 2A boys from last year in Zach Hughes (First Flight) and Jason Thomson (North Lincoln) will square off for the first time this season. The two come in ranked 14th and 9th respectively in our virtual meet, but seeing either take down this field wouldn't be a big surprise. Hughes won last weekend at William & Mary, but this will be the biggest XC meet we've seen him in from his high school career. Thomson holds a PR of 15:38 and will certainly want to finish ahead of one of his 2A rivals.
We saw Zach Clark (Cleveland), Elliott Kleckner (Croatan), James Blizzard (Leesville Road) and William Mitchell (Millbrook) throw down incredible times three weeks ago at the Jungle Run. Clark's 15:29 currently leads the state in the 5K rankings. They'll look to prove they're as good as they looked in perfect conditions in the jungle against this loaded field.
The team battle is certainly one that is up in the air this weekend as at least 5 or 6 squads have the potential to bring home the team title. Weddington and Pinecrest have looked the strongest so far this year. Pinecrest has an incredible top 4 with around a 15 second 1-4 gap. Their 5th man has been detached from the top 4 early in the year and will need someone to step up at some point in the season. Weddington has a frontrunner in Toomey, then a deep squad from 2-10 with 8 boys under 17 minutes on the season.
Panther Creek hasn't raced this season, but return a team with a 16:13 average with Harrison leading the charge up front. The Catamounts we're the top returning boys team in North Carolina with 6 boys under 16:45.
Broughton and Leesville Road have been strong early in the season. Broughton has the best top 3 boys in the state in Rooney, Malach and Dylan Core all under 16 minutes, but have a gap back to their 4-6 runners. I expect they'll improve in that area over the course of the season. James Blizzard has emerged as a frontrunner for Leesville Road running 15:37 this season. Behind him they have a tight back of veteran runners that have been eyeing the 2019 4A Team Title for a few years.
North Lincoln boys could surprise this weekend. They graduated a lot of last years top 5, but certainly didn't look like it earlier in the year at Providence. They averaged 16:35 from 1-5 and with almost a month off since their last big race I think big things could be in store for the 2A powerhouse this weekend.
Cardinal Gibbons is another team to watch over the course of the season. They've had a great top 3 develop over the summer in Carson Williams, Brady Colford and Wesley Haws. if their 4-5 comes together they're in contention for the 4A team title this November.