Brentwood High is coming into this meet with a very strong
team of girls that all have PR's under the 20-minute mark. Caroline Cherry leads off the team with her
PR of 19:37, Kaitlyn Vanderkolk 19:37.88, Anna Banovac 19:54.53, Eden
Mittelsdorf 19:57, and Sofia Rutherford 19:58.
If they all run their best, we
could see this team post five girls inside the top 20 finishers. Caroline leads the way with her pretty stout
PR but has not run her best yet this season, but it is early. Kaitlyn ran her fastest at the Jesse Owens
last year and followed up with a 21 at the state championships so it's hard to
tell if these girls can put together a good early season time on this
course. Cross country is truly a team
sport and seeing how close these girls are on their times could be an indication
if the competition is there. If they work
together they can be a force to watch tomorrow.
The Houston girls come into this meet with some impressive runs this early in the season. They can't be counted out to be the top team here either. Lydia Tankersley took the top spot at the Hoka Postal Nationals in Memphis earlier in a sub 12 time of 11:49.61. That performance and the sub 20 time at the Memphis Twilight the first of September does point out that she is coming into this season on a very strong note!
Lydia's teammate, Felicity Bost is a sophomore runner that has a senior level running resume. Felicity has been running competitively since who knows when and her talent is just now starting to be displayed. Posting a 19:40.32 at the state meet last year as a freshman has certainly raised some eyebrows and put her on the radar to watch this season and at this meet.
Having a chance to run the state course this time of year is a great way to get a good feel for what you have to do in November. Without a doubt the Houston and Brentwood girls are the teams to watch in the gold division tomorrow. Who will win might just depend how closely packed they can stay and who has the effort on that last hill over the last half mile of the course. If I were to guess, these teams won't be farther than four or five points apart in the final tally Saturday.
As far as the individual standings Saturday, keep a lookout for Niki Narayani of the Webb School of Knoxville. She seems to run this steeplechase course as good as anyone I've ever seen. Niki ran an 18:12 at the Foot locker south regional last year and an 18:46.87 on the state course here. That gave her a fantastic finish to a short season last year and having been runner up at the state meet for several years, looks like she is poised to be the top runner this season for sure. And something else that is important to point out, she has run a 17:36 for the indoor 5K at the New Balance Indoor last March. If she is not in the lead at this meet, I will be very surprised!
Oakland's Breja Hooks could be a spoiler for Niki though as she comes into this meet with a really strong runner up finish at the Memphis Twilight September 1st. It appears that Breja has made a strong turn for the better this year and even though it's still fairly early in the season, she is setting herself up to be one of the best come November. Sitting inside the top 10 for the rankings in the state should be good motivation to make her season a strong one at that! So let's keep an eye on her Saturday as well.
The boy's gold looks like we cold see a tightly grouped pack of athletes battling it out over the course of this race and possibly coming down to the last few meters before a winner is decided. Brentwood's Quinn Heithcock has the best PR out of this year's runners but a recent 17:17 at the Chickasaw trails doesn't add up to a fast race here on this steeplechase course. But with his background and talent, still not someone you can count out. He will be someone you don't want to take your eye off of Saturday.
There will be a contingent of Memphis area athletes that are certainly going to give Quinn a run for his money Saturday. Starting with Houston's Bradley Turner, who just came off a quick 16:28 at the Memphis Twilight 5K and looks very strong in his running this season already. Collierville's Garrett Meier is another one to watch. Garrett ran well at the Twilight and does fairly well on this steeplechase course.
A few more to watch will be a couple of Christian Brothers high school athletes with Tyler Casey and Constatine Campell. Both these guys have impressive PR's under their belt and running as a team in this group could play to their advantage Saturday for sure.
Fuji Anday, Central Magnet's top runner has a best of 16:21 set at last year's Jesse Owens and should be in the top group at Saturday's gold division race. He ran a bit slow at the Voyles Classic at the end of August but certainly made up that time at the Chickasaw Trails with his 16:31.72 performances. That almost certainly puts him on the watch list as a top contender Saturday as well.
A few others to keep a close watch on would be Riverdale's Eli Cramer who has run low 17 at the Voyles, then improved a bit at the Cherokee. With a PR around 16:31, he could just break out Saturday. Having run a 16:53 at the state meet shows he can lower his time at this tough course.
Who will be the top team for the boy's gold? My bet goes to the Houston group for this meet with a point total of around 106 or so. It's the second spot that may be a real dog fight. I'm giving a lean to Collierville, but not counting out the power that CBHS has as a team and also the Bartlett athletes. But I do think it will be a Memphis battle for sure!
The boys silver category is going to be tight for the team challenge. My guess is that Baylor and Webb will be pushing themselves all along the course and likely come in very close! I'd say close enough that you can count the difference between the two on one hand! Both these teams have average times within a couple of seconds apart... that is, assuming they'll run their best Saturday! Webb might have the edge with the stack they have out front, but a position or two by Baylor could negate that in a minute!
Baylor School has these guys that I see in the top spots: Silas Gartman (PR of 17:03), Sam McMillan (17:28), Grant Johnson (17:29), Jackson Collette (17:34), Atherton Mook (18:04). With these PR's so close together, that team deal is going to be a big factor for these guys as they could really pull each other to the finish line in a close pack.
Webb School of Knox girls seem to get the edge in my opinion. With PR's across the board posting very good times with Gabriel Tardy (16:36), Riley Schumaker (17:05), Bannon Evans (17:37), Cooper Milam (17:49), and Peter schaeffer (18:38)
Lausanne Collegiate' s Sohan Pokorny-Yadav 16:14 is really the favorite to take the win for this silver division. Gabriel Tardy (Webb) could be the runner up and Evan Allen (Chester county) rounding out the top three here from my estimates.
For the Silver girls, Baylor's group that includes Janie Pippenger (20:15), Helen Webb (20:42); Emmy Davis, Hannah Rosser, and Merrit Newton could possibly start a sweep by the Baylor school and set the stage for the boys to do the same.
Harpeth Hall and Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet should be a close battle for the team runner up spot. I might say that Hume-Fogg is possibly the one with a slight edge since it is a good chance that all their girls may just get all under the top 25 finishers at this meet.
Hume Fogg's team consists of Virginia Hunt (20:30 PR), Tinsley Sheppard (20:45), Brooktie Frogge (21:06), then Gracie Ess and Ines Zamora.
Dresden's Loral Winn - 18:53 - is really the top pick to win the silver division. Loral's teammate, Anna Johnson has a PR of 19:15 and could possibly take in the silver spot here. Loral had a rough time at the recent Memphis Twilight so is likely looking to improve and show she still is a top contender and one to beat at any meet in the area!
For those that don't run this course very often (i.e., out of town schools), this is always a great test to see exactly where your fitness level is and what you have to do to prep for the state championships in November. And as always, this is a truly spectator friendly course... if you're willing to get in a bit of a workout that is.
See you on the track... and the grass!