The Greensboro Invitational has separate Championship and Invitational divisions for their top 7 runners, plus teams can run 7 more runners in the developmental race and then the remainder of their team in the JV race. Normally the Championship race is reserved for 4A schools and out-of-state visitors, but sometimes exceptions are made. This may the most action-filled invitational around, as the races start much closer to each other than in most meets, meaning that there is almost continual running going on. Steady rain Thursday, with much more expected Friday, means the course will be muddy (which is fun for a true cross country fan), even though the forecast for Saturday is for bright sunshine. When wet, Hagan Stone can be really sloppy, which should make the races interesting!
Teams to Watch
One of the biggest questions of the day: how will Science & Math do running in the Championship race? One of the contenders to the 1A crown (and a strong team up front), NCSSM would be the sixth best boys team, according to the database, and would have a chance to stake their claim in the 1A rankings. They will face a Chapel Hill team that last week reasserted its hold on "best in the state" status. Reagan is close enough to make this a two-team race for the title, after shaking off the rust last week (four of their top 5 runners had not previously run a 5K this season). Behind those two, it looks like there will be a spirited competition for third place, with Panther Creek, South View, and a surprising Enloe team all in the mix, as well as Science & Math. After a strong performance on Wednesday in Statesville, East Rowan has to be considered as a potential top-5 team as well.
Individuals to Watch
The top 6 runners in this race should be very familiar with each other, because they raced last weekend in Cary. Will the sloppy course be the equalizer that creates some surprises? Craig Engels (Reagan) beat everyone else from last week's race, but Jimmy Hollingsworth (Northern Guilford) was only six seconds back and has a lot more experience with the intricacies of Hagan Stone. Chapel Hill should have two runners in the top 10 with Mitch McLeod and Chris Reeder, and Jacob Sears (Panther Creek) also has his eyes on a top-5 finish here. Richard Miller of Millbrook, a candidate for "Most Improved," should be right in the first real pack of runners. Certainly Josh Crawford (South View) will be right in the hunt for the top spots, as will Steve Mulherin (NCSSM). The lone out-of-state runner expected to contend for top-10 status is Jeff Puhek (South County, VA). Don't be surprised if Reagan's Perry Cabean and Jordan Marsh work their way into the top 10, and the same is true for Jeremy Gower (West Johnston). A 16:00 on the fast McAnderson course puts Cole Honeycutt (East Rowan) in position to run for a top-10 spot.
(From the MileSplit database, 2011 times, all registered teams together)
Teams to Watch
Anytime the Green Hope girls are in the race, they are the team to beat (and a very tough one to beat, at that). With Great American looming next week, they are not expected to run most of their top 7, but their second seven runners could still be in the top 5 teams here (they were ranked 6th in the state at one point early in the season). The same question can be asked of Carrboro's girls that we asked of Science & Math: will they run in the Championship race? They could be the best team in the meet overall in the absence of Green Hope's top 7, and would absolutely destroy the competition in the Invitational race. Chapel Hill's girls hace showed solid improvement from the beginning of the season and are beginning to assert themselves as serioius title contenders in 3A (as usual). Reagan's girls had a strong showing at the adidas XC Challenge, and they have top-5 potential in Greensboro, although they may be a bit behind the top 3 teams. It looks like the battle for the last spot in the top 5 teams will be tough, with Hidden Valley (VA) and West Johnston looking very close. If/when West Johnston's fifth runner develops, they will make a huge leap forward.
Individuals to Watch
The pace will be set by Sammy George (Millbrook), fresh off a big 17:45 PR last weekend at WakeMed. The likelihood of mud on the course might prevent another big time, but at least she can get out in front of everyone else's kick-up. She may be challenged by Davie's Anna McBride, who dropped a huge 17:51 PR on the fast McAnderson Park course in Statesville earlier this week, running alone the whole race. Hidden Valley is led by Carolyn Bethel, who has a time of 18:44 already this fall, while Chapel Hill's Tristan Van Ord has also put up strong times and will be a favorite for the top 5. The next group includes Mo McDonnell (Green Hope), Austin Vass (Page), Dana Cox (Panther Creek), and Kristen Henson (Reagan). If Aundrea Holmes (Cary Christian) is in the Championship race, she has a good chance of making the top 5; if not, she will probably win the Invitational race. Check out the list of names that might end up between 5th and 15th in this strong girls' field: Grace Morken and Frankie Perone (Carrboro), Kathryn Hayes (West Forsyth), Tori Churchill (Grimsley), Lauren Pollard (West Johnston), and star-in-the-making Rebekah Greengrass (Panther Creek). This one is going to be a barn-burner, and the mud could be the "x-factor" that turns this into the most entertaining race to watch so far this year!