We're here for another Weekend Review. And there's a lot of information to pack in. If you'd like me to answer any of your questions for next week's mailbag, throw them my way at email@example.com.
Oh ... Interesting. You're Back.
Why Didn't You Write Anything Last Week?
I was a little tied up.
What. Tell me.
I was in Wisconsin with my coworker Bryan Deibel producing a short documentary on an inspiring cross country team. More on that later.
That's No Excuse.
I know, I know. So what do you got?
Well, you kind of skipped over Great Oak's big win last week? Like C'Mon.
The bottom line is this: Great Oak had one of the best regular season, two-week stretches I've seen in some time.
Very rarely will you see a team single-handedly earn its No. 1 place in the books ... by objective metrics.
When the new national rankings are released by us on Tuesday, there's no doubt the Wolfpack will be sitting at No. 1, because that's what happens when you beat the No. 3 (Loudoun Valley) and No. 1 (Newbury Park) teams in the country over back-to-back weeks at Great American and Clovis. Great Oak didn't duck anyone. Doug Soles could have sat a few of his top runners after a hard effort and travel, but he didn't and the boys didn't ask him to. There's some grit in that response.
A couple things happened across the interim, too.
Corner Canyon (UT) finally started to look like a top five team--and added Easton Allred for the first time this season. La Salle Academy (RI) won Manhattan. Niwot (CO) got back Cruz Culpepper. Kamiakin (WA) absolutely looked unstoppable at its league meet on Oct. 16. Those are just three teams that also made strides over that stretch.
So ...things are about to get a little crazy.
There's also a fair question to ask. The reasonable person in me knows that Great Oak slid past Newbury Park at Clovis by just eight points.
A margin that small on a different day means things could change in a heartbeat. And I don't think that necessarily is a disservice to Great Oak. You have to absolutely give them credit for the win--they earned it. But in a hypothetical scenario, which teams wins over 10 outings? It could be 50-50.
And so that means this result, while great, is just a stepping stone. In a few weeks the Great Oak boys will want to repeat as the Division I Championships -- against some very good teams like Dublin, Long Beach Poly and Jesuit. Newbury Park will want to do the same in Division II.
Immediately after that, both teams will likely travel to Portland for a chance to go after a national title.
The only difference this time around? The No. 1 team always has a target on its back. Great Oak is going to have a bullseye--and they need to own that.
What About Nico? Thoughts On Him And Leo Duking It Out?
Going into the season, there were two names that immediately came to mind as national-title frontrunners.
Cole Sprout and Nico Young.
Naturally, third- and fourth-place finishers from NXN get that respect, even though runners like Easton Allred, Matt Strangio, Evan Holland, Stetson Moss and Josh Methner are still in the picture for the 2019 race.
Nobody would have envisioned Leo Dashbach being where he is right now.
And that's a fact.
But like Cole Hocker last year -- the Indiana native didn't qualify for NXN or Foot Locker as a junior -- Daschbach is making believers out of non-believers fast. After failing to qualify for NXN last year, he had an incredible track and field season, highlighted by a 4:03.98 mile and 8:51.09 3,200m run at Arcadia.
Then he won Desert Twilight over Sprout. And then he was just a hair off Young at Clovis--he was second in 14:28.90--which solidified to me the notion that he's capable of winning come December. I don't think you can even argue that at this point.
Is he the favorite?
Nico hasn't lost and he still has an edge.
When it comes to finding the right pace, working in a pack or a slipstream and then making a move when it really counts, I still think he's earned the title as 'favorite.'
His work at Clovis was a great representation of that.
ACTUAL READER QUESTION: DOES COLE LOSE AGAIN, AND/OR IS NICO THE NEXT GREAT HIGH SCHOOL RUNNER?
Part 1: I'm not quite sure. I'm bullish on Cole. I don't think he'll lose again. But that's the beauty of cross country, and especially these races. You never know.
I love Cole's fire. I love that he often sets the tone and forces others to run with him. I love that he fires out to the front and makes every race his race (Katelyn Tuohy has that kind of fire on the girls side). But he's also learned now in two losses to Nico and Leo that it doesn't always work.
Then again, there was an obvious objective for Sprout at Desert Twilight. He was going after a record. And sometimes when you go for records, you don't always consider what opponents' objectives are. Leo's sole focus was winning. Cole strived for a 5K best and came up just short.
I think the loss to Leo will give him a perspective that he couldn't have learned without it.
Part 2: You can only determine these questions a few years removed from the careers you're speculating about -- Drew Hunter is a perfect example; looking back, his career was still absolutely amazing-- but I do think Nico has the potential. But he has yet to really have his moment just yet. He's got to break a national record and might need to run under 4.
Saying that, have his last eight months been great? Yes. He's got one loss in his last 14 races -- and the one loss he did have, at the APU Meet of Champions on Mar. 23, was a tactical error he felt he should have done better with. He's been close to unbeatable over that stretch.
Since the 2018 NXN race, he's been that runner. And I think we're bound to see one of the best NXN performances of its modern history this December--not just from Nico, but from Leo and others. My guess is that three runners break 15 minutes at Glendoveer.
You Also Missed THE MANHATTAN.
You know what was impressive there? The Fayetteville-Manlius girls. The Hornets had their first four girls over speed ratings of 130 -- much like Beavercreek's MO this season -- and look extremely tough.
Much like the gals from Ohio, Bill Aris' crew is also trying to define their five, six and seven. But the squad looks capable of winning a national title yet again in 2019.
Top 7 Gals Were All Over 140 Speed Ratings at Eastern States, Too.
It was a dangerously fast race. Tuohy won her second Eastern States Championship in 13:33.2, while F-M's Claire Walters was second in 13:45.9 and Tully's Brooke Rauber was third in 13:52.1. Those three are lights out. Those three could go 1-2-3 at NXN!
Sophomore's Charlotte Bednar, of New Jersey, and Morgantown's Lea Hatcher, of West Virginia, were superb too, though, going 14:01.4 and 14:07.9, respectively. Liverpool's Jenna Schulz was sixth in 14:19.0. And in the Varsity A race, Cornwall's Karrie Baloga won in 14:22.2. Had to mention those gals.
La Salle Academy Looks Like The Best Northeast Team, No?
I'm not arguing there. This team has been locked in lately, and their win at Manhattan was another reminder of their potential moving forward.
The top five were separated by just 37 seconds. I think they're capable of scoring a top five finish at nationals -- this season, however, teams are MUCH better than they were last year.
ACTUAL READER QUESTION ADDITION: DON'T MISS COE-BROWN ACADEMY, WE LEGIT IN 2019.
That's more of a statement, but yes, this is very true, and it is now reflected by the fact that we've now moved you to No. 25 on the MileSplit50. Wins at the Battle of the Border and Manchester Invitational -- over Bishop Hendricken -- were enough evidence for a team on the rise.
OK, Enough About Last Week. What Happened This Weekend?
We're venturing into the state-qualifying period. Colorado teams had regions. Minnesota programs had conference. Indiana squads had regionals. Ohio had districts. We're all over the place and headed toward critical stretches for teams hoping to win big at state.
You said everything and nothing. Start somewhere.
The biggest shocker probably came in Ohio when the Centerville girls, a statewide powerhouse, didn't run its full lineup and failed to qualify through. The squad finished ninth at its district race at Cedarville.
Sometimes that's the price you pay for taking a risk. While Centerville had a spread of just 53 seconds, the team averaged just 20:38 across its scoring five and now is out of the picture for state hardware.
Meanwhile, the nation's No. 2 team, Beavercreek, won with 47 points on an 18:35 average.
Definitely. A good rule of thumb: If in doubt, run to qualify -- i.e. run your best squad.
What Else Is Going On?
Let's start with nationally relevant teams in Colorado first. This state is loaded with talent. There's a brewing battle in the girls Class 5A field between Mountain Vista, Cherry Creek, Cherokee Trail and Valor Christian.
All four teams--with shots to potentially earn tickets to NXN--will be there.
But Mountain Vista may be the most intriguing considering it finally looks healthy and has a full lineup. The Golden Eagles covered their Region 5A-2 race by 40 points, downing Thunder Ridge and Valor Christian.
In Class 4A, it's shaping up to be a tussle between Battle Mountain, Air Academy and Niwot -- though the ladder, ranked No. 9 in the MileSplit50, scored a perfect 15 at its region and largely seems like the team with the most depth.
The Class 5A boys isn't much of a contest--Dakota Ridge looks far and away as the leader; while Cruz is back with Niwot and that's a team to watch out for in Class 4A.
What Are Your Thoughts On Texas Teams?
I believe both the boys and girls teams' at Southlake Carroll are among the best squads in the country.
The only question: Just how good?
After the program's most recent domination at District 6A-5, it doesn't look like many Texas squads will challenge the girls. I think that team is a lock to win a state title, and I think it's a lock to get a bid to nationals out of NXR South, one year after finishing third and failing to qualify.
It's been a good year for the Dragons, on all accounts.
But it's kind of crazy to speculate on whether they're good enough to be top five, or even top 10, at NXN. The speed ratings from Chile Pepper (128-121-120-112-104) project, at least to me, a team that's going to fight for a middle-place performance, possibly 10 through 15. Unless something changes.
With the state championships heading out way in November, I guess we'll just see.
And the boys? Yowsers! Siren emoji! Right now, this is a three-team race.
Southlake Carroll, Flower Mound and The Woodlands.
According to our national team scores database, Southlake Carroll owns the No. 2 average in the country and Flower Mound is at No. 4. The Woodlands is No. 9. The Dragons own an average of 15:07.84 and a split of 35.90. Flower Mound is at 15:09.20 and a split of 62. The Woodlands is at 15:34.71 and 48.05.
The Woodlands are returning champs. Flower Mound was No. 2, Southlake Carroll at No. 3.
My goodness, the boys race is shaping up to be remarkable.
I Think You Have Some Knowledge On Summit, Don't You
Don't I ever.
The numbers from Summit's performance at the Warner Pacific Invitational confirm why the Storm remain in the No. 1 position after strong charges from Beavercreek and Fayetteville-Manlius over the last few weeks.
Every single member of its scoring five had seasons best 5K times on Saturday, covering a spread of 80 seconds across an 18:02.98 average.
All seven of its runners were over 120 speed ratings, and its three and four were at 126 and 125, respectively--they're ahead of where they were last year.
Fiona Max won the race in 17:16.26, good for a 147 speed rating, and sophomore Teaghan Knox--the team's best sub-No. 1 performer this year--was at a 137 and earned a third-place finish in 17:45.43.
Depth was the Storm's best asset last season, and no doubt it's a strong asset in 2019, too.
I'm Hearing Minnesota Could Have Some State Chaos. True or False?
As the Edina and Wayzata boys rebuild in 2019, a team like Mounds View has stepped up.
Last year's Class 2A runner-ups, the Mustangs are currently the No. 1 team in Minnesota and are coming off a statement win on Saturday.
The squad went head-to-head with third-ranked White Bear Lake at the Suburban East Conference Championships, earning a narrow 11-point victory.
Anything can happen at states, but both of these teams are experienced and laden with veterans -- Mounds View is led by seniors Finn Sokolowski and Will Sacay, while White Bear Lake is led by senior Maxwell Nelson.
I just read a million words.
Thanks for reading.