The Friday Night Lights Championship race gave us an amazing first look at the top boys teams in North Carolina as the top 16 returning teams in our rankings from 2022 were all set to compete late Friday night under the lights on the state championship course. Most were yet to debut their full teams so we would see what teams would win the first major invitational of the season. No team really stood out as a true favorite coming into the season.
Hoggard was a team that had a strong debut locally and got off to a fast start Friday night over the first mile. They're very deep beyond even their top 7 and had their top 7 boys in the top 40 positions through 1 Mile with a team score of 105 points. Marvin Ridge is a younger team with only one senior in their top 7 and sat in second with their top 5 between 26th and 51st with 198 team points, but would have to move up in order to make up the 93 point gap between them and Hoggard over the next two miles.
Over the next Mile things would tighten up between Hoggard, Marvin Ridge and the field. Hoggard would still hold their lead with 155 points and had 7 boys ahead of every other school's 5th runner with a 10:30 1-5 average and 24 second spread. Marvin Ridge had moved up slightly just 7 points back with 162. Their top 2 boys, David Rivlin and William Heyde had joined Hoggard's lead runner Pierson Guerrant up front sitting 15th, 16th and 17th individually.
Weddington had moved up 31 points to 205 and Cuthbertson jumped up massively after sitting in 10th through 1 Mile to be 4th with 230 points just ahead of Broughton, Leesville Road and T.C. Roberson who moved from 13th to 7th over the middle mile.
With just a 7 point difference between first and second it would come down to whoever had a big last mile for the team title. David Firestone was Marvin's third man through the 2 Mile with 28 team points. He'd climb up to 14th team finisher and finish 17th overall in 16:09 to end as the Maverick's 2nd runner with David Rivlin just ahead finishing 13th in 15:57. Heyde would be just behind as the 22nd team scorer in 16:22 with Michael Rivlin moving up 7 spots. Ishan More was the teams 7th man through 2 miles and would move up to finish as the teams 5th man alongside 6th man Kyle Barney to score 64 points.
Just ahead of More, however, was Hoggard's 7th man. Marvin Ridge would place 2 ahead of Hoggard's 1st runnier Guerrannt with their third just behind, but Hoggard would get their 5th, runner in 13 places ahead of Marvin Ridge's. With just a 39 second 1-5 spread for Hoggard, it would not be enough to hold off Marvin Ridge who would take the team title with 151 points to 172 points for Hoggard. Hoggard has the best depth through 7, but Marvin Ridge would have 7 boys through the finish line ahead of all but three other schools' 5th runner.
Cuthbertson boys would continue their charge up to take 3rd with 213 points. Thomas Wlazlowski came up really big for the Cavaliers placing 5th overall in a massive PR running 15:47. Wlazlowski was the only runner in the top 10 from the top 7 team finishers.
Weddington would finish 4th with 243 team points just ahead of TC Roberson with 252 points, Leesville Road with 256 and Broughton with 262. Ardrey Kell would finish 8th in 281 and had the best top 3 in the field finishing 2nd, 10th and 23rd. If the Knights can develop a 4th and 5th man over the course of the season they could be in the mix late in the year when it matters. Broughton in 7th had a 34 second spread from 1-5 and ran without top runner from last year in 4:11 1600m runner Will Venable. If they get him back this season it could push them closer to the top of the team standings.
Croatan had a strong day as well finishing 9th and as the top non NCHSAA 4A program. They look to be the favorites to defend their NCHSAA 3A team title early in the season.
|1||Marvin Ridge||151||12+14+22+39+64 (65+76)||1:14 1-5 Split | 16:29 Avg|
|2||Hoggard||172||20+25+28+48+51 (55+63)||0:39 1-5 Split | 16:38 Avg|
|3||Cuthbertson High School||213||4+24+56+60+69 (104+124)||1:28 1-5 Split | 16:44 Avg|
|4||Weddington High School||243||17+42+45+58+81 (125+127)||1:08 1-5 Split | 16:53 Avg|
|5||T.C. Roberson||252||11+27+35+74+105 (134+172)||1:45 1-5 Split | 16:49 Avg|
|6||Leesville Road||256||21+23+30+44+138 (150+169)||1:43 1-5 Split | 16:50 Avg|
|7||Broughton||262||38+40+41+70+73 (82+85)||0:34 1-5 Split | 16:58 Avg|
|8||Ardrey Kell||281||2+9+18+92+160 (171+176)||2:49 1-5 Split | 16:42 Avg|
|9||Croatan||319||15+46+49+103+106 (157+196)||1:30 1-5 Split | 17:04 Avg|
|10||Athens Drive||324||1+59+67+88+109 (110+137)||2:27 1-5 Split | 16:57 Avg|
Marvin Ridge takes the first punch in who will be the top boys program in the state with a big win. Luckily, we won't have to wait too long to see a lot of these top schools square off again. Marvin Ridge, Hoggard, Cuthbertson, Weddington, TC Roberson, Broughton and Leesville Road will square off again in Raleigh at the adidas XC Challenge on a faster WakeMed course. Christ School had a strong debut in South Carolina a week ago at Eye Opener and should be in the mix with the top programs from FNL. The meet will also have schools from Florida all the way up to Ohio so we'll see some strong out-of-state programs mix it up with North Carolina's best.