Midwest Meet of Champions Preview

Since it’s inception in 2006, the Midwest Meet of Champions has always brought national-caliber talent to the line and it does so again this year.  NCAA D1 athletes like Drew Shields (Wisconsin), Rebekah Smeltzer (Michigan State), Emil Heineking (Virginia), Kevin Yarnell (Michigan State), and Brian Himelright (NC State) have shined brightly at this event in the past five years and have helped to build the event each year. With some of the best talent in Ohio lined up, you can expect that the competition will be fierce once again this year as we get a very good look at the Division 1 team picture in the state of Ohio, while checking out how some of Ohio’s best individuals match-up with some impressive individuals from Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, and West Virginia.


The girls’ race is loaded with talent as more than 15 different ladies enter with season’s best times under 19 minutes.  Ohio native Monica Lake of Mason leads the home state charge as she brings in an 18:16 performance which she laid down last week at the Culver Academies Invitational in Indiana.  Also there was Culver Academies’ own Waverly Neer, who finished runner-up on the day in 18:09 after leading almost the whole race and will look to take down Lake again this weekend. Looking to challenge these two young starlets will be Emma Brink of Sacred Heart Academy (Louisville, KY) who enters coming off of wins at the Trinity (KY) Invitational (in 18:01) and the 1st Annual Midwest Catholic Cross Country Championships (in 18:22).  Brink sits 21st in the MileSplit XC Super 50 Individuals currently, so there will definitely be a target on her back coming in, though Neer and Lake both have plenty of reason to believe they are the ones to watch out for this weekend.


The team race has a specifically Ohio flavor, as the invitational only event has drawn many of the highest ranked squads in the state. Six of the top ten ranked D1 schools in the state will be on the line Saturday, including current #1 Mason and #2 Magnificat. #5-ranked Dublin Coffman brings in a squad whose fifth runner has posted a 19:21 already this year, so they are much closer to the top squads than their ranking shows. Out-of-state powerhouse Rockford (MI) is bringing down their D1 #3-ranked squad, led by Jane Hawks, Catie Rietsema, and Taylor Mannett, all of whom have posted times of 19:01 or better already this year. Cabell Midland (WV) and Brink’s Sacred Heart squad complete the out-of-state additions and add depth to an already strong line-up for this year’s meet.




Zach Wills may have more than a target on his back in the boys’ race as he recent performances may have this year’s entrants smelling blood. Wills seemed almost unbeatable at times last year en route to a state, but after a track season shortened by a bout with mono, he has appeared to have a chink in his armor of late. Three weeks ago he was second to Carmel’s Chris Walden on his home course and Walden finished in front of Wills again last weekend at Culver along with three other Indiana athletes. Jordan Redd of Fairborn might just be the man to fit the bill following wins at the Bob Schul Invite (15:16), the Lebanon Invite (15:06), Alliance Running Invite (15:27), and Adidas Saturday Night Lights (15:21).  In his first match-up with Wills this year and a possible three peat at this meet on the line, it will definitely be interesting to see how he compares.  Seeing anyone run with Wills, though, has to give guys, like Jacob Burcham of Cabell Midland, John Sweeney of St. Ignatius, and Tsehaye Hilaf of Reynoldsburg, confidence coming in to the weekend.


Burcham was third behind Walden at the Trinity (KY) Invitational, but was within striking distance for almost the entire race.  Sweeney shares a common nemesis with Burcham after Holy Cross (KY) sophomore Jacob Thomson bested him at the Midwest Catholic CC Championships last weekend.  Thomson finished right in front of Burcham at the Trinity Invite in Kentucky the weekend before.   Hiluf has been hot in the last few weeks, taking wins at the McGowan and Galion Invites, but he was 3rd at the beginning of September at the Hot Summer Bash behind St. John’s Greg Turissini who will also be in attendance. Just fewer than 20 total athletes are entered with times faster than 16 minutes this year, so look for plenty of other athletes to try to stay near the front as well.


The team picture has a distinct Ohio feel with eleven squads ranked in Division 1 entered, including #2 Medina and #4 St. Ignatius. #5 St. John’s enters with the fastest five, while Wills’ #7-ranked Mason squad enters with a solid group, but #11 Reynoldsburg may be the most dangerous with their first three runners all posting sub-16 performances previously this season. Burcham’s Cabell Midland squad is the best in West Virginia right now and will definitely be challenging for the title, while Kentucky’s North Oldham squad enters ranked #1 in Class AA behind standouts Taylor Sanders and Colin Grandon.  The race will be a great chance for these squads to see where they measure up as they enter October and make adjustments with their eyes toward the postseason.


With a cool forecast and a notoriously fast course waiting for the competition this weekend, we are expecting fast times and great racing on Saturday. Be sure to stay tuned for updates, pictures, interviews, and a full recap of Saturday’s happenings on the MileSplit Network.