Running Around the Nation
Peoria Woodruff Invitational - Peoria, IL
With four of the top eight boys teams in Illinois heading down state to Peoria this weekend, the times are sure to be fast at the Peoria Woodruff Invitational. For the past few years, PWI showcases the top talent in the state time and again. This year's boys field includes IL #1 Neuqua Valley, IL #4 Wheaton North, IL #6 St. Charles North and IL #8 Waubonsie Valley. Neuqua Valley, ranked US #15 in the pre-season polls, impressed everyone in the Midwest last weekend, winning by a landslide against IL #7 Palatine. Neuqua Valley is led by Foot Locker Midwest #3 Chris Derrick (Sr.), Jim Riddle (Sr.) and Danny Pawola (Jr.). Wheaton North should pose the greatest challenge, after a big win the weekend before over many of the states top teams, despite their top man running as their number seven. The location is the Illinois State Meet course, which means times will be blazing. The question of the invitational is, can Chris Derrick get close to 14 minutes this early in the season?
On the girls side, IN #1 Westfield and IL #3 Naperville North will battle it out. Last year, these two teams were supposed to battle it out to prove who had the best team in the Midwest, but Naperville North faltered and never quite recovered from it. This year, both teams are healthy and ready to roll. Westfield beat up the competition in Indiana the past few weeks, while Naperville North traveled out to Iowa last weekend, and took down one of the best teams in the NTN Heartland Region in Iowa City. Maggie Bingham (Sr.) will lead the charge for Westfield, and is the favorite to take the overall individual title as well.
Eye Opener Invitational - Spartanburg, SC
It doesn't happen very often this early in the season, but the nation will have a chance to see two of the best boys go head to head at the Eye Opener Invitational on Saturday. South Carolina's own FL South #11 Luke Lovelace (Sr., Chapin) will go square off against FL South #2 Ryan Hill (Sr., Hickory), in a classic battle of the titans. The last time these two met in cross country, they were in San Diego, running Foot Locker Nationals, where Hill placed twenty-sixth and Lovelace was thirty-sixth. It seems like Hill had Lovelace's number last fall in cross at regionals and nationals, but a year can make a mighty difference.
On the team side, Mooresville (N.C.) is the boys favorite. They are currently ranked as the top 3A team in North Carolina and should be able to fend of any challengers. J.L. Mann (S.C.) is the top challenger from South Carolina. On the girls side, Southeast ranked Mauldin (S.C.) is the easy favorite to take home the team title. However, J.L. Mann will make a run as well. The highlight of the day will be Hill v. Lovelace, but the team races will be mighty interesting as well, especially for the two-three spots in each race.
UNM Lobo Invitational - Albuquerque, NM
It is not every day you got a top notch meet in the Southwest. Often times, teams from the Southwest travel to Colorado or California to run their biggest meets. However, this year's Lobo Invitational, on the campus of the University of New Mexico, is shaping up to be perhaps the best meet of the weekend nationally.
On the boys side, US #3 Albuquerque Academy and US #8 Los Alamos resume their intense rivalry. These two teams battle year in and year out for bragging rights in New Mexico. Academy is the favorite, with Foot Locker West #1 Ben Johnson leading the way, but Los Alamos should challenge stride for stride, with frontrunners Allen Pittman (Sr.) and Gareth Gilna (Jr.). The rivalry can't be beat and makes the action this weekend that much more exciting.
On the girls side, US #4 Eldardo kicks off their big meet competition. The 9th place returnees from NTN last year should be looking to make a big statement to the rest of the nation. However, they will be challenged by Los Alamos and Albuquerque Academy, who will be looking to pull off the upset and prove they are a contender for a NTN spot come November. Eldarado's top two runners, Rachel Velarde (Sr.) and Julie Brasher (Jr.) will contend for the individual title.