What To Watch For At adidas XC Challenge

The adidas XC Challenge returns to WakeMed Soccer Park in 2022 for what is sure to be a historically great day of racing. 

The boys' field is absolutely loaded with star-power, headlined by state-leading Rocky Hansen (Christ School). Hansen opened his season in early September down in South Carolina at the Eye Opener. He won the race convincingly and ran his first career sub 15:00 performance. He ran NC No. 1 and NC No. 12 all-time 14:57.80. 

The meet record at the adidas XC Challenge is 14:59, set in 2015 by Connor Lane. He is the only athlete in meet history to dip under 15:00. Historically, five boys have been under 15:10 at this event, the most recent being John Tatter's 15:00.70 in 2017.

Hansen will be alongside teammate Dawson Reeves, who was 10th at the Eye Opener in South Carolina. He has a personal best from 2021 of 15:31. Hansen and Reeves were 1-2 at last fall's NCISAA 4A cross country state meet. 

It will be no runaway for Hansen, as a lot of the NCHSAA's best want their first crack at him this season. 

At the top of the challenger list is Weddington senior Caden Townshend, who is ready to let the wheels turn and chase a fast time and a top place. Townshend was 2nd at the Providence Cross Country Invitational, where he a ran season best of 15:32.40. He is looking to break his personal best from the 2021 Garmin RunningLane Cross Country Championships, 15:04.31.

The Athens Drive duo of Krister Sjoblad and Noah Valyo have been on fire to start 2022. They each placed top ten at Friday Night Lights, running 15:33.90 (3rd) and 15:47.20 (9th), respectively. Both of those times are personal bests. Normally WakeMed runs faster than Ivey Redmon, so I'm excited to see what kind of times these two can drop on their first 5,000m at WakeMed this season. 

Adding to the in-state talent, Harper Clark finished 10th at Friday Night Lights, and looks to repeat that same success at adidas. Ardrey Kell's Raghav Gopalakrishnan was 14th at Friday Night Lights.

Out-of-state talent are making their way to Cary to race with North Carolina's best. 

Luke Thompson (Brentwood Academy, TN) and Ty Steorts (Hurricane, WV) lead the way for out-of-state competition. Thompson, a junior, was runner-up at the 2021 Tennessee D2 AA cross country state championship. Meanwhile, Steorts has had a remarkable start to the season, he has the fastest personal best of the group, as he ran 14:56.40 at the Dutch Miller Invitational.

The team battle is going to be just as intense between Broughton, Mount Tabor, Charlotte Catholic, Green Hope, and Cuthbertson along with the out-of-state schools. 

Last week, Broughton made the trip to Knights Crossing XC Invitational in Virginia and took 2nd to Blacksburg, VA 112-125. Will Venable led the way for the Capitals, finishing 9th in 15:41.70. They had a 1-5 split of 1:04 and a 1-7 split of 1:12.

Mount Tabor is making their all-out debut after cruising through Friday Night Lights. It is not uncommon to see the Spartans wait until mid-September to get their first all-out 5,000m efforts in. Andrew Burrell is ready to roll for Mount Tabor. He won the Norman Trzaskoma Invitational 2-mile in 10:00.18 earlier this season.

Green Hope took home the win at Friday Night Lights, and pretty convincingly. The Falcons scored 132 points, and finished 74 points ahead of runner-up Cuthbertson. 

Cuthbertson may be the team to watch. They ran with a strong pack at Friday Night Lights, and if they're feeling good come Saturday morning, the Cavaliers can do some serious damage. 

On the girls' side, the out-of-state talent is eager to take home course advantage from #TeamNC. Last year's Great American XC champion, Weddington, is going to be one of the favorites on Saturday. Led by Grace Hanson and Elizabeth Ritter, the Warriors were a tight 4th place at Friday Night Lights. They were only 5 points off 3rd place, and 20 off runner-up. In a top five that features four seniors and one junior, Weddington has the experience to win a big-time race like adidas XC Challenge.

Joiner Evans leads Mount Tabor in adidas in their first all-out effort as a collective team. Evans was 9th and Eliza Brand was 13th at Friday Night Lights. 

East Chapel Hill, led by Anna Ivanisevic and Margaret Sept, have a chance to surprise some close teams and find themselves towards the top of the results. 

Chandler Welsh (RJ Reynolds) had the race of her life at Friday Night Lights where she took 3rd place overall. 

Kasey Dingman (Lake Norman) gets her first crack at the 5,000m course at WakeMed. She can easily find herself at the front of this elite group of runners. 

Olivia Bufalini (Laney), Madeline Stolberg (Lake Norman), Ryann Aycock (Cary Christian) and Molly Parker (Hoggard) are other North Carolina contenders ready to make a splash. 

Again we see Morgan Boonshaft listed for Providence Day School. If she does indeed run next to Carly Arrington, that changes the whole dynamic in the NCISAA. 

The top time in the field belongs to Kate Putman (Cicero-North Syracuse, NY). She has a 5,000m personal best of 17:14 from 2021. The NC State commit has run 4:48 for the 1-mile run, 2:09.89 for the 800m, and 9:55.81 for the 3,000m.

Lexie Lamb (Doddrige County, WV) opened her season with a 17:50.23 run over 5,000m at the Autumn Classic. She is the defending WVSSAC Class A cross country state champion.

Also in the field is Leah Stephens (Our Lady of Good Counsel, MD). The senior is the defending Maryland Private School State Champion. During the outdoor season she placed 4th in the 3,200m at the RunningLane Track Championships, where she ran 10:25.39.

Another out-of-state defending cross country state champion is in the field. Ava Bordner (Skyline, VA) is the defending VHSL Class 3 state champion.

Reese Bradbury (Blacksburg, VA) broke 11:00 in the 3,200m in the spring, as well. 

The adidas XC Challenge meet record was set back in 2009, when freshman Wesley Frazier ran 17:10. In the meet's history, 16 girls have broken 18:00, including three in 2021. 

Once again, the adidas XC Challenge is in for a great day of racing, with tons of match-ups we only get this one time all season. Will meet records fall? How many girls get under 18:00? Does any boy dip under 15:00? Only time will tell.