It was one of the hottest events I have ever attended in my four years of covering events for NCRunners and the times really showed that. When you compared the boys results to last years (remember the course was made about 25 meters longer after last years meet) we saw 69 boys under 17 in just the championship race. This year we only saw 18 and boys that are normally looking to break 16 struggled to break 17 in the heat. At the start of the girls championship race is was really humid and 92 degrees out. Times aside this years Providence Invitational was still a fantastic meet!
The race didn't seem to go out extremely fast because by the time they got to the hill, which is around the midway point of the course, their was still a pack of about 20 guys up front.
When it got to the hill Ben Gilman (Hilton Head) knew it was time to make his move and begin to pull away from the field. He emerged with a slight lead and began to push it around the last. Gilman went into the woods with Dolan Owens (James Island, SC), Ben Cignarale (Riverside, SC) in chase. A trio of Green Hope boys came out of the woods in the top 5, but slowed up around the lake to follow coaches orders and run with their teammates. Gilman emerged onto the lake for the final loop with a slight lead, but Owens wasn't ready to give up just yet. Over the final stretch he and Owens were back and forth with Owens pulling away by just a hair to take the win in 16:10 to Gilman's 16:11. Evan Harris (Lake Norman) really put in a big last mile and was able to narrowly slide by Sam Gilman (Hilton Head) for 3rd running 16:17. Harris could be in for a big season as he improved 16 seconds off of his PR, when the course ran slow for everyone else, and was the top NC boy in this field.
Matthew Staehle (Jordan) and Dakota Mendenhall (Forbush) were the only other two NC boys in the top 10 as they took 7th and 8th running 16:33 and 16:35 respectively.
Green Hope won as they ran a controlled race having a 19 second split from 1-5. Green Hope will be really strong once they put a full effort in and will look to do so at Knights Crossing this season. Jordan took second looking impressive with a strong top 2 in Matt Staehle and Casey Thompson leading the way, Providence was a surprise especially with Hayden Blalock not running and Andrew Kiss transferring who were their top 2 last season. They were lead by Elliott Shultz and Russell Engle who were 16th and 17th overall. They had a large gap back to their 5th man, but once they add Blalock back they will have a really solid top 5.
Four girls emerged as the sole contenders for the top spot early in the race, Liz Galarza (West Forsyth GA), Izzy Evely (LNC). Isabel Zimmermann (Reagan), and Mariah Howlett (LNC). A second group contained Holly Bailey (Lake Norman) and Janay Hall (South View) that were just a little ways back. Galarza started to push the pace down the hill creating separation amongst the group, and they all got some separation as they moved around the lake towards the 2 Mile mark.
As they reentered the woods it looked like Galarza was going to run away with it, but Zimmermann wasn't ready to let that happen. She reeled her in and they emerged to the lake side by side. But it was Galarza who was able to outlast Zimmermann over the final stretch as she ran 18:39 to Zimmermann's 18:47. Both girls were looking for low 18s or even sub 18 yesterday and I think they will both get close in ideal conditions. Howlett was able to hold off Bailey and Hall, who both made up a lot of ground over the last mile. Howlett clocked 19:21 with Bailey just behind at 19:24. Bailey has battled injury for the last two seasons after a stellar freshman year. We're glad to see here back on track and healthy again! Evely faded to 7th running 19:41. Providence's Lindsey Lanier had a strong day taking 9th place in 19:44. Green Hope's top girls Alessandra Rodriguez was back in 38th place, but lost a shoe during the race and ran the rest of the race with caution not wanting to get injured from it.
Hilton Head girls took down Green Hope with a score of 71 to 108. If Rodriguez would have kept her shoes on I think it would have been a much closer race. But Hilton Head had a strong top 3 that finished in the top 11. Weddington took third, but they really didn't push themselves until the last mile and their top 5 ran together for pretty much the whole race. They have a top 5 that contains 3 sophomores and 2 freshman but looked like a group of veterans on the course. With the loss of Danielle Rinn moving they weren't sure how good they'd be, but it seems that they have filled her shoes pretty easily and will be a team to lookout for the next few weeks.
Boys Open Race
Brandon Hernandez (AL Brown) was not messing around in the early stages of the race and really was pushing the pace. Landon Maxwell (East Gaston) trailed him slightly and never lost sight of him. As they ran around the lake and began to head into the woods Maxwell had closed to gap slightly. They came back to the lake side by side and Maxwell was able to hold off Hernandez for the win in 16:59 to Hernandez's 17:00.
The team battle was a big matchup of NCHSAA 3A Midwest favorites Marvin Ridge and North Lincoln. The separation was just 2 points as North Lincoln was able to take down Marvin Ridge 61-63. North Lincoln looked strong from 1-7 and had their 7th man in 30 spots ahead of Marvin Ridge's #7. This is big for North Lincoln because coming into the season it seemed like they were lacking a 4th and 5th runner. Also North Lincoln had a big day from their #4 returner Jackson Cathey
who was their top guy yesterday. Marvin Ridge was without their top guy Jacob Lipsey, and the Mavericks will be hungry to take down their regional foes next chance they get.
Girls Open Race
Michaela Gammon (Lincoln Charter) established an early lead and was able to keep it throughout the race. She was trailed by Adalie Harrison (East Rowan) and Jaeden Phelix (Piedmont) in the early stages of the race. Harrison stayed within stricking distance of Gammon throughout the race, but wasn't able to reel her in as she took the win in 20:09 to Harrison's 20:15. Lindsay Harrison (Marvin Ridge) had a strong last mile and was able to move up to third running 20:37 with Phelix just behind in 20:40.
Marvin Ridge girls dominated the team battle scoring 40 points placing their entire top 5 in the top 16 of this race.
All Race Video and Interview
Featured Photos from Doug Hague