2016 Brooks Twilight Classic Preview

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Christian Brothers University and Brooks is bringing us the Brooks Memphis Twilight Classic again this year.  To those in the cross country community in the area that truly means cross country season is upon us.  This race has been going on for several years, and I'm even going to go out on a limb and say this is becoming a tradition.  I've seen results from back to 2004.  Coach Bill Hoffman has been involved with this race for many years and always brings in a very strong field along with a very organized group of volunteers to make sure the meet goes off smoothly.  And believe me, that is a huge accomplishment with a meet this large.  The course is absolutely spectator friendly, very fast, and is no doubt a fun race to be at!

There are always discussions going on about how early in the season this race I held.  Does a big - and very competitive - race like this help at the beginning of the season?  Is the heat an issue?  Should I or should I not run this race?  Well... let me answer it this way - you'd be making a mistake to miss this race.  Isn't racing, cross country or track, a matter of gaining the experience to continually improve.  Running against strong competition, no matter the level, is always good for athlete's development.  Maybe it's not the time of year you might expect a strong personal best performance, but you'd be hard pressed to not think it was.  The records set here are, well, impressive is a complete understatement.   17:35.07 for the girls 5K and 15:13.48 for the boys.  You may be running in the front pack or middle or even near the end, but if you're in this race, you're going to run fast!  You have too, it's the Brooks! 

So let's move on to talk about some of the runners coming out this weekend.  And I want to clarify something - I just looked through the entries and so there is a good chance I missed someone that should be mentioned as a top runner at this meet.  If I did, again - it was not on purpose - so just go down to the end of this article and point them out in the comments.  With this many very strong athletes and so many out of town runners, it's inevitable that I left someone out.  So add them below and tell us about them. 

Last year, Javan Winders won the boys 5K High school race and he took command about half way through the race and never relinquished it.  He's now in college and leaves his brother, Titus, to try and fill those shoes.  Well, Titus just ran a 16:11 last week, has a 16:08 PR, and is certainly poised to be a top contender at this year's version.  Oh, and last year their even younger brother, Silas, ran to a course record here for the middle school 2K distance (6:08.11).  And although I'm not reviewing the middle school race here, Dinah is these guys sister and will be running in the middle school 2K Saturday.  Like all her brothers, she's fast.  As a matter of fact, she ran a race about a week ago and fell during it but was able to get back up and finish.  She won.  So yea, she's fast for sure.


Noah Eskew of Jessieville high school in Arkansas is the past 3A XC champion and has a 15:49.70 post for the distance.  Noah is currently the #2 ranked cross country runner in the State of Arkansas and is likely one of the top athletes to watch Saturday. 

There's a team from Farmington High School in Missouri bringing a group of talented runners.  Leading their way, and likely one to be on Noah's shoulder here, is Ryan Parson.  Ryan has run 16:00.20 and has an impressive slate of times for the track as well.  Having run an 800 in 1:57, the 1600 in 4:19 and the 3200 in 9:36.58 makes him a very strong runner that obviously has a lot of track experience.  That track experience means he has the speed to finish strong.  He brings with him a couple of talented teammates in Evan Reeves (16:49.44) and Matt McElrath (16:48.60) that could very well vault this team near the top of the pedestal here on Saturday night.

A local runner from Houston High, Christopher Rayder, could be one the best chance for a local runner to win this in a while (Javan was kind of local last year, but I'm talking closer local).  Coming in with a 15:29.99 and ranked top 3 in the state for returning athletes certainly puts the bull's eye on him to be the first across the line.  That certainly will bring a local roar to the finish line.  Of course, there's a couple of Arlington guys that are going to try to get there first though.  Sena Murray (16:01) and Chris Walls (16:12) are going to want to play the spoilers and possibly vault the Arlington team towards the top as well.

A couple other local runners to keep an eye on will be Collierville's Adam Vanderen (16:09).  Adam has a 9:44 in the 3200 and so you know he has some speed endurance to pull through a good race here.  Germantown athlete, Joshua Topham, who I named as a Collierville athlete previously by mistake is also a good strong runner to watch.  Ray Wynne, a St. Benedicts top athlete on their team has a 16:25 in the 5K and ran to a top 12 last year at this race.  Ray doesn't dabble much in Track and so doesn't get the benefit of that speed work during that season, but still can run a fast 5K. 

And speaking of Division 2 athletes, I would keep a close eye on a couple of strong Christian Brothers high school runners in Kyle Edwars (16:24.33) and Zach Brazil.  Zach ran off a 10:06 3200 last week at the HokaOne race which was an excellent time trial for him and showed us where he is right now.  That could be dangerous for the other athletes too!   James Basse from Briarcrest ran a superb HokaOne last week as well and is going to be a strong runner all season and one also to watch as he improves upon last year's times.  And James has run 2:04 in the 800, so you know he has the speed to carry him through!

Jackson MO high school runner, Ean Buffington has a 5K PR of 16:17.90 but can run a 2 minute flat 800, a 9:52 3200 and ran to a 3rd place finish at the Missouri Class 4 District 1 championships proving he has the stamina to be at the front as well. 

Another local runner, Chance Rone, ran the Hoka One and ran a slower time than James did, but was in a slower heat and so likely could have went better.  His 16:33.35 PR in the 5K does put him as another local to watch.  He's clocked a 10:17 3200 in the past so he possesses some pretty decent speed as well.

A couple of guys hailing from Pearl MS high school are coming in with a decent resume and will be fun to watch here.  Aden Maddox, 16:29 who is a top 5 cross country athlete and has a very swift 5:01 mile that means he can crack out a fast race at any time.  His teammate, Chris Gates (16:32.79) also has a 9:57 in the 3200 and has posted a top 5 at the MHSAA state cross country championships.  These two teammates running times that close together could be very dangerous for some of these other teams Saturday. 

And keep an eye on the Har-Ber high school team from Springdale Arkansas.  Juan Gomez (16:39) and Sandro Ramirez (16:56) might want to work together as well and spring up the list of talented runners at this meet.  Juan has a 10:54 in the track 3200 and a 2:04 in the 800 so his speed is there and could be able to keep close contact with the fastest guys in the race. 

An Arkansas team that might also be one to have potential across the team competition is The Van Buren HS team.  Lead off by a couple of athletes with very close times are Remi Mulloy (17:14) and Travis Cooper who has a 17:15.21 and has run 11 in the 3200.  Their next two fastest guys are Colin Rogers at 17:55 and Cameron Rush at 18:24.  If they can pull down their last three guy's times, this could be a group that pushes ahead of a lot this weekend.  Hard to say they can be on the top of the podium, but certainly a possibility.

And finishing off the boys review, and remember that I certainly could have left off several athletes, is the Brookwood high school group from Georgia.  Leading off their team is Patrick Smith with a fast 16:18.10 coming into this meet, teammate Zunair Manzoor at 16:27.07, and the third fastest on the team with Jordan Bullock.  Jordan's time of 16:28.56 is enough to have this team considered among the fastest out there Saturday night.  The boy's high school race is going to be fun to watch.

Now the girl's race is not going to be a turtle race either.  The talent across the board both local and visitors is pretty impressive and will be exciting to watch.    The girl's course record was set in 2013 and although that might be a stretch to catch this season, but who knows, we might see a really good race at the top of the girls and they might do something with that mark.  I do know, the depth of the field here is strong and the race will be fast for sure!

I'm looking forward to watching the race that might develop between a couple of the top girls, Ella Baron of Houston being one of them.  Her 17:57.89 is a top seed from what I can tell and that is just a bit ahead of Starkville MS high school athlete Katie Mattox.  Katie comes here with a really strong resume and a PR of 17:59.54 in the 5K distance.  Katie also has a 10:56 in the 3200 and a 5:05 in the 1600.  Her resume also includes multiple year state champion in the 3200 and 1600.  Last year Katie was third at this Brooks Twilight to two seniors and you know she's gunning for a higher spot this weekend!  Ella was fifth last year and just a bit under 8 seconds behind. 

Ella's teammate, Michelle Myers, who was 11th last year here has shown a lot of improvement since the last year race and so she could vault up a bit here as well.  Michelle ran 19:28 last year at Brooks but went on to a faster time of 18:15.57 PR during the season and so she is coming in here a lot stronger.  She is likely to be top 5 at this race, if not better.  With these two girls leading the way for Houston, they look like a good bet lead this talented team to win the team competition.    The Houston team has depth and has had depth for a long time, so they don't like to lose! 


Making the trip from St. Charles Missouri will be Francis Howell HS athlete Madison Leigh.  Madison runs in the 18:08 range for the 5K and is also very impressive across the board in track.  Having a 5:02 for the 1600 and 10:55.47 for the 3200 is certainly going to have her in the lead pack at this race and one to contend with for sure.  That 18:08 was set a couple years ago, and she ran a low 19 last week - but the track times were last year so you know she is rebuilding her cross country resume as you read this!  And I doubt she's coming all this way to jog through the race. 


Here are three more athletes making the trip from out of town that you will need to watch as I'm sure they also will be there inside the lead pack.  Lauren Flynt comes here with an impressive 18:33 in the 5K and couple that with 11:00.67 and 5:06 for 3200 and 1600 respectively, this girl is fast and strong.  She comes in with the Brookwood high school team from Snellville GA.  Pearl MS athlete Hannah Pinter who has a strong 5K of 18:54.96.  Last year Hannah ran a bit back of the pack at this meet and ran to a 20:25 finish.  I can tell you this, since then, she has improved greatly and is likely one of the girls that won't have too many in front of her when she makes the turn into the stadium.  The last trifecta in this group is Notre Dame/Cape Girardeau MO athlete Alaina Baumgart.  Alaina has some strong experience in cross running have a 3rd place finish in the MSHSAA XC state championships.  She ran just behind Hannah last year at this race but no doubt will be with Hannah near the front come Saturday. 


A few more that we should watch will be Franklin HS (TN) junior Mikayla Prince. Mikayla ran 19:06 and was top ten in the Region 6 AAA XC meet.  She seems to run better the bigger the stage and this Brooks Twilight is nothing if not a very big stage!  Loral Winn who was a Memphis area runner in middle school and moved a bit ago to Dresden could also make this a homecoming in a way.  Loral runs a 19:50 for the 5K and has a 2nd place finish at the Region 7 A-AA XC meet.  She also has run a 5:08 in the 1600.  So you combine that, the fact that she's gaining speed and experience, this young athlete might just be a surprise for everyone this year.  Another one that might surprise everyone Saturday is Rachel Barnhardt of Greenbrier MS.  Rachel ran 19:28 but has some good track times as well. 

St. Josephs Academy in Missouri is bringing Ashleigh Weismiller who has a 19:35 time for the 5K distance and seems to have some good track times to help add to her interest.  Then we have Lainey Phelps from Homewood Alabama who really is another one to watch.  Lainey has good times across both cross country distances and the track distances.  She's sub 60 in the 400M and runs 19:12 for the 5K.  That's quite the combination.  But wait, there's one more thing to mention about Lainey.... she can pole vault 9'8"!  Now that's a combination I'm not sure I've ever seen! 

I'm sure there are some girls that I missed and like I said before, if so, just add a note about them in the comments below.  Bottom line, there is some talent coming into this meet and if you are a runner, you should be here... if you are a fan, you should be here... if you are checking out the competition this season, you will be there... and with so many colleges there well, nice way to watch some potential recruits!

Hope to see everyone there!

See you on the Track... and of course, on the grass!

Coach Ted