Great American will feature a massive battle between 2-time defending NXN Champions Loudoun Valley (VA) and National Powerhouse Great Oak (CA). Great Oak typically travel out of The Golden State to attend a major meet each season, and we're lucky to have them in North Carolina this season.
Great Oak and Loudoun Valley come in ranked as #2 and #3 respectively in our MileSplit 50 National Team Rankings heading in. It's a major clash between top ranked East Coast and West Coast teams that we rarely see in cross country outside of the national meet.
Both programs are similar having tremendous depth through their 7th runners, as well as their entire program. Christian Simone and Aric Reza were Great Oak's top 2 runners at Woodbridge two weeks ago. The teams fifth man Gabriel Abbes was just 11 seconds off of Simone in the 3 Mile race and their 7th man 21 seconds back. Of their top 7 top NXN finisher and teams top returner Mateo Joseph was the teams 9th man on the day. This could certainly be an off race, but adding him back at his potential would be a huge boost to Great Oak this weekend in a heated team battle.
Loudoun Valley was hit from graduation a year ago with a lot of the staples of the programs success over the last two years heading off to college. Likely a bigger key to the programs success is the programs depth which is what they've proved early this season. They have a tight group from 1-5 that I think would be in a different order every time they race. At PTXC11 the teams top 5 had a 15 second split from 1-5 lead by Taylor Ney and Carlos Shultz. Kellen Hasle also run well winning on a tough Oatlands course in 16:06. Like Great Oak, I don't think they have a true frontrunner and you can expect a pack from both teams to duke it out on a fast WakeMed course this weekend.
Outside of the top 2, the field is deep with teams like Severna Park (MD), Belen Jesuit (FL), Providence Day (NC) and Panther Creek (NC) having strong starts to their season. These should be the four teams we see battling with Loudoun Valley out of the Southeast Region this year for a spot at nationals.
Severna Park had a great showing two weeks ago at The Bull Run where Jake Gelfand lead them to a 16:21 team average and near 100 point victory over the field. The performance had them jump from Not Ranked to #11 in the MileSplit 50 Team Rankings. Led by Gelfand as a front runner the team has a strong group from 2-5 that'll need a big day if they want to contend with Great Oak and Loudoun Valley.
Belen Jesuit will travel North from Florida as they look to prove they're the top team in the Sunshine State. On the season thus far the team has been led by Diego Gomez and Adam Magoulas and are strong through 7 runners with just a 32 second gap between the teams 1-7. Satellite and HB Plant will also represent Florida at the top of the Great American ROC field.
Providence Day and Panther Creek will battle to see who is the top team in North Carolina. Two weeks ago Providence Day won at the Trinity/Valkyrie Invitational in Kentucky while Panther Creek won at adidas on the same WakeMed course. This will likely be the teams only head to head meeting outside of the Southeast Regional meet this year. Both teams have a likely frontrunner in Ian Harrison (Panther Creek) and Christian Landis (Providence Day). Landis had a late start to the season and was North Carolina's top boy at the Southeast Regional last year as a sophomore.
So far this year Providence Day had a 29 second 1-5 gap at Trinity with Panther Creek a 26 second 2-5 split. Jason Krell and Adam Habas had great performances at Trinity for Providence Day, and could be the X-factor in this in state battle with another good weekend on a fast WakeMed course. I think it'll come down to whichever team gets their 5th man in first tomorrow and I think a top 3 finish is possible for both squads.
I'd also keep an eye on Chapel Hill boys who ran very well last week at the Greensboro Invitational and will have their first race on a fast course so far this season. I wouldn't be surprised if they finished as NC's top team tomorrow with a relatively young squad.
Individually Thomas Vo (Green Hope) won on this course two weekends ago in 15:10 and will look to take down an ever strong field this weekend. Jason Thomson (North Lincoln), Sully Shelton (Harrison, GA), Coen Roberts (Greer, SC) and Carlos Shultz (Loudoun Valley) come in as some of the favorites. There doesn't seem to be a strong favorite coming into the field, and I think it's a race that'll have a big pack up front that a lot of different boys can win. Roberts in particular has certainly flown under the radar this season after setting an Eye Opener Meet Record two weeks ago.