* The Niwot girls teams makes its way through John Hunt Park at the Garmin RunningLane Cross Country Championships in 2022
Photo Credit: Bobby Reyes/MileSplit
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With the cross country season full steam ahead, we decided to list out 10 of the most engaging races and events we are looking forward to covering and watching over the incoming campaign.
We stuck mostly to in-season invitationals and national championship events, though we did have to throw a nod to all of the state championship events headed our way in October and November.
Do you agree with all the picks below?
Let us know what you think.
Where: New York City, New York
When: Oct. 8
Course: Van Cortlandt Park
This year will mark 50 years for the Manhattan Cross Country Invitational in New York City.
Undoubtedly, Manhattan is one of the country's most recognized races, and for a lot of different reasons.
For starters, high school athletes run the 4K distance here, as opposed to the traditional 5K. But few races also take place in one of the greatest cities in the world, few have as many divisions -- last year, there were 38 -- and few routinely welcome national-class talent like Manhattan.
A year ago, Jackson Barna and Karrie Baloga won the famed Eastern States Championship races. But in previous years, the likes of Edward Cheserek, Katelyn Tuohy, Nicole Blood, Matthew Centrowitz, Aisling Cuffe and Mary Cain have also featured in Manhattan races.
Where: Huntsville, Alabama
When: September 16-17
Course: John Hunt Park
There's no better way to get rolling early in the season than with this invitational in September.
Orchestrated and led by Huntsville High School coach Blake Borden, this meet is an opening-season tester at John Hunt Park which last year saw the fastest time ever run by a freshman -- Keegan Smith's performance of 14:53.79 was not only the fastest time by a first-year athlete in 2022, but it also was the No. 1 effort in the class in history.
This race also was a coming out party for Webb School's Abby Faith Cheeseman, who won the girls' championship race in 17:19.43.
Where: Kutztown, Pennsylvania
When: September 10
Course: Farm Course
PTXC13 is a yearly tradition in Pennsylvania.
Founded by MileSplit co-founder Don Rich, the meet takes place on the campus of Kutztown University and finds itself driving through a beautiful Farm Course, which features long, sloping plains, hills and all sorts of terrain.
The best of years have featured some truly cornerstone moments: Taryn Parks' big wins in in 2018 and 2017 and the start of Loudoun Valley's boys program's historic year in 2018.
Where: Cartersville, Georgia
When: September 23-24
Course: Sam Smith Park
With over 4,000 entries set for this year's installment in September -- not to mention, athletes and teams from Tennessee, Kentucky, Florida, South Carolina and New York -- this year's race is set to be one of its best yet.
Positioned just north of Atlanta, on a course that features its fair share of terrain -- and even a series of hay bales to navigate through -- this one is a fast-growing entry on the national calendar that's typically a good barometer for end-of-season success.
The Atlanta Track Club puts on a series of 15 races over two days and often make this thing a party.
Where: Minneapolis, Minnesota
When: September 23
Course: Bolstad Golf Course
This race, at its core, is pure chaos.
And I absolutely love it.
The famed high school races -- Gold and Maroon are the designations -- will see anywhere from 300 to nearly 500 athletes stretched across the undulating hills and turns of Bolstad.
And so ...if you don't get out early, good luck.
It's a tall order to position yourself in a way that's going to make an impact. Year after year, top athletes find themselves swallowed up by the massive pack, only to have to fight their way back to the top group.
Sometimes it works, other times it's more difficult.
The winning scores here are usually in the 100s. But overall, you're often better having run here.
Where: Cary, North Carolina
When: October 1
Course: WakeMed Soccer Park
One of the most well-attended meets on the Eastern Coast in the early months of the XC season, Great American owns the distinction of being the "in-season" invitational of a lot of programs who have the opportunity to travel -- and receive budget from their high school athletic departments -- outside their state lines before the state championships.
You'll see athletes from North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky and Georgia all make the trip out to WakeMed, a course that certainly owns a few fast performances over its history.
The Race of Champions is the clincher of the day, with the best athletes and teams scheduled to attend. A year ago, Sam Rich won the boys' race (14:59.80), while Ciara O'Shea won the girls' contest in 17:08.90.
Where: Irvine, California
When: September 15-16
Course: Great Park Sports Complex
This meet always has a few great things going for it: The event is early in the XC season, which prompts some fun dialogue about the best programs set to attend there, and it's also the fastest 3-mile course in the country, hosted on turf fields and pristinely manicured terrain.
Every year, there's an outrageous performance that goes down. A year ago, Newbury Park's Leo Young ran the fastest time ever produced on the course -- a reader's note: the course has changed slightly over the years, which means that every time produced there isn't a direct reflection or comparison of the last -- as he finished in 13:38.10.
His brother, Nico, ran 13:39.70 in 2019. Leo, Lex Young, Aaron Sahlman and Colin Sahlman own four of the top five times in 3-mile history from there. Blake Haney ran 13:55.00 in 2013. Luis Grijalva, an Olympian for Guatemala, ran 13:58 in 2016.
On the girls side, Dalia Frias clocked a time of 15:43.50 last year, second-best all-time. Brie Oakley went 15:53.60 in 2016. Corie Smith ran 15:58.40 in 2017.
The moral of the studio: Woodbridge is fast.
4. State Championship Season
Where: Round Rock, Texas
When: October Through November
It's game time for the best cross country runners in the United States, everywhere.
State championships begin in earnest in October in Alaska -- as they beat the cold weather -- and continue on through November, with some of the most competitive states like Texas, Georgia, New York and Illinois all finishing their seasons with some time to spare ahead of national season.
California finishes a week before December, just in time for the big national events.
Where: Portland, Oregon
When: Dec. 3
Course: Glendoveer Golf Course
After a two-year hiatus, Team Nationals is seemingly back.
To get there, athletes from across the U.S. will have to manage through nine regionals and qualify either as teams or individuals.
Then it's just this: Two big races in Portland, Oregon, on a course that's routinely challenging.
Whether it's dry or wet on the day, that's never quite known.
But this fact is pretty clear: Athletes will face stiff challenges, and if they successfully navigate those variables, they'll have an opportunity to win a title or become an All-American.
Where: San Diego, CA
When: Dec. 10 (TBD)
Course: Balboa Park
Eastbay is race all about history, and it dates back to 1979.
While the title-sponsors have changed over the years -- Kinney, Foot Locker, Eastbay -- the distinction holds the same: the fastest high schoolers in the country qualify for their spot on the line here.
It's an event that's been held all but twice at the famed Balboa Park in San Diego.
And so the sample size of premier high schoolers who have taken on the ruthless hills and the sweeping turns and grassy knolls of this course, is truly unique.
It's also the final race of the high school calendar year, held annually on the second weekend of December.
After all the team championships are run, this race hands down a national title to two fortunate athletes.
Where: Huntsville, Alabama
When: Dec. 3
Course: John Hunt Park
There's fast. And then there's fast.
That's pretty much how one would sum up the experience of competing at John Hunt Park. You can't really appreciate the ins and outs of this place until you've been there, until you've raced the very best competition on this course.
And last year's installment, just its second since 2020, was a monumental moment in high school cross country, as it saw the fastest boys performance(s) over the 5,000 meter distance in history. The girls notched some of the fastest efforts in history, too -- the prior year, however, Jenna Hutchins became the first high school girl to ever go under 16 minutes for the distance ... at this same course.
When you put together the best competition in the country on a course like John Hunt Park, special things happen. You really do find out who's No. 1 in the country. It's a national invitational that places the country's top teams in the cornerstone gold race.
On top of that, the group at RunningLane set out to make this thing as community and runner- and team-driven as possible, and so a carnival atmosphere is prevalent throughout. A year ago, this event became the only national team championship race. The 2022 format is also searching for that same spectacle.