* Abby Faith Cheeseman is a top candidate heading into NXR Southeast
Photo Credit: MileSplit
Arguably one of the deepest regionals in the country, NXR South is going to be a dogfight on both sides.
Individually, the boys race could go to a handful of athletes, as six boys have broken 15:00 this season and another 17 have gone under 15:10.
One of the top names to watch is North Richland Hills' (TX) Ethan Gonzalez.
The recently crowned UIL 5A state champ has just two losses this season, but both came way back in early September. Since then, he's won six straight and clocked a top time of 14:44.72.
However, Gonzalez won't be alone. Denton Braswell (TX) junior Aleksandr Acuna, Carroll's duo of Caden Leonard and Jude Alvarez, Abilene's Andruw Villa and out-of-state foe Brady Mullen of Jesuit (LA) are all in the picture.
All five have ran under 15:00, and each picked up multiple wins throughout the season.
Let's just say, it'll be a crowded pack up front and expect these guys to be dictating the race.
As far as the teams go, it's going to have its fair share of tight-knit battles, with a lot of national caliber teams toeing the line.
Leonard and his Carroll squad are one of the top dogs in the South, posting a 42-second spread and 15:11 average. At state, Carroll put five in the top 20, taking down Austin Vandegrift (TX), who is also fighting for a trip to NXN.
Carroll downed Vandegrift 48-69 a few weeks back.
Arkansas' Bentonville aren't too shabby, either as they need just under 25 seconds to bring all five scoring runners across the line. Jesuit (LA) has a very strong top four, with all of them 15:40 or faster. Their fifth runner is only 22 seconds back, but in a region of this caliber, they need to close that gap as much as they can.
Last but not least, coming down from Oklahoma, the Deer Creek boys have continued to rise up the national ranks this fall, thanks to their sub-50 spread and 15:32 average.
Additionally, their sixth and seventh runners are faster than every other team's pair, excluding Carroll and Austin Vandegrift.
A year ago it was Cedar Park's (TX) Isabel Conde De Frankenberg who navigated the tough course conditions for the win, but there are some new names looking to take one of the five coveted spots.
Elizabeth Leachman, the sophomore from Boerne Champion (TX), is undoubtedly the pre-race favorite. She's run 16:25.5 this fall and has only lost once this year, finishing runner-up at Woodbridge.
She's run faster than 16:50 six different times, and has the confidence to take the race out hot.
All three are coming off of top five finishes at state and are the only others to have ran under 17:00. There are a few teams that could potentially make it through to Portland, but right now Flower Mound (TX) and Lucas Lovejoy (TX) sit above the rest, nearly even head-to-head through five runners.
With Nicole Humphries having a few extra weeks of training after her season debut, Flower Mound may just be too much for the field.
A year ago it was a close battle ultimately won by Carroll (TX), with the other two finishing 2nd and 3rd.
Boy are we in for a good show at the Coyote Run Golf Course this weekend.
Leading the way with the fastest time in the region is Battle Mountain's Porter Middaugh, who clocked a time of 14:38.7 early last month. However, despite his leading time, American Fork superstar Daniel Simmons is the man to beat.
Simmons has won all nine races this year, running as fast as 14:44.0 for 5k.
Behind the pair upfront, there are seven other boys that have run sub-15, including Battle Mountain's (CO) Will Brunner, Mountain Vista's (CO) Benjamin Anderson, Cherry Creek's (CO) Daniel Hruska and Jacob Sushinsky, the senior from Mullen (CO). We can't forget Brennan Draper of Chaparral -- after all, he beat Anderson in a Class 5A showdown in Colorado.
Four of those athletes have run under 14:50, most at altitude.
Though there are a lot of names up front for the individual crown, the team race is set to include American Fork and Herriman, both out of Utah, and Niwot out of Colorado.
As it stands, Herriman and American Fork are the top two teams in our MileSplit50 rankings, and the two have gone back and forth all season.
The two national powers have gone head-to-head twice in the last month -- at the Utah State Championships and the Pre-Footlocker meet earlier this month.
American Fork took the win at state, but Herriman got revenge in their most recent clash.
Both teams have all seven runners under 15:50, but Herriman has all five scoring runners between 15:21-15:27. What they lack in a comparable spread, American Fork makes up for it by putting their top three ahead of Herriman's number one.
With the addition of Niwot who has a 15:25 average and 25 second spread, one deserving team will have to wait until at-large bids are announced to see if they're joining the other two next month.
Niwot sophomore Addison Ritzenhein has yet to lose this season, winning all six races and running a lifetime best of 16:44.9 in late September.
A year ago, she was ninth in a loaded field, but this year she'll have a target on her back.
They haven't raced yet this season, but the first matchup between Ritzenhein and Air Academy senior Bethany Michalak may be one of the best to watch this weekend.
Michalak has only lost twice this year. After an uncharacteristic state championship, I'm sure she's looking to get back in the win column.
Along with their head-to-head matchup, the pair also have to keep an eye on four other girls who have broken 17:00, including Liberty Common (CO) senior Isabel Allori, Ella Hagen, the junior out of Summit (CO) , Michalak's teammate Tessa Walter and Gianna Rahmer, the freshman sensation out of Eldorado (NM).
Just like the boy's race, the Southwest region is contains the top two teams in the country, Niwot and Air Academy.
Both teams are nearly identical between their five scorers, and both have just over a minute between their 1-5. Michalak and Walter combine for a low-stick duo that is hard to match, but Niwot cancels it out with their pack running ability.
Additionally, programs including Lone Peak (UT), Mountain Vista (CO) and American Fork (UT) aren't looking to miss out on the fun, as the trio ranks 5th, 6th and 8th in the most recent MileSplit50.
What if I told you that the Southeast region has 28 guys who have broken 15:00 this season?
You better believe me, because the NXR Southeast is far and away the deepest region on the boys side.
For starters, the top five fastest have all broken 14:40, with Cold Spring's (AL) Ethan Edgeworth leading the way, running 14:34.29 last weekend at state.
Edgeworth has lost just twice this year -- and to three guys he's going to see again this weekend: Joshua Ruiz of Belen Jesuit (FL) and Miles Ramer of Ravenwood (TN) got him at The Southern Showcase, while Knoxville Catholic's (TN) Keegan Smith edged him out at the Jesse Owens Classic.
Since those back-to-back losses, Edgeworth has won four straight, one of which included the sixth fastest time in the nation.
Another name to look out for is Hurricane's (WV) Ty Steorts, who hasn't lost since August 26, coming in with a seven-race win streak.
Belen Jesuit is the highest-ranked team in the region, as the Wolverines are 8-0 this season and have posted a perfect score in their last three meets.
The pair of Ruiz and freshman Marcelo Mantecon up front combined with their 3-5 all under 15:35 pose a challenge that no one has been able to figure out yet this season.
The biggest threat to Belen Jesuit is either Farragut (TN) or McCallie (TN). Each Tennessee team has had quality results this season.
With how things have gone so far this season, the best race to watch is the one for second.
Abby Faith Cheeseman, the frontrunner from the Webb School, is in a league of her own so far this season, running 16:27.6 at the end of September.
Cheeseman is a crisp 4-0 on the year and has run under 17:00 three out of the four races. She has yet to have anyone finish within 40 seconds of her so far this fall, so we'll see if that trend continues this weekend.
Behind her, however, is Mary Bonner Dalton of Myers Park (NC), Nolensville's (TN) Claire Stegall and Reese Dalton out of The Covenant School (VA). Those three pose the biggest threat to Cheeseman's perfection, as the trio have ran 16:54, 16:56 and 16:58, respectively.
The team race on the girls side is an incredibly crowded one, with multiple teams capable of winning it all.
However, the Webb School of Knoxville (TN) -- which is different program than Cheeseman's Webb School -- and Tatnall (DE) enter as two of the favorites for making it out of the region.
What makes this race even more interesting though is how even both teams are on paper. They're each capable of a sub-30 seconds spread, and boast an average of roughly 17:55 through five.
The pair haven't seen each other yet this season due to the fact that there is over 600 miles separating the two, but they'll finally be able to battle it out for the regional title in just a few days time.
However, fully expect teams including Cardinal Gibbons (NC), Assumption (KY), W.T. Woodson (VA), Mount Tabor (NC), Auburn (AL) and Brentwood (TN) to be in the hunt as well, searching for an upset or a strong enough showing for an at-large bid.