Coach Roy Benson Double Dip Preview
Coach Roy Benson
The Coach Benson Double Dip Invitational is named in honor of the legendary coach, Roy Benson. He coached at the University of Florida from 1969 to 1979 as the head cross country coach for seven years and head track and field coach for three years. Coach Benson was a senior contributor to Running Times magazine for 25 years, and founded and directed the Smoky Mountain Running Camp for 40 years. From 1993 to 2008, Coach Benson served as a community coach at Marist, where his girls and boys teams won sixteen state championships in cross country, and individual runners won a total of twenty state titles in cross country and track. He is now semi-retired on Amelia Island, Florida, where he serves as volunteer head cross country coach at Fernandina Beach High School. Coach Benson will be in attendance this weekend.
Girls Team Race
The defending AAAA state champions from Marist were the best team in all classifications last season, and they return four of their top seven this year. Morgan Ilse is a champion, Caitie Faust turned herself into one of the state’s best 800 m runners last spring (AAAA state champ), Kendall Nelson matured into a two time state runner-up behind Ilse, and Myriam Shehata has run on three state champion teams at Carrollton. All four make their season debut this week. Look for freshman, Josie Wirtz, to improve every week after an impressive debut performance at NEGA. Marlaina Schwab and Emily Harrast also looked good at NEGA, and both will be fighting for the #5 spot this week.
Expect Etowah to push Marist hard for the title at Double Dip. Last year they were the team that got closest to Marist, just one point behind at Warpath. These girls captured a major win over rival, Marietta, at the Saucony XC Kickoff Classic, and that was without the services of #2, Kyla Resnick. Kingsley Green is a true front runner, easily winning the Savannah meet by over a minute. Shelby Rensel, Julia Turbyfield, and Madison Fowler complete a formidable top five. Jaylin Lucier and Macki Walsh should round out the top seven.
The twitter feed for the Wolverines of West Forsyth has been asking, #whynotus, all summer long. After a big win at the Stage Races we couldn’t agree more. Liz Galarza had the second fastest time of the day at River Green, and Julie Ericson was not too far behind. Dara Niemi, Stephanie Shea, Amanda MacArthur, and Kim Gibson also had great races. They come into Double Dip with a ton of momentum, and if it transfers well to a tough 5k course expect them to make a splash.
South Forsyth has a lot of firepower up front with the trio of Savannah Carnahan, Kaylee DuPont, and Milicent Bergey. DuPont, a freshman, finished a strong 2nd to Carnahan at NEGA, and Bergey was a top ten performer in the race as well. Emma Maisel and Taylor Coleman also had strong outings at NEGA to round out the top five. This team has great depth, and it’s very possible we will see a couple of new faces in the top seven this week. Other teams looking for a podium spot: Dunwoody- 2nd at Berry, St. Pius X - 2nd at Bob Blastow, Lovett - 3rd at Berry, and Collins Hill.
Five Girls to Watch
Morgan Ilse - Marist - Six time State Champion in AAAA.
Savannah Carnahan - South Forsyth - Two time State Runner-up (1600,3200- 2014), 2014 NEGA Champion
Kingsley Green - Etowah - 2014 Saucony XC Kickoff Classic Champion
Serena Tripodi - Lovett - AA State Champion (1600), AA State Runner-up (3200, XC), 2014 Berry runner-up
Liz Galzara - West Forsyth - 2nd overall at the Stage Races
Boys Team Race
Woodward Academy placed its entire top five in the first thirteen spots at Bob Blastow. Led by senior, Alex Murfee, who scored a win with a sub-16 minute performance, the rest of the top 5 were all under 17 minutes. This is a senior laden team which includes Ben Murray, Drew Sands, Collin Silliman, Simon Willis, and Wilson Harris. Brennan Silliman, a sophomore, was the only non-senior in the mix at the five spot. Woodward finished 2nd at Double Dip last year. They may have the team to win it this year.
Lakeside may not be as far behind Woodward as it first appears. Yes, they ran the same course at Bob Blastow. Yes, their team average was 16 seconds behind Woodward. But, Lakeside ran in the second (hotter) varsity race. It will be great to see these two teams go head to head in the same race. Davis Stockwell, a junior, finished second in AAAAA last November, and appears to be rolling again. Andrew Kent, Connor Keisling, and Tyler Breeden ran well as a pack at Blastow. If Weston Warncke can join them this weekend, Woodward could be in for a surprise. Dan Nelson and Max Steele round out the top seven.
It’s probably fair to say the course at the Saucony XC Kickoff is slower than Bob Blastow. How much slower? We’re not sure, but the boys from Etowah were only 20 points behind the tremendous squad from Marietta. That has to make them a favorite at Double Dip this weekend. Senior, Michael Perona, led the way for the Eagles in 3rd place. Five other boys - Wall, Matthews, Cooke, Donley, and Reiser - were under 18 minutes in Savannah. Don’t count them out.
Defending AAAAA state champions & defending Double Dip champs, Flowery Branch, have yet to run a 5k this season. In fact, it appears they only had one runner at the Stage Races. Senior, Miguel Martinez, was the 10th place finisher in at Carrollton a year ago in AAAAA. Jake Shewbert went sub-10 in the 3200m this past spring. Grant O’Callaghan and Shawn Olmstead look to contribute as well. But, what else will Flowery Branch have in store? Despite the unknowns, it’s clear that Jimmy Sorrells is one of the best coaches in the state, and his teams perform when it counts. Expect the same this weekend. Other teams looking for a podium spot: South Forsyth - 3rd at NEGA, Marist - 4th at NEGA, Collins Hill
Five Boys to Watch
Robby Keough - Whitefield Academy - A state champion (1600), 8th at 2014 Battle of Atlanta
Frank Pittman - Marist - 2014 NEGA Champion
Michael Perona - Etowah - 3rd overall at Saucony XC Kickoff Classic
Alex Murfee - Woodward - 1st overall at Bob Blastow Early Bird
Davis Stockwell - Lakeside - 4th overall at Bob Blastow Early Bird