One year ago Drew Zink (Lincoln Charter) was neck and neck with Caleb Potter (Polk County) flying down the finishing straight at Ivey Redmon. The two would cross at the same time and timers would have to go to video to see who the winner was. Zink ended up .07 second behind the senior Potter taking a heartbreaking second place finish.
It wasn't all bad news however, as Zink's Lincoln Charter team would win the schools first NCHSAA XC Team title scoring 51 points.
One year later Zink will be back in hopes of being atop the podium this Saturday. Of last years top 10, 8 1A boys were seniors leaving Zink and last years 3rd place finished Aaron Rovnak (Franklin Academy) to likely battle for the 1A title a year later.
This all ended up being true a year later as Aaron Rovnak and Drew Zink each are overwhelming favorites to go 1-2 in the 1A field. Zink holds a PR of 16:12, while Rovnak is coming off a Mideast Regional meet where he ran 15:45. Rovnak came into the season proving he was the real deal with a dominating 15:46 win at the Jungle Run in one of the first meets of the year.
The two have raced once this year. Nearly a month ago, October 12th at the NCRunners Elite Invitational. They headlined the Invitational Race where Rovnak would outlast Zink winning in 16:04 to Zink's 16:12. You can expect it to be close this weekend as both boys are coming off a dominating regional victory with eyes being on the 1A crown for at least the last year.
Ethan Sommers (Southside), Chase Pierce (Murphy), Patrick Rice (Lincoln Charter), Cutter Law (Lincoln Charter) and Jose Hernandez (Bishop McGuinness) should be amongst athletes in the next group battling for third.
Team wise, Lincoln Charter boys are going to be tough to beat. They come in ranked first looking to defend their title from a year ago. Likely challengers Murphy and Hayesville come in ranked 2nd and 3rd in 1A, but were beaten by Lincoln Charter at the regional 24-66-83. Lincoln Charter's team average was 50 seconds better than second place last weekend were they averaged 17:06.
With three boys likely finishing in the top 10 this weekend it looks to be too much firepower for their 1A competition. Heading in they have 7 runners better than anyone else's 5th runner making them hard to beat. Crazier things have certainly happened.
Aside from Murphy and Hayesville, Lejeune, Franklin Academy and Bishop McGuinness won the East, Mideast and Midwest Regionals last weekend. Each had team averages in the upper 17s to low 18s which should put them in contention for a 2nd place finish on a good day this weekend. Murphy has two frontrunners in Caleb Jones and Chase Pierce, which give them an advantage if things play out as so Saturday morning.