* Walker St. John is a contender to win the boys championship at the Garmin Texas MileSplit Invitational on Saturday
Photo Credit: Texas MileSplit
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From top to bottom, talent will be in spades at the Garmin Texas MileSplit Invitational on Saturday in Denton, Texas.
A bevy of the state's top returners, a sampling of state champions and supremely fast athletes, will step to the line of the championship races and set off for what could be a spectacular performance.
But it won't only be the best of Texas. A few powerhouse teams from Oklahoma (Deer Creek) and California (Claremont) will also fill out the fields, making this year's invitational one of its best yet.
Below, we give perspective on eight athletes racing across the boys and girls championship races on Saturday.
For more, visit the meet page.
Amy Morefield, Lucas Lovejoy (TX)
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Class of 2023
You could say Morefield is looking to 'level up' this fall.
The junior from Lucas Lovejoy finished 12th at the UIL Class 5A Cross Country Championships in 2020 and was seventh in the ensuing 3,200m final during the UIL Track and Field Championships.
Very good results, yes.
But with each new year comes higher hopes and Morefield seems to progressing on the path toward something special. She opened up her cross country season on Sept. 4 at the Lovejoy XC Fall Festival, finishing second in 18:10.00, behind a potential state-title hopeful in Cameron McConnell.
Saturday's race will provide Morefield ample opportunity to show what she's made of.
David Mora, Lubbock Monterey
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Class of 2023
The top returner out of the Southwest region of Texas, Mora secured a third-place finish at the UIL Class 5A State Cross Country Championships in 2020, finishing with a 5K PR of 14:56.98.
He's among a tight group of contenders that could potentially win this race and throw down an impressive time. Just 10 days ago, he clocked an effort of 15:32.30 for 5K at the Southlake Carroll Invitational, finishing 10th overall.
While that performance wasn't his best ever, consider the timing.
Mora began his season 21 days earlier this fall than last year, and he's way ahead of schedule: His debut at 5K was precisely 20 seconds faster, too.
Consider the flat course at Denton, the top-notch field and added expectations for Mora, and that's a recipe for an excellent performance.
AJ Antonelli/Gilbert Velez, Deer Park (OK)
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Class of 2022/Class of 2022
Two top five finishers from the Oklahoma Class 6A Cross Country Championships are in the hunt in this race.
Their names are AJ Antonelli and Gilbert Velez.
A year ago, Antonelli was his program's most consistent runner, winning three races en route to his fourth-place finish at state and a 13th-place finish at the Lubbock Christian University Invite. But his top time from 2020 came in his first race, a 15:24.75 PR that he'll likely look to surpass this fall.
Velez, meanwhile, steadily wound up as the season progressed, clocking faster and faster times until his runner-up finish at state with a time of 15:49.58.
Both runners are seniors.
And both will likely pair up in the field to create the kind of twosome that will be tough to beat.
Maddie Coles, Claremont (CA)
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Class of 2022
Coles barely missed out on the CIF State Cross Country Championships as a sophomore in 2019, despite the fact that she was among California's best all season, with a PR of 16:30 for 3-miles.
Her junior season followed, and there she ran in a few dual meets, along with a performance at the Palomares League Finals, which saw her finish third overall in 17:49.70.
So really, Saturday will be an opportunity for Coles to show what she's worth.
Thus far, the Claremont No. 1 is in fine form. She opened up at the Cool Breeze Invitational last week in Pasadena and dropped a time of 17:26.40.
Most athletes who travel out-of-state in cross country get the added boost of adrenaline racing against competitors they've never seen before, so expect Coles to be on her best game on Saturday.
The same can be said for the entire Claremont squad. Her teammate, Jie Yi Denise Chen, is also an athlete to watch; she finished eighth in that same Cool Breeze race.
2. Allie Love/Gabbie Love, Colleyville Heritage (TX)
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Class of 2024/2023
Don't mess with Love.
The sisterly combo of Allie and Gabbie Love, sophomore and junior athletes, respectively, are on a tear to start their cross country and track and field journeys, and this season could offer their biggest payoff yet.
Gabbie is off to a roaring start, having won the girls championship at the Southlake Carroll Invitational on Aug. 28 in a career best 17:23.01. Allie followed a few spots later, clocking a time of 17:45.73 to finish fifth overall.
The pair pulled their Colleyville Heritage squad up to third-place overall in a field that included some state contenders like Southlake Carroll and Austin Vandegrift, so the signs are clear: As the Loves go, this team follows.
But if we rewind things even a little further, you'll find some incredible results: Allie had a tremendous outdoor season, finishing second at the Class 5A state championships in both the 1,600m (4:55) and 3,200m (10:34.98), while Gabbie was fifth in the 800m (2:12).
In this race in particular, these two ladies are likely the favorites, the front-runners and possible statement-makers.
1. Walker St. John, Grapevine (TX)
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Class of 2022
Never before have the expectations been this high for St. John, who is coming off a UIL Class 5A State Cross Country title in 2020 with a time of 14:42.20.
It was the fastest returning 5K time entering the fall. And though he won just two races as a junior, the last was his most important.
Some legendary stories followed over outdoor -- his 1,600m win at the UIL Class 5A state track and field championships came after he lose a shoe midway through the race.
And with fast times come targets, from the likes of challengers looking to take on the best the state has to offer. In Texas, that very well could be St. John.
While he hasn't opened up his cross country with a 5K time just yet, he dropped a mighty-impressive 9:113.99 for 3,200m on Aug. 21 at the Southlake 3,200m races, indicating he's in shape to roll out something special.
Of course, St. John's sites aren't only on personal pride. The Mustangs of Grapevine look to be one of the top teams in Class 5A and could make a case for that very fact on Saturday.
As St. John leads, so will the Mustangs go.
We're looking forward to seeing just what he has to offer.
- Garmin MileSplit Texas Invitational Entries
- Watch the Garmin MileSplit Texas Invitational LIVE on September 11
- Meet page coverage