The Clara Bowl gets its name from the field where the race starts and finishes. For years this race has been one of the biggest meets to kick off the season. Teams do many different things before the Clara Bowl weekend, but usually most teams have raced their full squad all out by the end of this racing weekend, and many of them choose to do this at Berry. The meet was moved up a week earlier this year, likely because of the school having their first ever football game the following weekend, so it will be interesting to see if teams show up the same way they have in the past. Either way, we all know that this is a going to be a big field. Sometimes the younger and less experienced runners can get lost in the pack and add big points to their team score. And for this reason the first 200 meters of the race is usually a mad dash to get a good position.
The big school race is usually the most crowded and produces the fastest times, and it looks like we will have a Georgia vs. Alabama border war this weekend. Mill Creek will be looking to defend their title from last year and they look stout after a win at the Stage Races. They will not have an easy task though as two fast teams from Alabama will join the mix. Auburn and Vestavia Hills both look capable of putting 5 guys under 17:00 to challenge the Hawks. St. Pius X is running up in the big race and could challenge for a trophy after placing a close 2nd at Stage Races. Harrison also had a solid showing at the Stage Races despite not running in every stage; a close pack could get them in the trophy mix as well. Parkview and Peachtree Ridge should also be ready to go as they make their season debut this weekend and shouldn’t be counted out.
Individually the race includes two runners who have run under 9:10 for 3200 in Mac Macoy of Vestavia Hills and Austin Sprague of St. Pius X. If these two runners duke it out from the gun we could see a couple of very fast times on Saturday. Behind them will be a great chase pack that should include Tyler Woodrome and Eric Westog of Mill Creek, Joey Ferrugia of St. Pius X, Kevin Mills of Peachtree Ridge, Owen Bailey of Woodstock, Peyton Price of Vestavia Hills, Nick Schofer of Parkview, and the trio of Lincoln, Ogburn, and Ruggles from Auburn.
Things are often much harder to predict on the girls side, especially early on in the season. You never know when a team will get a stud freshman or two that will drastically change the outcome of the race. But going in it looks like Peachtree Ridge is one of the strongest. Harrison is always strong on the girls side. And it looks like Woodstock, Mill Creek, and Dunwoody will also be able to challenge the lions for the win. In the past Vestavia Hills has had some strong showings and along with auburn they could challenge the Georgia schools just like on the boys side.
Individually this race should belong to Alex Cameron of Dunwoody. She has been running impressive times her entire high school career and we should expect great things from her as a senior. One runner to be on the lookout for this year is Lauren Hovis of Mill Creek who had an impressive showing to finish out the track season in Albany and ran well already at NEGA. The chase pack should also include a good group of girls consisting of Holloway of North Cobb, Wilson, Lippett and Williams of Peachtree Ridge, Melehan and O’toole of Woodstock, Warren of Hillgrove, and any other young up and coming runners ready to burst onto the scene this year.
Without Westminster in the race this year, this one is wide open for the taking. It looks like North Hall, Alexander and Darlington should battle for the top spot. Alexander had a good showing last week, but Darlington should be very familiar with the course. Other schools in the mix for a trophy are Cartersville, Pickens County, River Ridge, Carrollton, and White County. But don’t forget about some of those smaller schools like Lovett, GAC, and Galloway who could have some young talent ready to step up.
Individually this one could turn into a blowout. Reilly Friedman is a very good runner and looks like he is the class of the field. In the battle for second place there are many guys who could factor in. Bryce Schuebert and Quintin Miles from North Hall, Ducharme and King from Alexander, Carr from Mt. Paran, Kettle from GAC, Thompson from White County, and Ingram from Pickens should all be in the mix. Pickens was also led last week by a freshman Sean Parker who could turn a few heads with a big showing in a high profile meet.
In the girls small school race we have defending champions St. Pius X squaring off against a well-coached 3A opponent in White County. St. Pius X got a good win last week at the Mercy Invitational and already looks strong, but White County will be making their debut and will want to make a statement. Other schools that should be in the mix for a trophy are Providence Christian and Darlington which could give us a preview of the A-private state meet. A few other schools to be on the lookout for include Alexander, Lovett, Pickens County, and Baylor.
Individually Taylor Tuttle of Providence should be the favorite, though it should still be a close race. Jenna Gearing of White County and Alyssa Weaver of Pickens County are both very good runners. A few other individuals to look out for are Crawford, Entrekin, and Glenn of St. Pius X, Swanigan of Providence, Henry of Galloway, Camp of Alexander, Clevenger of Darlington, Branch and Tripodi of Lovett, and Mitchell of White County.