Memphis Twilight Classic Preview #2

Another Meet Preview - Twilight Cross Country Classic

Well now let's see... it's hot, yep... it's humid... yep... it's the end of August... must be time for the Twilight Cross Country Classic.  And that means one thing... lots of athletes coming out to the Mike Rose soccer complex ready to compete in this early season contest.  It's a given though that you'll see some frustrated athletes as well as some pretty happy ones after the finish of these races.  It's a chance to test your fitness level early on.  One thing for sure, and I can guarantee this... it will be a test for sure!  Nobody comes here for a Saturday night jog. 

I've seen muscle cramps and pulls, dehydrated athletes, even a broken leg!  And no, it's not Friday Night Lights here... it's Saturday night cross country!  You will definitely see some fast races.  They have a middle school competition that starts off the evening.  Following those athletes will be the jv and varsity high school events and the night finishes with what is normally a speedy group of College athletes.  For some of these College athletes, it's almost a homecoming of sorts as some have run this course as high school athletes. This course isn't that difficult, the hills aren't really that plentiful, but a couple areas are still going to give you a burn.  Ok, enough of the talk... this is mostly a preview of the high school races, and so let's get on to that. 

As has been the case for, well, I think just about since day one of this race, we will get a glimpse of some strong out of state athletes as well as some of the top TN runners.  Silas Winders, ranked as one of the top distance runners in the country is going to come out here will one thing in mind... and that is a win.  He's a State Champion in track for the 3200 and holds an 8:58 PR in that distance.  Couple that with a best of 4:12 for the mile, this guy can blister the grass off the earth, that's for sure!    Last year he ran well at this race but wasn't able to keep it going thru to the end.  Something interesting too, and not to put the pressure of him, out of all these fine athletes in the Winders family, this title is one that has eluded him.. so far that is!!

Cade Flatt of Marshall County Kentucky comes into this meet ranked as the top 800 runner in the class of 2022.  Cade boasts a 4:31 1600 time and is still a bit unseasoned in the 5K cross country distance but I would bet he certainly puts on a show this weekend and no doubt will jump up higher in the standings after the Twilight.  Another Kentucky product is Carson Kitchens who has a 17:39 5K time but could be a surprise to watch this Saturday as he also can run the 300M hurdles in a fast 44.75.  As most of you know, the 300's take a lot of gut to master and that mental strength could prove vital in the last kilometer of this race.  

Coming up from Texas is Miller Grove's Isaiah Billingsley who can run a 9:49 in the 3200 and has leg speed to drop him into a fast 800 (2:07).  Isaiah's 15:43 5K PR is certainly going to make him one that could give the Winders athlete a bit of a look.  Another one to keep a close eye on will be Blake Morris of Notre Dame in Cape Girardeau Missouri.  Blake has a 15:47 mark in the 5K but his 9:31 in the 3200M track distance is something that might be worth giving him a closer look.  Blake was 10th last year at the Twilight, which was a big jump from 2017 when he came in 38th.  So he's familiar with the course and for cross country, that can be a big advantage. 

Huntsville Alabama athlete, Keaton Watts, is another speedster that you better watch if the pack is tight coming into the stadium finish.  His 2:06 track 800 and 4:30 mile combined with a 15:48 5K time is a resume that can bode well on this fast course.  And being from Alabama, he's no stranger to the heat and humidity that the Twilight can be noted for!!

Daviess County is bringing one fast athlete in Brady Terry.  Having just ran a 16:09 at the Tiger Run in Louisville, and having a 5K PR of 16:04, this guy is starting out the season strong.  This team is also bringing some girls that we could very well see go under the 20 mark in Ainsley Taylor, EA Roberts and Emily Rempe

A couple of McCracken County (Kentucky) athletes are certainly ones to watch as well.  Wes Grogan, a senior with PR's of 9:54 (3200) and 16:22 for the 5K cross country could certainly be contending.  Wes also ran a 2:01 for the 800, so you know on this flat course, that could be an advantage!  Wes's teammate, junior Carew Ellington isn't that far behind (9:59, 17 flat) and if they work together like I expect to see, might just put the McCracken team near the top few finishers at this meet. 

Being on the border of Memphis here, Mississippi is not going to be left out of the talent pool at this meet by any means.  Oxford currently has one of the fastest MS athletes in Walt Johnson who will be here to compete.  Walt is a sub 10 3200M runner and can go low 16's for the 5K cross country length. 

Kirk Academy's Chase Rose could also be one to watch.  Having a mid-17 for a 5K cross country PR and a 2:01 800M track PR, this course might just be one to match Chase's eye and bust out a good race Saturday.  Add to that the confidence from being a 1600 and 3200 MAIS AAA state champion.  That's part of what cross country is about, you just never know how someone feels at the one specific start time on that one specific race day... or in this case, night! 

St. George's Allison Newman is certainly one talented lady to keep an eye out for Saturday evening.  She came in 7th last year currently holds a PR of 18:47 for the 5K cross country distance.  But her 5:08 for the 1600 and 11:13 for double that distance, combined with a 2:24 800 track run, you can immediately tell as the distance gets longer, this athlete gets stronger.  No doubt a top runner here this Saturday!

This year could be a very tight race between a couple of past Twilight Champions.  Dinah Winders who won this in an 18:38 last year and Presley Miles, the 2017 winner, look to make this an exciting head to head battle of champions.  Presley comes in with some pretty impressive times in the 800 thru 3200.  Her 2:11 for the 800 could pose some problems for the competition once she gets a glimpse of the lights in the stadium finish at this race.  However, let's not count out Dinah.  This Henry County athlete comes from a family of Twilight studs!  With Silas Winders in the spotlight to get his first Twilight victory, you can bet sister Dinah wants to make this a back-to-back win and take bragging right in this family.  If Presley is within touch by the end, she could take this race but if Dinah gets ahead early enough and can add some distance, she could pull a back to back.  With Presley having almost a minute better PR than Dinah, it's probably a safe bet to say she is the odds on favorite.  But this is cross country.  Expect the unexpected!!

I wouldn't write off McCracken County (Kentucky) junior, Maggie Aydt.  Maggie has an 18:31 PR for the 5K and a low 11:15 for the track 3200 and so you know will be right in the mix throughout this race.  Ciara O'Shea of Madison County comes to the Twilight with some swagger as well with her 18:41 time in the 5K distance.  I certainly believe we'll be seeing Presley, Dinah, Maggie, Ciara and Allison duking it out from the gun Saturday.  Watch this race folks, it will be one heck of an exciting one for sure!

If you're watching this meet over the years, you know that we have both local and out of state athletes taking tops spots.  So who do you consider as the top local area athlete that could contend this Saturday?  Arlington's Jackson Williams is an obvious choice, especially seeing that he just ran a 16:20 at the Myrtle Invitational last weekend.  That time is around 45 seconds faster than what he ran at the race last year.   Jackson ran a 16 flat at the Frank Horton last season.  If I were to wager something here, it certainly seems like Jackson is starting off on a very strong note this year and so be sure to watch him as he most certainly will get a better spot than last year's Twilight! 

Robert Dawson and Travis Jones both were 2 and 3 behind Arlington's Williams at their 8AAA championships.  These Bartlett guys though are likely to be looking to start out this year strong as well as move up in the rankings this season.  Could be a good battle between Arlington and Bartlett, both for the top team spot and the individual places!  Bartlett looks to have a bit more depth and so I may lean towards them on Saturday to get some bragging rights.  

The local girls side is going to be a good race as well to watch.  Allison Newman ran a 9th place finish last year and was beat out for top local spot by Arlington's Skylar Boogerd.  With Skylar graduated, Allison is certainly going to want to make a statement here.  Arlington's Ann-Marie Braese took 2nd place in last year's cross country 8AAA meet and she is just now coming off a win at the Myrtle Invitational last week where she's was only seconds off her PR.  This up and coming young star could see a huge break thru at the Twilight this year.  Madeline Harreld of Houston made a top 20 finish last year at this race and seems to be a leader on the Houston team and may just be a dark horse to sneak up on the locals. 

This meet starts out with the Middle School athletes, then the Junior Varsity and Varsity high school squads and finished with the college competition.  So come early and stay late, it's certainly going to be a fun night of racing.  And with a meet this size, I'm sure I left someone off that should have been mentioned.  And no, I'm not going to quote something from a recent television commercial for some kind of peanut butter candy cup.  But you can fix that by commenting on the athlete I may have missed in the comment section of the article - and also, get a good run in Saturday so we can talk about that!! Good luck to all the athletes and come one and all to a great meet.  Thanks again to the Christian Brother University crew that makes this meet one of the best in the area for sure! 

See you on the grass... Coach Ted