Weekend Review: It Was The Nico And KK Show This Weekend

We're doing things a little differently for this installment of the weekend review.

Instead of offering our thoughts on a few bullet points from just a few meets around the country, we're going to answer some hypothetical questions, in the hopes that we'll touch on a wider range of questions and performances. 

So let's get to it. 

Let's start with the racing. Who ran well?  

Well, the easiest questions are typically the hardest to answer. So many states, so many athletes. It's hard to pick just one.

I mean, there's an obvious one. Nico Young ran the fastest 3-mile time of all-time at the Woodbridge Cross Country Classic. That was bonkers. But we'll get to him later.

So who else?

I'd say there were over a handful of very good performances, including the likes of London Culbreath, Lauren Ping, Aidan Puffer, Sydney Masciarelli, Corie Smith, Katelynne Hart, Matt Strangio, Jonas Price, Thomas Boyden, Thomas Vo, Addie Engel, Lexy Halladay, Kate PetersAva Dobson, Jace Aschbrenner, or Josh Methner. Every one of these runners ran well this weekend. 

Yeah, but out of those who was most impressive? 

Nico Young. 

Yeah, but you just said you'd talk about him later. Who else? 

Katelynne Hart was just a second off her PR at Detweiller and generally looks fantastic at this stage of the season. 

I have a feeling you're going to write more on her, too, right? 

Yes. You're good.

OK, so let's get to some of the sleepers. London Culbreath's performance at Woodbridge was a great moment for the McKinney North senior. Anyone who followed the Texan's final few races last cross country season saw an athlete who struggled to finish in important moments. 

While Culbreath responded in the spring, winning two individual state track and field championships, there were no PRs on the oval. So part of me thinks that 2019-2020 will be a refresher. She can forget about those disappointments -- to be fair, the only disappointments she had were at nationals -- and just make sure her last year is her best one. 

After taking a longer delay to the season, she opened at Woodbridge and fired out with a very good effort, finishing third overall in a three mile PR of 16:22.90. That's London. And we expect the Texan to continue fighting hard this season for more PRs. 

Strangio is another guy I do not want to miss. There's a built-in narrative in 2019 between Cole-Nico, but Strangio has been saying from Day 1 his objective is to go after a Nike Cross Nationals title. While Woodbridge was getting a lot of publicity this week, the Jesuit (CA) senior was quick to point out De La Salle had an incredible lineup, too. And what did he do? 

He put down a career best 3-mile time of 14:42.26 and got the win. While that wasn't a national record or a national lead, there's no reason to get concerned. The objective is to be ready by December, and the Californian is the defending Division I champ. 

Who else? Gimme more. 

Thomas Boyden continues to impress. The Skyline (UT) athlete won the Bob Firman Invitational -- on a pretty tough course -- in 14:59.5, which landed him an impressive 193 speed rating. 

I'll tell you what else was kind of surprising. Thomas Vo's win at the adidas XC Challenge. The Green Hope (NC) senior knocked 29 seconds off his career best and straight up crushed it in Cary. This is an athlete who was stepping into the enviable role as "No. 1" runner following his sixth-place finish at state last year. He was one of just two seniors inside the top seven back for 2019. But that race was impressive. 

There's also Aschbrenner, who's the best No. 2 in the country with his second-place finish at Woodbridge. He ran 14:04.8 and picked up a 188 speed rating. There's Puffer, who lost in his season-opener to Gavin Sherry, who's proving to be quite the foil in Connecticut -- Sherry's won five straight races against him. Puffer responded with a 5K PR of 15:32.00 at the Manchester Invitational, picking up a 191 speed rating -- that time is also faster than Sherry has ever run. 

Corie Smith was electric for Buchanan. Not surprising. She's been Buchanan's it girl for the past three seasons and scored her second win at Woodbridge in three seasons. Ping wasn't bad, either, coming through in second for Desert Vista -- and tbh, watch out for her. She's only going to get better. I think this year the training wheels are off. 

Lexy Halladay won big in Bob Firman. But keep a close eye on Lincoln freshman Kate Peters. She could sneak into the NXR Northwest with a chance to get a bid to NXN. Carlee Hansen (Woods Cross) and Eliza Arrington (Lone Peak) are also dueling it out. They're the two best girls runners in Utah. The Class 5A (Hansen) and 6A (Arrington) individual titles will go through them.

A bunch of teams and athletes got on Pennsylvania's state course. Got anything on that? 

The notoriously ruthless Parkview course makes mincemeat out of most runners who are on it for the first time. At the Foundation meet mid-season, runners take the reverse of it. 

Northern's Marlee Starliper, the two-time defending Class AA champ, didn't even blink. She ran the all-time course record in 17:40.00 -- in what seemed like a relatively easy effort. 

Mount Lebanon's Patrick Anderson, the returning Class AAA champ, ran fifth-fastest all-time in 15:51.00.

Who had the best kick?

I honestly don't even know if Justin Wachtel is going as fast as it seems in this video. But it looks like he's absolutely rolling here. 

The Mary Persons (GA) junior won the Wingfoot XC Classic on Friday night in 15:11.80. It was a good win. 

Cool. Which Teams Were Good? 

Newbury Park's boys. I mean, really, really, really good. After a performance like that at Woodbridge, they've earned the right for others to beat them.They dispatched an impressive Great Oak team by 30 points. The Panthers put down a 14:14 average and a 57-second spread and scored 38 points, which is crazy. That doesn't even make sense. 

I will say, though, that while the Woodbridge effort was good, the true test of this team will come at Clovis. A harder course, and conditionally it's going to offer more true-cross country variables. But I have no doubt that Newbury Park will hold up. 

The girls race showed that Southlake Carroll is as good as we expected. While they were displaced by Buchanan's sixth-runner -- both teams scored 129 -- the Dragons' overall spread was 49 seconds. And I'll take that, long-term, over a slightly better team average. 

St. Charles East was VERY good at the Richard Spring Invitational and they kind of kind of invite top 10 talk nationally after a 14:48 average and a ridiculous 34-second spread. Yikes! As an aside, Sandburg -- Dylan Jacobs' alma mater! -- which finished second, wasn't far behind with a 15:04 average. They were good, too. 

On the girls side, Downers Grove South finally got a big win. With no Naperville North or Yorkville, DGS secured a 17:48 average and a 43-second compression. They won by nearly 100 points over the next closest team (Glenbard West). That's good!

Out west, Corner Canyon finally got a big win at the Bob Firman Invitational, posting a 26-point win over Davis and a solid 15:53 average across a 38-second spread. Maybe the Utah squad just needed a larger runway to begin the season -- and a race without American Fork -- to show what they were capable of. The Chargers are solid and should have the inside track for a state title in Utah. But an NXN spot? That's still not a lock. 

Lone Peak's girls are firing to start the season. They came off a win at the BYU Autumn Classic with another at Bob Firman, scoring a 30-point win over Springville. They averaged 18:32 across 68-second spread. They might be one of the teams to beat in the Southwest. 

The Milaca Mega Meet was a wash. Literally. The meet was rain soaked, which sort of canceled out a lot of the scoring -- Wayzata's girls held out their top two runners, while Mounds View's boys didn't register anything special. 

In Ohio, Hilliard Davidson beat Centerville by 17 points, which shouldn't be overlooked. If anyone's going to give Beavercreek a run for their money in Division I, it might be them. 

Great. You said KK rocked it this weekend? 

Sure thing! The Glenbard West senior and returning Foot Locker Nationals runner-up has been absolutely rolling across two races so far. 

If we look at improvements made across the past few seasons, Hart was 14 seconds faster on the Hornet/Red Devil Invitational course and now 14 seconds ahead of pace at the Richard Spring Invitational. 

That's roughly a 1.5-percent improvement on her races so far. So if we correlate that to her best performances previously, she's on pace to break Judy Pendergast's all-time mark of 15:53.80 on Detweiller Park soil -- and secure a top 5 all-time effort for three miles. 

Hart's coaches have been smart planners ever since that breakout sophomore season. They've axed at least one mid-season run in favor of rest and have kept Hart fresh. That's led to mightier performances. That's led to strength beyond the pail. 

Talk About Nico. We want to hear about Nicooo!

What else is there to say? He was incredible on Saturday at Woodbridge. A new national 3-mile cross country record in 13:39.70.

The thing I really appreciate about the way this season is being planned for Young is that there's a purpose behind every big effort he makes. It's not, 'Well, we feel good this week, so let's try to run really fast and capitalize." 

If that were the case, Young could have gone after the 3-mile record at his first meet of the year, at the Marmonte League Meet. Instead, he put the brakes on and trusted the process. 

Young's training prepared him for that course, for that moment. He ran well. 

Now, his season can't end there. This is one reason why going after a record this early is smart, too. You get the pressure of breaking a record off your back. Katelyn Tuohy accomplished this in 2018, way before she set out to defend her title at Nike Cross Nationals. 

The plan for Young -- and Newbury Park -- is to race for records at Clovis, then again at Nike Cross Nationals. Everything in between is a process toward achieving that goal. 

Hey, I think you forget about Sydney Masciarelli. 

She debuted. She won. Tough conditions, but she ran well. If you want to learn more about her, go watch this Day in the Life video. And this one, too. 

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Want any more questions answered? Feel free to email Cory at cory.mull@flosports.tv. 

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