Around the nation this weekend top teams and individuals take to the cross country courses at some very big meets. West of the Mississippi, the Liberty Bell Invitational (CO) showcases seven ranked teams, including boys US #3 Albuquerque Academy. On the other side of the country, the Hartford Cross Country Festival (CT) highlights the top boys team in the country, Danbury, CT, plus a handful of potential Foot Locker qualifiers. This is one big weekend for high school cross country!
Running Around the Nation - Weekend Preview
Liberty Bell Invitational (CO)
Last weekend at the UNM Lobo Invitational, the top two boys teams in New Mexico, Albuquerque Academy and Los Alamos, squared off, with the Academy taking home a big victory. This week in Colorado, Los Alamos hopes to exact a little revenge, as the two teams highlight the Liberty Bell Invitational.
This four division meet, will display the most consistent talent found anywhere in the nation on Friday afternoon. On the boys side, US #3 Albuquerque Academy (NM) is the main highlighter in the Division I race, while regionally ranked Los Alamos (NM), Cheyenne Central (WY) and Cherry Creek (CO) are also in contention to push Academy. In the Division II boys race, Wheatridge (CO) is the odds on favorite to take home the team title.
Individually, a few key matchups between Foot Locker contenders also is something to watch. In the Division I race, FL favorite Ben Johnson (Sr., Albuquerque Academy) is the favorite to win, while Charles White (Sr., Cherry Creek), Allen Pittman (Sr., Los Alamos) and Laine Parish (Sr., Cheyenne Central) lead their squads. The Division III race will host a couple of potential Colorado state champions in Bobby Nicolls (Jr., Regis) and Kevin Williams (Sr., D'Evelyn).
While the boys side gets a lot of national attention, the girls side is equally as strong. Los Alamos (NM), Cherry Creek (CO), Albuquerque Academy (NM), Rock Springs (WY), St. Michaels (NM) and Cheyenne Central (WY) are six teams that figure into the mix. Each team mixes experience and youth in their top seven. In the Division II race, regionally ranked Fort Collins (CO) should win, but a lot of talent resides in this level.
No invitational in the country can beat the Liberty Bell Invitational this weekend. With so many top teams, from a handful of state, plus key individual matchups, the invite will mix up the national rankings a bit.
Hartford Cross Country Festival (CT)
While the Liberty Bell Invitational highlights some of the top teams in the West, the Hartford Cross Country Festival (CT) hosts many of the top boys teams on the East Coast. Not only will fans see a match up between US #1 Danbury (CT) and US #11 Glastonbury (CT), a top individual clash between MileSplit Foot Locker ranked Donn Cabral (Sr., Glastonbury), Matt Terry (Sr., Danbury) and Max Kaulbauch (Sr., Germantown Friends) is happening as well. It is rare for three Foot Locker favorites to square off this early in the season.
While the Hartford CC Festival consistently hosts top teams in the region, this year's field seems especially powerful. With Danbury and Glastonbury drawing the most attention, Kaulbauch's Germantown Friends team also is highly ranked, although not nationally ranked. This team needs to prove they can run with the Connecticut teams if a trip to Nike Team Nationals is in the cards.
Peoria Notre Dame Invitational (IL)
While many of the top Illinois boys teams competed in Peoria last weekend, this weekend a handful of contenders meet up at the Peoria Notre Dame Invitational for early season bragging rights. U.S. ranked Naperville North is expected to win the team title, with a very strong top two and some deep, talented runners after them. However, they are missing two of their top athletes due to injury. Pleasant Valley, a U.S. ranked team from Iowa, comes to Peoria once again this year, and in '07 they are looking for the top spot. A win in Peoria trumps all in the Heartland. Palatine (IL) and Hersey (IL) both could win as well assuming their 4-5 runners step it up. Schaumburg (IL) is a darkhorse favorite.
Individually, PND shows great talent. Foot Locker favorite Kevin Havel (Sr., Hersey) is the man to beat. Havel's racing hasn't been tested from front running studs. He will get his test in Mat Smoody (Sr., Palatine), Kyle Gibson (Jr., Naperville North) and Devin Allbaugh (Sr., Pleasant Valley). On a good day, any of these three run with Havel stride for stride much of the way. PND determines a lot in Illinois cross country every year, with this year being no exception.
On the girls side, U.S. ranked Hinsdale Central's advantage over other teams might be too much to overcome. They have the most potent top three in the state, and while their backend will need to step up, they are incredibly deep. With that being said, Illinois ranked squads Stagg, Palatine and Lyons Twp. plan to give Hinsdale Central a run for their money. Caitlin Comfort (Sr., Peoria Notre Dame), Annette Glaz (Sr., Stagg) and Lizzy Hines (Sr., St. Charles East) each have a shot to take home individual glory!
Adidas Raleigh Wolfpack Invitational
Written by Ben Hovis
The Adidas Wolfpack invitational looks to be very competitive on both the boys and girls sides.
Western Albemarle, of Virginia, is making the trip down and they will meet up with the top 3 ranked 4A boy's teams in the state. it doesn't get much better than that. The individual race should also be a good one as you have two athletes coming off course record setting performances from last week. Both breaking records that were set by Foot Locker Finalists!
Chapel Hill's girls will look to prove they belong at the top of the 4A classification. They may have their hands full with the #4 ranked team, East Chapel Hill, the top ranked NCISAA school in Cary Academy, and a couple other 4A schools looking to improve their rankings, Apex & Terry Sanford.
MSU Spartan Invitational (MI)
A rare Friday meet in East Lansing, Michigan, the MSU Spartan Invitational promises a great show. The highlight of the meet is the matchup with the top two ranked Midwest boys teams, Pinckney and Freemont. Both teams are running well right now, and seemingly don't have any injured varsity athletes. Proving more than meets the eye, the showdown between the two squads gives one team a strong advantage early in the season. Other top ranked Michigan boys teams taking part are, Williamston, Saline and Milford.
Individually, Foot Locker favorite Maverick Darling (Sr., Ovid) runs in the white race, meaning he won't see either of the top two teams individuals. Darling competes harder than anyone else out there, and could run a spectacular mark.
Girls teams are nearly as strong. Regional ranked Rochester Adams and Livonia Churchill square off again this season. Each team wants to win for state bragging rights. Meanwhile, state experts predict Tiffany Abrahamian (Sr., Rochester) to win the overall title.
Cherokee Challenge (NJ)
The short course (3200m) at the Cherokee Challenge is a little deceiving if you are merely looking at the results, but regardless, a few key matchups will highlight New Jersey's top talent. On the boys side, MileSplit Foot Locker ranked Brian Leung (Sr., WWP-South) is the odds on favorite to bring home the individual crown, while New Jersey ranked Haddonfield, Shawnee and Moorestown are three schools that should battle for the team title.
The girls side is the real show of the day however. Jillian Smith (So., Southern) and Chelsea Ley (So., Kingsway) will rage a fierce battle with each other over state bragging rights. Smith, who ran 4:46 in the 1600m and a 2:08 800m this spring, looks to fill the shoes of ex-teammate Danielle Tauro. However, Ley is a Foot Locker contender, and has a bit more experience when it comes to cross country. Team wise, Haddonfield and Hopewell are the top two teams.
Other Weekend Match-Ups
Saltillo Invitational (MS) - The regionally ranked Tupello boys and girls showcase a strong field of Mississippi talent, while Kaitlyn Will (MS) is the star of the individual races.
Cedar Park Invitational (TX) - South ranked Cedar Park boys and Mayde Creek boys go head to head, in a clash of two of the top teams in Texas.