Opening Weekend Features Great Early Season Races
Its finally here, opening weekend of the 2012 Cross Country Season and it begins with a bang as several of the biggest Invitationals this Fall will keep us all interested until the final results are submitted and we find out which teams have been doing their Summer training and have come out racing as opposed to those who begin slowly and with a crecsendo peak at Region and State. What teams and Individuals will turn it loose this Saturday morning? Well, it has been confirmed that Bailey Roth's family has moved to Colorado which hasn't been a big secret among running circles in the know so that takes care of "Where is Bailey and Gabby Roth?" early on. And who is this Super transfer that McIntosh HS had the good fortune of landing on their already strong squad? What freshman will have breakout performances and announce their presence with authority with a sub 17 (Boys) or sub 20 (Girls) effort?
Currently the NEGA Championships at Athens Christian is pushing to over 1600 entrants, Bob Blastow should surpass 1600, with the Mercy Invite close behind nearing 1400. The Mid-State Classic down in Perry has nearly doubled in size drawing many of the top Central Georgia squads. The Pickens Preview also has attracted 21 schools and features many of the top schools northeast and northwest of the Metro Atlanta area. The Walton-Peachtree Ridge Stage Races will draw many of the top Gwinnett and Cobb schools as they blaze the traditional 2 Mile distance at River Green in Duluth. The Spalding Invitational will be held at their HS course and the XC Kickoff Classic will be at Daffin Park in Savannah.
The Mercy Invite has once again attracted a large field with many of the top Catholic programs in attendance including Marist, Blessed Trinity, host Our Lady of Mercy and the St.Pius girls team. The OLM Course is 1.05 mile loop course, mostly wooded trails, along with two open fields. Runners finish with a 300 meter stretch on the stadium track. The course has been widened on the north side of our campus to open up the race.On the boys side invading the campus will be top ranked Norcross as they placed 3rd in 5A 2011 at Carrollton. The Marist squad, though traditionally slow starters may give them a run for their money Saturday. There are quite a few top 10 schools also competing from 1A Private, including Galloway, First Presbyterian Day, and Pace. Blessed Trinity from 3A, Riverwood from 5A ccould also make it tight for a top 5 team finish.
The Varsity Girls race has the promise of being exceptional with many talented squads competing for first place. Blessed Trinity, having moved up to 3A is resounding favorite to win AAA in 2012…led by Bailey Willett and unbelievable depth up front. St. Pius X placed 2nd at State in 3A, just behind champion Columbus (now in 4A),..Marist as always has to be considered a frontrunner led by sophomore sensation Morgan Ilse. A horde of ranked Girls squads will be there from 1A Private including First Presbyterian Day, Galloway, Pace, Holy Innocents and Pinecrest Academy. Whitewater and Riverwood International should represent 5A very well. Katherine Yost of Norscross seems to hold the upper hand as the favorite to be the top individual in the Varsity race. by Bruce Taylor
This year’s Pickens Preview includes 18 high school teams along with 9 middle school teams and running clubs, and is expected to draw upwards of 800 to 1000 runners. The course at Roper Park is true cross-country alternating between grass, wooded trail, asphalt, gravel road, and sidewalk surfaces. It includes long straight sections, but also some challenging hills along with runs back and forth through a short tunnel between Roper Park and the wooded trail behind Pickens County Middle School.
For the boys, teams in attendance and mentioned in the preseason rankings include Sequoyah and Creekview (watch list / 5A), Pickens (#4 / 4A), Cartersville (#7 / 3A), and Darlington (#2 / 1A - Private). Those teams along with S. Forsyth (6A) and Rome (5A) will likely contend for one of three team trophies. On the girls’ side, Rome and Creekview (watch list / 5A), Pickens (#5 / 4A), Northwest Whitfield (# 9 / 4A), Cartersville (watch list / 3A), Darlington (#4 / 1A - Private), along with the teams from W. and S. Forsyth look most likely to be in the mix to take home some team hardware.
Individuals who will likely be in or close to the lead pack and vying for top 10 medals for the boys include Ryan Pepperhorst and Reed Vaughn of S. Forsyth, Austin Ryan and Hunter Carter of Creekview, Christopher Costa and Ryan McNeil of Sequoyah, Drew Bellows and Wyatt Ingram of Pickens, Isaac Pacheco of N. Murray, Roger Herrera of Cartersville, Joe Mayes of River Ridge, Mike Costellanos of Rome, and Andrew Hudson of Darlington. For the girls, Lauren Hooper of Darlington, Alyssa Weaver of Pickens, Frannie Wilson and Jenna Tilton of Rome, Lauren Johnson and Rachel Garabedian of Creekview, Lydia Moyer, Tricia Surber, and Rachel Shah of S. Forsyth and Sarah Jenkins of W. Forsyth will likely lead the throng of runners around Roper Park and contend for the win and individual medals.
The middle school races will also include some fast young ‘uns from m.s. teams associated with some of the high schools attending along with some accomplished area running clubs. There are always a few surprises and “out-of-nowhere” individuals and teams who have been lurking under the radar, and who will burst into the limelight this time of year. The weather looks to be shaping up nicely for some fast early season times. Cheering fans will line the course especially towards the start and finish for an electric running atmosphere on Saturday morning in Jasper.