Nike/Fleet Feet Coach Wood Invitational 2017 Meet Preview
The Nike/Fleet Feet Coach Wood Invitational enters its 15th edition as competitive as ever, with many ranked teams from all classifications descending on North Georgia's Gainesville campus for a day of fast racing and an electric atmosphere. Adding to that atmosphere will be Nike Oregon Project runner Craig Engels, who ran a 4:03 mile in high school, and went on to Ole Miss, where he helped his team win the National title in the Distance Medley Relay at Indoor Nationals, and placed 3rd in the 1500 at Outdoor Nationals. In 2016 at the Olympic Trials he placed 4th in the 800 and 5th in the 1500. With a PR of 3:37 for 1500, Engels has a lot of potential for success on the professional circuit.
The meet is named after Coach Rick Wood, who coached at South Gwinnett from 1985-2000. While there, he coached State Champions Art Cantu (1600/3200, 1987) and Josh Crowfoot (1995 and 1996 in XC, 1600/3200 in 1997). Crowfoot also qualified for Foot Locker Nationals in 1996, and graduated with PRs of 15:06 for 5K, 9:13 for 3200, and 4:17 for 1600. Coach Wood's teams won trophies in Class AAAA, then the highest classification, 5 years in a row, from 1991-1995. In 1992, his team won the Class AAAA State Championship. Although no longer coaching, Coach Wood still teaches science at Grayson High School, where he has been since 2000. His impact has been far reaching, as he inspired many runners he coached to become teachers and coaches themselves, including former Parkview Coach Josh Crowfoot, former Mill Creek coach Daniel Monroe, former Collins Hill coach Matthew Johnson, current Mill Creek coach Andy Christie and current Grayson coach Mac Bradbury. In 2015, Coach Wood was inducted into the Gwinnett County Cross Country Hall of Fame. He also was a High School State Champion in Tennessee, running 9:19 for 3200. Beyond his teaching and coaching abilities, it is Coach Wood's positive attitude and supportive personality that makes him beloved by all who were fortunate enough to have him as a teacher and coach. Coach Wood will be in attendance and starting the first few races of the meet!
Championship Boys Race
This race is stacked, with most of the top teams in the state across many classifications duking it out. Atop the heap of course is Milton, who has dominated so far with wins at every meet they've run, including Knights Crossing in Virginia. With a national ranking and 15:30s averages under their belt, the meet record boy's low score of 24 points (set by Crowfoot's 2004 Parkview team) could be in jeopardy. Also in the race is Marist, who won Battle of Atlanta and Double Dip and placed 6th at the competitive Trinity/Valkyrie meet in Kentucky, hopes to bounce back from an off day at Great American. The defending State Champions Lambert won the River Run and Furman XC Classic, were 2nd at Warpath, and 4th at Wingfoot, and an impressive 6th at Great American. St. Pius, also defending State Champions, won Berry and were 5th at Wingfoot, and finished 12th at Great American without one of their top 5. South Forsyth won the Pickens Preview, were 2nd at the River Run, 3rd at Warpath, 7th at Wingfoot, and 16th at Great American. Mill Creek won the Gwinnett County Championships, were 2nd at Berry, 9th at Wingfoot, and 20th at Great American. Lakeside Dekalb has emerged as a podium threat in 7A, taking 2nd at Double Dip, winning Aubrae Gunderson's large school division, and finishing 4th at Wendys. Finishing top 10 at Coach Wood as a team will once again take strong races from the Championship teams.
The individual race will feature another showdown between Jacob McLeod of Trinity Christian and Sam Bowers of Milton. After their epic dual at Wingfoot, won by McLeod by a mere .03, this should be another race for the ages. Someone who could make things interesting for them is Trevor Foley from Citrus Park in Florida, who has run in the 15:20s three times this season, but he may have to withdraw depending on his health. Other contenders for top 10 are Nicholas Yanek, Michael Malkowski, Samuel Milton, Ryan Beitzell, and Luke Bonneville of Milton, Robert Chappell of Alpharetta, Tyler Fox and Lee Keil of Lambert, Calan Gizelbach of Forsyth Central, James Cragin and Myles Collins of Archer, Rowan Wiley of St. Pius, Christian Corsello of Parkview, and Brennan O'Connor of Blessed Trinity. All of these runners have broken 16 and should create some thrilling matchups as they head towards the final straight.
Varsity Gold Boys
The Dawson County boys represent Class AAA very well, coming into the meet as a favorite to take the Varsity Gold title. They were 4th at Double Dip, 20th at the stacked Wingfoot Classic with a 17:14 average, and won the Eagle Invitational. Hoping to give them a challenge will be Marietta, who was 5th at the Cobb County Championships and ran a 17:22 average at Wingfoot. Northview was 2nd in the Varsity division of Wingfoot, 3rd at Covered Bridge, 3rd at the Fulton County Championships, and 2nd at Darlington. Kennesaw Mountain was 2nd at Pickens Preview, 5th at the Mustang Stampede with a 17:33 avg, and 15th at Berry with a 17:42 average. Allatoona was 6th at Cobb, and 12th at Berry with a 17:28 average. There will be plenty of competition in this race and important head to head match ups leading into Region, Area, and State.
Individually, Adrian Hernandez of Allatoona is the clear favorite, after winning Berry and the Cobb County title and running multiple sub 16 races. Also contending for top spots will be Kai Brickey and Anthony Urmetz of Collins Hill, Michael Smith of Northview, Will Bullock of Kennesaw Mountain, and Ben Gordon of Marietta.
Varsity Cardinal Boys
North Cobb, who was 10th at Cobb, and 12th at Darlington with an 18:18 average, looks to be the favorite. Johnson was 4th at the Hall County Championships and 2nd at the Winder-Barrow Invitational with an 18:41 average. Locust Grove was 19th in Varsity division at Wingfoot with 19:16 average, and 3rd at Strong Rock Patriot Invitational with 19:21 average. Every point will count to secure a team trophy in the last set of races of the day. Individually, Henry Plowden of Westover, and Justin George of Strong Rock Christian should lead the pack to see who the victor is in this race.
The South Forsyth girls have been dominant this year, and look to defend their State Championship from a year ago. They won Wingfoot, Double Dip, Warpath, and the Pickens Preview, a tremendous 4th at Great American and hope to add to their 1st place trophy collection. They will have to fend off Marist, who won the Battle of Atlanta, was 2nd at Double Dip, 2nd at Warpath, 3rd at Wingfoot despite being short-handed, and 7th at Great American. Marietta also hopes to earn some hardware, as they were 5th at Berry, Cobb County Champions, 2nd at Wingfoot, and 12th at Great American. Milton was 4th at Wingfoot, Fulton County Champions, 2nd at Knights Crossing, won Furman, and will be in the mix for a trophy. Woodland was 3rd at Double Dip, and 8th at Wingfoot. Harrison won Berry, were 2nd at the Cobb County Championships, and were 6th at Wingfoot. With ranked teams across all classifications in this race, every second will count towards helping teams be atop the heap.
It will be an eclectic mix of runners towards the front and Jackie Addy of Holy Innocents could lead the pack. Also factoring into the fray will be Naima Turbes of Westminster, Elizabeth Rice of Kennesaw Mountain, Josie Wirtz and Kathleen Maley of Marist, Haley Hooper of Lovett, Kaylee Dupont of South Forsyth, Morgan Vaden of St. Pius, Grace Ellsworth of Hillgrove, and Ellie Hall of Marietta. With many more sub 19 runners in the race, it should be a furious wave of harriers at the finish line.
Varsity Gold Girls
Flowery Branch is the favorite to seize the Varsity Gold trophy, with a 4th place finish at Warpath, 1st place at the Hall County Championships, and 2nd place at Carrollton. Kennesaw Mountain also will have eyes on a trophy, after finishing 4th at Cobb and 2nd at the Pickens Preview. Allatoona was 5th at Cobb and 13th at Berry with a 22:11 average so they will be competitive in this race. Forsyth Central was 16th at Warpath with a 21:24 average, and 8th at the River Run. James Clemens from Alabama was 5th at the Twilight Panther Prowl with a 21:57 average, and 3rd at the Scottsboro Invitational with a 21:29 average, and will be looking to surpass Georgia schools on their way to a great day. This highly competitive race will be a great preview for teams with aspirations of glory in Carrollton in 3 weeks.
Elizabeth Rice of Kennesaw Mountain and Erika Plummer of Flowery Branch on paper look to have a fierce battle with each other over the 5k course. Other contenders for individual glory are Shannon Hoolahan of Flowery Branch, Chloe Hetherington of Mountain View, Frankie Muldoon of Dawson County, Karmen LeRoy of Trinity Christian, Kayla Langston of Grayson, and Emma Hanson of Lakeside Dekalb. All of these runners have broken 20 and should help lead the charge in this race.
Varsity Cardinal Girls
North Cobb hopes to be victories in this race; they were 7th at Cobb, and 18th at Darlington with a 22:48 average. North Hall could play the spoiler though, after finishing 6th at the Pickens Preview, 3rd at the Hall County Championships, and 2nd at Eagle Invitational. Jefferson was 2nd at Aubrae Gunderson in the small school race, and 4th at the Jefferson Main Street News Invitational with a 24:16 average. Bishop Kenny from Florida was 3rd at the Golden Eagles Invitational with a 23:35 average, and 10th at Katie Caples Invitational with a 22:16 average, and will battle Georgia schools over the grassy course at Gainesville. Abby Jeske of North Cobb comes in with a PR of 19:38 and the only sub 20 times in the field, so she looks to be the clear favorite. Also hoping to be near the front are Maggie Dyer of Jefferson, Savannah Hudgins and Maggie Cayson of Tupelo, Rachel McGowan of Chattahoochee, Caitlin Schroeder of Jefferson, and Brooke Browning of Hebron. All of these runners boast PRs that are sub 21.