The girls field is as strong as you can ask for with some of North Carolina's best in Carmen Alder (Pinecrest), Jonna Strange (North Iredell), Hayley Whoolery (West Johnston) and Frances Whitworth (Tabor) squaring off against some of Virginia's best in Kaitlynn Wolfe (Blacksburg) and Jette Davidson (E.C. Glass).
Alder is certainly the favorite coming in and will be throughout the season in most races until she's beaten. Alder has won two major invitationals at Providence and Friday Night Lights already this season running a meet record at Providence and the third fastest time ever at Friday Night Lights. Alder ran 17:28 on this course last season at Great American and has shown she's in better shape early in the season. Wesley Frazier (Ravenscroft, 2013) holds the meet record of 17:10. It's certainly a tough one to beat, but I don't think it's out of the realm of possibilities for Alder tomorrow or even next year.
Strange kicked off her season with a 17:10 on her home course. Other than that we haven't seen Strange against any competition so far this season. Strange proved to be a star last year on the track running 5:03 and 10:45 winning some major meets. She was also the 3200m 3A State Champion indoor and outdoors. This could be a major breakthrough race for Strange against most of the states best athletes.
Whoolery has only run one race this season where she ran 19:39 winning by a wide margin at Wendall Park. She has a good junior cross country season and followed it up with a even better track season running 5:02 and 10:46 as well as a 9:51 3K at Penn Relays. She holds a PR of 18:20 in cross country but ran a massive 17:17 5K on the track at New Balance Nationals. With a late start to the season we could see a big debut from the West Johnston senior tomorrow.
Frances Whitworth has scored a win at WNC Carnival and a 2nd place finish at Friday Night Lights behind Alder. She's proven to not be afraid to put herself in the mix against big fields over the last two years and would be surprised to not see her up front throughout the race tomorrow. She ran 18:25 at Friday Night Lights and with how she's performed early in the year I'd be surprised to not see her near or under the 18 minute barrier tomorrow.
Kaitlyn Wolfe ran 18:15 for 3rd place at Knights Crossing two weeks ago and should be in contention with the North Carolina stars up front. She ran 18:20 to finish 3rd here two years ago and ran 17:31 on this course in the same year to qualify for NXN where she finished 46th as a sophomore. Davidson was just behind her at Knights Crossing in 18:31 and should compete up front as well this weekend.
Anna Ritter (Weddington), Sophia Ritter (Watauga), Angie Allen (North Lincoln), Gwen Parks (Reagan), Vanessa Alder (Pinecrest) and Hope Dominique (Wake Forest) are girls I'd expect to be up front in contention for a top 10 finish as well. But the girls field is very deep with 22 girls with sub-22 credentials coming in and many more capable of shattering that barrier this weekend at WakeMed.
Weddington girls won this event back in 2017, and despite a most of those girls graduating they still come in as big favorites two years later. The Warriors display a great group with a 24 second gap from 1-5 led by Junior Anna Ritter and sophomore Emma Jones. They have at least 6 girls that are capable of breaking 19 this weekend and should have 7 girls in before most teams 5th. We should have good indication of where they stand in the Southeast Region after this weekend.
Behind Weddington we'll see how some of 4As top teams look heading into the weekend in Cardinal Gibbons, Hoggard and Laney. With Gibbons in the 4A East and a rise of Wilmington area teams the East could be the states toughest region this year. Gibbons graduated a lot of girls, but are still capable of defending their NCHSAA State Championship streak this year. Hoggard looked strong at The Jungle Run and will look to repeat a strong performance on a fast WakeMed course. Lake Braddock (VA), Mount Tabor, and Pinecrest will also be in contention for a top team finish tomorrow.