After the cancellation of Great American XC Festival and Wendy's Invitational, the Union County Championships have a chance to produce some historical performances.
Running the McAlpine college course layout, some of the state's best will toe the line looking to leave their mark on the county, region, and state. Normally, the timing of the race in-between invitationals does not give the most ideal opportunities for teams to run their "A-squad" in all-out efforts, but after the lack of racing this past weekend, the wheels are ready to roll for these athletes.
The 2021 Great American champion Weddington girls did not get a chance to defend their crown in 2022, but they will look to take down the Cuthbertson Cavaliers Thursday afternoon.
Grace Hanson and Elizabeth Ritter look to break up the Cuthbertson pack and give their Warrior squad a chance at victory. Both girls have been under 18:40 this season, with Hanson dropping as low at 18:21. They both have a lot left in the tank, as their overall personal bests both come from the 2021 season, where they ran 17:46 and 17:47, respectively.
Cuthbertson returns to North Carolina soil for the first all out effort since placing third at the Woodbridge Classic in California. Stella Kermes is the lone girl in the field who has broken 18:00 this season, but I believe that is going to dramatically change after Thursday's action. Kermes has been the ace of North Carolina this season, but she doesn't have to go far to reach some of her biggest competition. The rest of the Cavaliers are hungry to dip under 18:00, and working with Kermes, Hanson, and Ritter, we could approach double digit girls under 18:00. Charlotte Bell, Alyssa Preisano, and Justine Preisano all ran the 3-mile race in California under 17:00, so I know and they know that big 5000m is coming, it is just a matter of when. Another big plus for the Cavaliers is the return of senior Lily Nasta. She holds a personal best from 2021 of 18:02.
Metrolina Christian Academy's Annie Miller toes the line as well, and she could be the X-Factor in this race, and she has also been rocking this season. Miller's best of 18:00.9 is the 3rd best time on the season in the field.
On the boys' side it is a huge matchup between Weddington, Marvin Ridge, and Cuthbertson. Up front the match-up to watch is Marvin Ridge's RJ Gajan, who has been on a tear, and Weddington's Caden Townshend, who is starting to find his groove. Gajan won the Hare & Hounds Invitational and holds a best of 15:39. Townshend was 8th at adidias XC Challenge and has a season best of 15:15.