We're off and running.
This weekend's action was an important juncture in the season for many teams across the country. It thrust upon us some of the nation's top programs -- full varsity teams competing -- for the first time this fall.
While we couldn't possibly write about every great performance, we picked out seven big things that took place this weekend. Check in for more cross country talk this week on MileSplit.
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8. Naperville North's Girls Narrowly Edge Edina
A star-studded battle took place this weekend in Bettendorf, Iowa. And while there were no quote-unquote shocks, it did present an incredible back-and-forth between No. 7 Naperville North and No. 13 Edina.
One point-separated teach team, with the Huskies scoring 40 points to the Hornets' 41.
It showed some good signs from both teams. Naperville North, which was without one of its top runners, Campbell Peterson, averaged 19:16 across its scoring five and saw juniors Maggie Gamboa (18:48) and Audrey Mendrys (18:57) both break 19 minutes.
Meanwhile, Edina featured the same kind of consistency. Senior Morgan Richter (18:57) and sophomore Maggie Wagner (18:58) also both broke 19 and brought the Hornets to a nearly identical average of 19:17.
The key difference in these teams, at least at the current juncture, is back-end depth. Naperville had six athletes under 20 minutes -- and they were each as fast as Edina's top four -- while the Hornet's last three runners were 19:59 and beyond.
Beyond that, the quality performances showed mettle from both squads. Each team can bring home some confidence as a result.
|1||Naperville North High School||40||1+2+11+12+14 (20+22)||0:50 1-5 Split | 19:15 Avg|
|2||Edina High School||41||3+5+9+10+16 (18+24)||0:52 1-5 Split | 19:17 Avg|
|3||Johnston High School||70||7+8+15+19+21 (30+47)||0:40 1-5 Split | 19:38 Avg|
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7. Katelynne Hart Rocked A Course Record With A Wrong Turn
Let's start with the obvious.
Hart, the preseason MileSplit50 No. 3 ranked cross country athlete and the No. 5 recruit in the Class of 2020, absolutely rocked out her season debut, hitting 16:28.7 on the clock for 3-miles at the Hornet/Red Devil Invitational, a 14-second improvement from her best effort in 2017 as a sophomore.
And get this: She made a wrong turn with about 500 meters to go.
Tellingly, in a post-race interview she was all smiles.
You can't fault the Glenbard West (IL) High School senior for getting a little ahead of herself anyway. It's the beginning of a big season -- college recruitment, state titles on the line, national championships to qualify for.
So what happened?
The last 500 was a little crazy. I fell in the river and I think I was a little shaken up from that. But I kept on going. As I was coming around, there were a lot of boys warming up for the next race, I didn't exactly see the turn. It's all right, I figured it out."
That she did.
Hart picked up a 153 speed rating for the effort and was exactly a minute ahead of runner-up Ava Parekh of Chicago Latin.
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Hornet/Red Devil Invitational Results
|1||Katelynne Hart 12 Glenbard West||16:28.7|
|2||Ava Parekh 10 Chicago (Latin)||17:28.2|
|3||Samantha Poglitsch 11 Wheaton Warrenville||18:10.4|
|4||Emma Watcke - Hinsdale (Central)||18:15.1|
|5||Mckenna Revord 12 Hinsdale (Central)||18:17.9|
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6. Cole Sprout Was Incredible
Cole Sprout, what a day my dude.
"Coming in I was shooting for sub-15 for sure, trying to break that record," he said. "Sub-14:40 wasn't in my mind at all. I had really no idea what to expect. I'm obviously really happy about the race. It went even better than I would have hoped."
His performance, a speed rating of 193, was just six seconds off his PR from Nike Desert Twilight in 2018 -- keep in mind, Desert Twilight is flat and fast and almost track-like.
Liberty Bell, meanwhile, was not track. Some important variables in this race to consider.
- It was at 5,466 feet of elevation.
- It was a course record by 18 seconds -- surpassing Joseph Manilafasha's mark of 14:56.30 from 2008.
- He pulled along Cherry Creek's Parker Wolfe to a ridiculous time of 14:47.30, which was a legit 39 seconds faster than he's ever run for 5K and it was his first performance under 15 minutes
That was an incredible debut race at 5K for Sprout.
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Liberty Bell Boys Results
|1||Cole Sprout||12||Valor Christian High School||14:38.40||1|
|2||Parker Wolfe||11||Cherry Creek High School||14:47.30||2|
|3||Kevin Conlon||12||Fort Collins High School||15:09.50||3|
|4||Will Daley||12||Denver East High School||15:19.90||0|
|5||Ben Williams||11||Jackson Hole High School||15:23.60||4|
|6||Yasin Sado||12||Gateway High School||15:26.60||0|
|7||Luke Sundberg||12||Valor Christian High School||15:29.20||5|
|8||Cory Kennedy||12||Heritage High School||15:29.20||6|
|9||Edward Rush||12||Castle View High School||15:32.70||7|
|10||Derek Fearon||12||Rock Canyon High School||15:33.20||8|
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5. The Loudoun Valley Boys Were Impressive
For the past two seasons, the PTXC Invitational in Kutztown, Pennsylvania, has been a key race for the nation's top boys team, Loudoun Valley.
It's often served as a season debut and a welcome to the season. And it's given the country a glimpse into what kind of talent the Vikings have offered the state of Virginia and beyond.
Saturday's race was set to be different.
Key members of the two-time NXN winning -- and record-setting -- program graduated, which brought new questions and potential concerns about a team that relied on stars over the past two years.
But quite honestly, Loudoun Valley silenced the doubters -- if there were any -- on Saturday. The Vikings straight up crushed it, scoring 27 points.
The top five scoring athletes for the Vikings -- a group of five seniors, led by Taylor Ney and Carlos Shultz with identical 15:55 times -- were all over speed ratings of 170 and averaged 175.6 for the unit.
"It's a good starting point," senior Kevin Carlson said. "We have good base points of where we're going to be going into this season. Mainly, just getting a race underneath of us. Kind of getting the mentality of racing 5Ks again. That was the biggest goal of our race today."
Last year's speed rating average for PTXC was 177.6. The previous year was 178.2.
So what does that tell you?
This season's group might not be far off from its previous teams -- and that training program Marc and Joan Hunter are currently enlisting at Loudoun Valley? It's developing year-round elite athletes.
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Marlee Starliper Made A Splash Debut
Was this a statement race out of Marlee?
Or maybe the Northern York High School senior is just in ridiculous shape to start 2019. However you look at her US No. 1 leading 5K time of 16:30.00 at the Lebanon Valley College Dutchmen Invitational on Saturday, it was impressive.
It was a personal record time by 20 seconds and her first effort under 17 minutes since 2017, when she went 16:50.00 at the Carlisle Invitational. She's one of two girls -- Sydney Thorvaldson also went under 17 minutes this weekend -- to go under 17 so far this season.
And it was a full two minutes ahead of the next closet competitor in the race. Tully Runners speed rated the effort at 155, which is very good considering Starliper had just one rating above that in 2018. It's also the highest rating of the season thus far -- two points ahead of Carly McNatt's opener in Florida two weeks ago and just ahead of Katelynne Hart's 153 from the weekend.
Not surprisingly, Starliper was happy with the effort, too.
"Going into today, these past few weeks, I had some easy workouts to get my legs moving but nothing major, other than a hill workout," she said. "I was having so much fun with it. It was almost weird. It was even more joy than I normally have. I've been having fun senior year. I've been praying this whole week that I would have that this week.
The MileSplit50 preseason No. 4 athlete is gearing up quick.
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|2||Gwyneth Young||11||Cedar Crest||18:30.00||2|
|7||Delaney Line||11||Central Dauphin East (CD East)||19:30.70||0|
|9||Grace Tadajweski||9||Cedar Crest||19:40.80||8|
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3. The F-M Girls Look Dominant Out The Gate
First races won't tell you everything about a team. Fitness progresses, teams mesh, packs close.
But debuts will give you a sense of what to expect from a potential contender. And in the case of the Fayetteville-Manlius High School girls, early signs are above grade. It makes you wonder, is F-M ready to make a push for another national title in 2019?
The typically dominant team, which finished fourth at NXN last year, ran very well to begin its season, winning the V-V-S Invitational on Saturday with 17 points -- beating Shenendehowa, which often features solid talent.
Interestingly enough, the Hornets already seem to be ahead of the curve, offering three girls over speed ratings of 130 and a fourth over 120. Claire Walters was first in 18:30.1, while freshman Hannah Kaercher (pictured) was second (19:00.7), Phoebe White was third (19:03.0) and Grace Kaercher was fourth (19:22.8).
Even more, fifth-runner Ani Sydorowych is just an eighth-grader (20:04.2). That opener is superb if you consider the development track record head coach Bill Aris has cultured over the years.
If nothing else, F-M has still got it.
|1||Fayetteville-Manlius (FM)||17||1+2+3+4+7 (14+15)||1:34 1-5 Split | 19:12 Avg|
|2||Shenendehowa||43||5+8+9+10+11 (12+13)||0:58 1-5 Split | 20:15 Avg|
|3||Skaneateles||129||20+24+27+28+30 (31+33)||1:21 1-5 Split | 23:08 Avg|
|4||Vernon-Verona-Sherrill (VVS)||137||6+16+32+35+48 (63+73)||6:00 1-5 Split | 23:06 Avg|
|5||Oriskany||180||18+19+23+39+81||8:31 1-5 Split | 24:22 Avg|
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2. Watch Out For The Cherry Creek Girls
Cole Sprout got the glitzy headlines out of Liberty Bell -- and rightfully so.
But an equally impressive team performance took place in the girls race. The Cherry Creek High School girls, led by three sophomores in its top five, averaged 18:20 for 5K and had its top four had speed ratings over 110 -- while its fifth- and sixth-runner were over 100.
That's good news.
If you consider Cherry Creek's top seven on Saturday was comprised of five underclassmen -- including a ninth-grader who finished in 18:51.9 -- and that it had eight underclassmen run times that -- give or take -- could place them in the hunt for a varsity spot this season, then you could make the case that this team could be dangerous in November.
Sophomore Riley Stewart ran 17:12.6, placing second to Sydney Thorvaldson (16:40.6) in the Sweepstakes race, and picked up a 141 speed rating. Every team with the hopes of gaining a spot at NXN needs to have a top-draw runner, and Stewart's performance showed she can be the team's Ace.
If the rest of the squad can improve and move up the ranks, the NXR Southwest is going to be one heck of a race with them in it in November.
|PLACE TEAM POINTS SCORERS TIMES|
|1 Cherry Creek High School 78 1+9+19+23+26 (37+53) 1:39 1-5 Split | 18:20 Avg|
|2 Cherokee Trail High School 97 2+3+15+27+50 (65+97) 1:57 1-5 Split | 18:21 Avg|
|3 Arapahoe High School 121 7+8+31+35+40 (73+107) 1:06 1-5 Split | 18:43 Avg|
|4 Niwot High School 158 17+22+24+39+56 (121) 0:58 1-5 Split | 18:59 Avg|
|5 Valor Christian High School 181 4+5+30+66+76 (104+130) 2:21 1-5 Split | 18:53 Avg|
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North Rockland's Girls Look Very Good Early On
Katelyn Tuohy and Co. had a very good season debut at the Red Raider Run at Bear Mountain State Park.
While the seniors of North Rockland High School ran in the varsity race, going 1-2-3, a crop of sophomores and juniors competed in the junior varsity run and put together a very good pack.
Together, this team looks to be on its way to creating the kind of chemistry that could bode well in the future for the Raiders' eventual hopes down the line.
That was pretty obvious based on the performances.
While Tuohy opted for pace with two of her teammates -- and finished first -- it looks to be a solid trio up front: Seniors Haleigh Morales and Catherine Ruffino were within a second of each other at the finish line: 19:21.7 and 19:22.0.
The JV race, meanwhile, featured sophomores Gianna Dellamedaglia (20:15.7), Leyla Ventura (20:18.9), Cara Fagelman (21:21.9) and junior Britney Pezzementi (20:33.5).
The Raiders aren't there yet -- but they seem to be the strongest they've been over the last two seasons. And that could ultimately yield some special returns in 2019.
Interview Of The Weekend:
Brooke Rauber's Interview Of Jenna Schulz
Tully High School junior Brooke Rauber, who trained occasionally with the Liverpool girls during the offseason -- the programs are close and located within 30 miles of each other -- interviewed Schulz following the V-V-S Invitational. Rauber finished the "Fourth Girls Race" in 18:11.60, which was the fastest female time of the day, while Schulz was second in 18:41.00, third fastest.