* Nicki Southerland (left to right), Amy Morefield and Addison Dorenkamp are top contenders for the girls gold race on Saturday
Photo Credit: MileSplit/USA Today
WATCH LIVE: RUNNINGLANE XC CHAMPIONSHIPS
BEGINS AIRING ON DEC. 2, STARTS AT 7:30 A.M. CST
MileSplit will air a pre-race show on Friday evening.
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- One lasting moment is fast approaching.
Less than 48 hours remain until a girls champion is crowned at the RunningLane Cross Country Championships.
And here's the thing: Over the last three years, individual winners have come from all over the map -- Tennessee, Texas and California. That speaks to the overall opportunity of this race. Doesn't matter the day or the season. It could be anyone's game.
This year is no different. The storylines are of the many.
Wildcards, emerging standouts, young phenoms, out-of-the-blue moments, they're all possible on Saturday at John Hunt Park.
Below, we break down the key people, teams and issues surrounding the fourth installment of the championship race.
Top Teams To Watch
The Title Contenders:
The Next In-Line:
Lucas Lovejoy, Central Kitsap and Brentwood are state champions arriving from Texas (5A), Washington (3A) and Tennessee (3A).
As with any year, a champion team will need equal parts depth, top scorers and breakthrough efforts in order to win. Right now, Lucas Lovejoy is the only nationally ranked team inside the top 25. But Brentwood is a program that is often underrated -- and they're not far behind, ranked among the honorable mention on our MileSplit50.
Despite finishing third in its Illinois Class 3A title-race, Barrington shouldn't be slept on, either. The team's No. 1, Scout Storms, has an opportunity to score a single point on Saturday.
Individuals To Watch
The Elite Packers:
Don't Sleep On These Girls:
THE FINAL WORD
After much discussion, we'll settle on our pick: Delta's Nick Southerland. After scooping up eight wins on the season, a runner-up state finish in Indiana, a Foot Locker Nationals berth and a PR of 17:01.90, Southerland is undoubtedly the smartest pick to win.
An additional note? Southerland won the girls championship mile at the RunningLane Track Championships in May with a time of 4:45.02.
Where The Meet Will Be Won
After The First Mile
But a clarification first.
While we absolutely believe a measured approach will be crucial in deciding the overall girls championship at the 2023 Running Cross Country Championships on Saturday, it's also very clear that in each of the last three editions of this race, the eventual winner has always been in the front pack after a mile.
Jenna Hutchins decimated the field early in 2020. Natalie Cook slotted herself among a pack of five through the first mile in 2021. And then there's Payton Godsey. The Oaks Christian junior made sure to run the central tangent; and in doing so, she never got in trouble.
All this is to say, it's important in the girls race to solidify position. The early pace has always been fast -- and usually a shade under five minutes -- but historically it's revealed a winner every time.
And if anyone is the betting type, that might be the move.
The Chase For Sub-17:00
There is a much stronger balance between the field and its top 30 runners than in past editions. That makes this year's race arguably the most compelling its ever been.
It also offers a bit of intrigue as to who will actually win.
Now, the matter of fast times? That's another big question, too.
Few courses offer the ability to grab personal bests like John Hunt Park. A total of 22 girls in history have broken that coveted sub-17 mark.
Two girls enter the race on Saturday with overall personal bests under 17 minutes -- those two athletes being Sofia Day and Evelyn Prodoehl.
But weather could play a major impact in performances.
Last year, a muddy and damp course slowed times. California junior Payton Godsey decided things late and took the tape in 17:28.30. She was one of just five girls under 17:50 on the day.
But after a longer glance at the course on Thursday, we are of the opinion that even a little rain won't dampen those times. And here are a few reasons why.
Over the last year, the Sports Commission of Huntsville has raised the finish line by just about two feet -- a move that was done, I'm told, in order to properly drain the course if water does decide to hit us hard over the weekend.
The second variable might be the course itself. In recent days, it's been rolled by the city several times over. It's been dried by heavy sun. Select sections have been roped off. I was even told that race organizers were going to tarp the course as a preventative measure.
Few courses around the U.S. are maintained as well as John Hunt Park. And by Saturday, I think those two facts may prove a difference in getting back under 17 minutes.
SUB-17 ATHLETES IN HISTORY AT RXC
|MEET DATE PLACE
TN Science Hill High School
TX Flower Mound
IN Bishop Chatard High School
CO Cherry Creek High School
PA Unattached - PA
CA Mira Costa (SS)
CA Newbury Park (SS)
CO Niwot High School
IL Chicago (Latin)
CO Air Academy High School
CO Valor Christian High School
NJ Colts Neck HS
OK Bixby High School
CO Arapahoe High School
FL Cambridge (Christian) School
CO Pomona High School
CO REAL Training
CO Valor Christian High School
CA Buchanan (CS)