8 Sub 18 Minute Girls Headline Friday Night Lights

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Friday Night Lights has grown to be a major early season event and where a lot of the top programs in the state debut their top seven.  The girl's field returns as strong of a field as you can get with 8 girls in the field that have sub-18 credentials.

Up front, it looks to be a battle between Cuthbertson's trio of Stella Kermes, Charlotte Bell and Justine Preisano, Weddington's Grace Hanson, RJ Reynolds' Chandler Welsh and Providence Day's Morgan Boonshaft.

Last year's race finished with Kermes pulling away from Bell with Welsh in third to win in 17:56.  Kermes would go on to run 17:22 and hold the top time in North Carolina by a second over Mary Bonner Dalton (Myers Park).  She edged Dalton for the NCHSAA 4A XC title as well.  We'll see Dalton debut next weekend at the Queen's Invitational.

Charlotte Bell improved from a 4:51 1600m runner to running 4:39 at the end of the outdoor track season.  Kermes took a similar step forward improving from 4:50 to 4:41.  Both have always been really strong in cross country, but I wouldn't be surprised if both took a step forward in cross country based off last spring's fitness.  

Chandler Welsh improved from 11:26 to 11:16 defending her Forsyth County Championship title last week showing she's coming into FNL in great form.  Welsh holds a PR of 17:44 from a year ago and was 3rd at the NCHSAA 4A Championships.  Grace Hanson will be in the mix as well after running 4:51 and 10:30 last spring.  She was just two spots off of qualifying for Footlocker Nationals and has proven to be in the elite tier of girls in North Carolina over the last year.  She placed 3rd in both the 1600m and 3200m at the NCHSAA 4A State Championships.  

Ahead of this season Morgan Boonshaft's last cross country race was the CISAA Championships in October of 2020 and last race was May of 2021.  She's back in peak form after over a year layoff as she debuted two weekends ago in a win at the Carolina's Kickoff in 17:51 for a new PR.  This will certainly be a bigger test, but she took down some good competition in her first race back and should be in the mix tomorrow.

Kasey Dingman (Lake Norman) is coming off a 17 second win at Providence two weeks ago and would be someone I'd expect to fight with the top group.  Bronwyn Parks (Mt. Tabor) placed 5th at FNL a year ago and had a strong start to the season finishing second to Welsh at the Forsyth County Championships just a week ago.  Ashlei Summers (Hoggard) ran a PR last week in her 5K debut as well of 18:03 and will look to face some strong competition to back up what her summer fitness has shown us.

The team battle will be headlined by Cuthbertson, who has slightly a new look to their top 5 after graduating many-time all-state runner Alyssa Preisano.  They'll have a strong top 3 as mentioned that could very well finish 1-2-3 on the right day.  Lily Fierick, Josie Schihl and Ava Walters will be looked at for the Cavalier's 4th and 5th runners and could make them as strong as they were a year ago if two of them take a step forward over the course of the season.  

Mount Tabor returns a strong top 4 and despite losing senior Hannah Riley, they bring in her freshman sister Rachel Riley who ran 2:18 and 5:07 last spring as an 8th grader.  She should fit into the mix with their top 5, but this will be her first 5K.  Marvin Ridge shows 2nd in our Virtual Meet and debuted with a third-place finish at Providence two weekends ago without their top 2 returners in Ella Pasko or Hadley Wilson.  North Lincoln won Providence by nearly 40 points over Weddington, without Grace Hanson, but were impressive with their entire top 7 in the top 31.  

West Henderson took 2nd at WNC behind St. Pius X (GA) to kick off the season and will be a team to keep on your radar tomorrow night.  Hoggard also had a very strong debut at the home meet last week clocking a 1-5 team average of 19:08.  Their 2022 team average at the end of the season was 19:12.  Hoggard girls won the NCHSAA 4A team title in 2020, ran in January 2021, and would not be surprising to see them back on the rise with a strong group of seniors in Summers, Catalina Veldwijk and Annie Mulligan with a strong freshman in Amelia Medlin.