The Providence Invitational has quickly become one of the premier early-season meets in North Carolina. Held on the ever-popular and quick McAlpine Greenway course, the meet brings together a wide range of teams from both North and South Carolina. The level of competition seems to get better every year, and this year was no exception. A week after narrowly losing to cross-town rival Reagan at the Norman Trzaskoma Invitational, the Mount Tabor boys team showed why they are considered title contenders in the 4A classification. They finished second behind defending South Carolina 4A champions Lexington. The Spartans showed their improvement from last year, as several of their top 7 runners matched or beat their times from the 2010 Wendy's Invitational. They have had some minor injuries disrupt training over the summer, but seem to be heading in a healthy direction right now; if they can bring everything together this year, they clearly have high potential. Cardinal Gibbons was a close third behind Mount Tabor, solidifying the Crusaders as a 3A title contender. They might be looking over their shoulders at a vastly-improved Weddington boys team, though, as the Warriors finished fourth overall yesterday. Ardrey Kell rounded out the boys' top 5 teams, while Lake Norman Charter (11th overall) showed that they have a legitimate team in the 1A ranks. Individually, George Oliver (Mount Tabor) finished second overall behind Colby Coulter of Lexington; Bakri Abushouk (Cary) finished third, 20 seconds ahead of his time from the same race last year. Madison Souder (Ardrey Kell) and Steven Phillips (Cardinal Gibbons) both lived up to expectations with top 5 individual finishes.
In the girls' race, Ardrey Kell emphatically claimed their position among the top teams in the state with an 83-point victory. The Knights placed three in the top 6 and had five under 20 minutes, all led by Sydney Foreman, for a dominating season-opening performance. Second-place Cardinal Gibbons is currently running without Mary Grace Doggett and Samiiah Wilson, both key players on last year's team; hopefully we will see those two soon, or else the Crusaders' hopes for a repeat 3A title may be in serious jeopardy. Green Hope showed their immense depth by finishing third with their second string, as they sat their top runners in anticipation of a long season that should conclude in December (the Falcons also swept the top 7 places in the JV race). Despite the loss of some top-7 runners from last year, Marvin Ridge seems to have reloaded and could be a threat to finish top 5 in the 3A state meet. Lake Norman Charter and Bishop McGuinness were only separated by 6 points, foreshadowing a great competition for the 1A state title (of course, they are not the only contenders in that class). Individually, Davie's Anna McBride showed that her breakout spring season was no fluke, bringing home a solid win with an 18:35 PR. She was followed closely by Foreman, who was in turn chased by much-improved Mallary Price (Weddington). Kaitlin Kramer (Ardrey Kell) and Madelin Talbert (South Mecklenburg) rounded out the top 5.