Course Preview: October's Biggest Races

Check out the course preview video above and descriptions of each of the major races this October below. 

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The Great American Cross Country Festival will take place on October 5th at the WakeMed Soccer Complex in Cary, North Carolina. The first 600 meters at WakeMed are downhill followed by a loop in the woods before heading back up a long incline. Once over the incline, runners loop around the park on some wide wood trails and rolling hills before heading back up the initial incline again with the finish line straight at the top of that hill. Despite its difficulty, WakeMed runs as one of the state's faster courses each year.

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New Balance Shore Coaches Invitational (NJ): Oct. 5

The New Balance Shore Coaches Invitational will be held at historic Holmdel Park, home of the NJSIAA State Group Championships as well as the coveted Meet of Champions. Big names have rolled through Holmdel, including the two-course record-holders Edward Cheserek, who ran 14:53 in 2011, and Katelyn Tuohy, who destroyed the girls record by over a minute in 2018 with her 16:21.

As for the course itself, you can expect grass, dirt, groomed pathways, possible roots, and the occasional wooden step or rocky area. The race opens up in a large field crossing about 400 meters of grass before filtering into the first wooded path which hits you with an abrupt incline. You'll encounter rolling hills called the "roller coasters" before eventually reaching the first mile on a flat trail. After a long straightaway, you'll be greeted with the infamous "Bowl", which is a sweeping gradual decline that wraps back around to the steepest climb of the course. If you've held it together past the Bowl you'll meet the two-mile on a flat path and only have a sprint over the final mile from there. The rest of the run sees turning declines through the woods before popping you out in front of a huge crowd cheering you on over the final grassy 400m to the finish.

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Nike Valley Twilight Invitational (IN): Oct. 5

That meet is the Nike Valley Twilight Invitational which will be held at the LaVern Gibson Championship Course in Terre Haute. This course has a long-standing history as home to the NCAA Division 1 Championships as well as the Indiana State Meet and NXR Midwest Championships.

LaVern Gibson features small rolling hills and inclines throughout the course, providing a challenge to even the most experienced racers. It begins with a steady decline for the first 800 meters before taking a right turn past the 1K mark. Runners follow a tree-lined path through the first mile before snaking through the course for the next 3K. Runners are then greeted by tent city before entering the final 400-meter straightaway to the finish line.

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Naperville Twilight Invitational (IL): Oct. 9

The Naperville Twilight Invitational will be held on Wednesday, October, 9th. This three-mile course is held on the grounds of Naperville North HS and is completely flat! It starts with a direct shot northwest for approximately 400m. Shortly thereafter, the course moves to the perimeter of campus before coming back to the throngs of fans stationed in and outside of the football/track stadium. The course finishes with two 300m tours on the track concluding at the south end zone.

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Manhattan XC Invite (NY): Oct. 12

The Manhattan XC Invite will take place on October 12th in Van Cortlandt Park. One of the most storied courses in the country, Manhattan maintains its legacy distance of 2.5 miles. After an all-out 800m sprint to the narrowing down of the cowpath, the undulating hills in the back break up the rhythm until runners cross back over the bridge. From there, it's 200m to the dog park, where the course opens up for a long 1000m approach to the finish, where races are won and lost.

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Clovis Invitational (CA): Oct 12

The Clovis Invitational will take place at Woodward Park in Fresno. The 5K course has been used for the CIF-State Championships since 1987. The course consists mostly of dirt paths through a tree-lined park with some running on asphalt and grass. There is only one hill to ascend and the course sees just 17 feet of elevation gain. The course record for boys was set in 2007 by Riverbank's German Fernandez. That mark of 14:24 could be in jeopardy when Newbury Park's Nico Young toes the line.

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The XC InvitationalOct 18

The XC Invitational will be held on October 19th at Pole Green Park in Mechanicsville, Virginia. This lightning-fast figure 8 course is a dream for coaches and fans with the start, mile, 2 mile, and finish all within 200 meters walking distance. There is not a single hill on the course, which features just a few inclines with wide paths. It is NCAA and USATF certified and has played host to the Atlantic 10 Championships and USATF Junior Olympic National Championships. Major updates of Virginia state leaderboard and top 50 rankings always occur after this meet. Over the years, 13 girls have broken 18 minutes on the 5K course, while 2 boys have gone under 15 minutes and 9 more under 15:20 in the meet's history. Waleed Sulamain at 14:49 and Olivia Beckner at 17:30 hold the meet and course records.

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Mt. SAC Invitational (CA): Oct 25-26

The Mt. SAC Invitational will take place on the campus of Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, California, due east of Los Angeles. This will be the 79th version of this annual two-day event. The famous 2.93-mile course includes familiar segments like the Valley Loop, Switchbacks, Poop Out Hill, Reservoir Hill, and the Airstrip. This will be the final year of the slightly modified course because of renovations to the adjacent stadium, resulting in a long asphalt "Airstrip" finish at a slight incline. A slightly modified layout of this course will be used for the Foot Locker West Regional on Dec. 7.