New Balance/Fleet Feet Coach Wood Invite Preview

The 16th Coach Wood Invitational brings with it some changes. One is a new sponsor in New Balance. The other is a new venue in McIntosh Nature Reserve. With the 2018 season being filled with extreme humidity and temperatures, hopefully the flat and fast 5k layout at McIntosh can result in many great performances before teams gear up for the post-season. Over 3,000 runners and 56 teams will see what they can do in cooler temperatures! 

The meet is named after Coach Rick Wood, who is a member of the Gwinnett County Cross Country Hall of Fame. Coach Wood taught and coached at South Gwinnett High School in the 1980s and 1990s, coaching numerous teams to the podium in 4A, then the highest classification. His 1992 team won the AAAA State Championship, and was one of the top teams in the Southeast. He also coached Josh Crowfoot, a 4 time State Champion in XC/Track and a Foot Locker National Finalist in 1996. His influence on his students and runners is immeasurable, and many of his former runners have entered the teaching/coaching profession themselves. Coach Wood retired from coaching in 2000 and from teaching this past May but will be in attendance and will start some races! 

The meet will also once again include the Hope/Hoppines Canned Food Drive, to benefit the Southeast Gwinnett Co-op. In the spirit of camaraderie (which is such a huge part of Cross Country), the goal is to help others in a tangible way by donating canned goods: all athletes and spectators are encouraged to donate and there is an award for the team that brings the most! With the holidays approaching, these donations can help to lighten the load of families in need. The food drive is named in memory of two people with ties to the Cross Country community: Hope McKenzie, daughter of former Shiloh Cross Country and Track coach (and also Gwinnett County Hall of Fame inductee ) Willie McKenzie and wife Susan McKenzie, and Tajay Hoppines, a Mill Creek Cross Country runner who graduated in 2012. 

Championship Boys 

Top teams: South Forsyth (#1 in 7A), St. Pius (#1 in 4A), Huntsville (AL), Westminster (#1 in 3A), Scottsboro (AL), Homewood (AL), Cambridge (#3 in 6A), Brookwood (#2 in 7A), Harrison (#4 in 6A), Hillgrove (#3 in 7A), Lovett (#2 in 3A), Marist (#2 in 4A)

With 7 of the top 10 teams in 7A, and 7 of the top 10 All Class teams, this race looks to feature some interesting match ups.  South Forsyth has been the top team in 7A all season long, but they look to face some stiff competition in St. Pius, who has been among the top 2 all class teams.  A trio of Alabama schools (Huntsville, Scottsboro, Homewood) look to represent their state well and see just how high up they can finish.  Cambridge is coming off a victory at Asics.  Brookwood has won many invitationals this year, including Battle of Atlanta, Carrollton, Gwinnett County, and Darlington.  Marist ran in the Seeded race at Great American and had the fastest average of the day for Georgia teams. Westminster, Harrison, Hillgrove, and Lovett also look to be fighting for their placement in the top 10 teams.  

Top individuals:

Devan Crow, North Hall; Justin Wachtel (Mary Persons), Jack Filan, Cambridge; Sully Shelton, Harrison; Calan Gizelbach, Leif Andersen, Marist; Rowan Wiley, St. Pius; Noah Hayes, Hillgrove; Will Penson, Huntsville; Hayden Judge, Scottsboro; Alex Thomas, North Oconee; Chris Cherono, Grayson, Will Stone, Homewood

A battle of heavyweights looks to make for a fast and furious battle on the pancake flat McIntosh layout. Devan Crow (15:08 at the Mountain Invitational) has been a beast this fall, but he will have to contend with the likes of Leif Andersen (15:15 at Great American), Justin Wachtel (15:36 at Release the Hounds), and Jack Filan (15:11 at Asics), who have also torched several courses this fall.  Others that have run sub 16 so far are Sully Shelton, Calan Gizelbach, Chris Cherono, Chase Condra, Rowan Wiley, Noah Hayes, Kamari Miller, and Andrew Jones. With a host of other individuals who could either break 16 or be in the low 16s, the finish line should be a blur of singlets as runners fight for the lowest place possible for their teams. 

Championship Girls 

Top teams: Marietta (#1 in 7A), Marist (#1 in 4A), South Forsyth (#2 in 7A), Woodland (#1 in 5A), Scottsboro (AL), Blessed Trinity (#2 in 4A), Homewood (AL), Cambridge (#1 in 6A), St. Pius (#3 in 4A), Lambert (#5 in 7A), Huntsville (AL) 

This race features 5 of the top 10 teams in 7A, and 7 of the top 10 All Class teams.  Marietta has been dominant this season, with wins at several races including Cobb County and Wingfoot, and an impressive performance at Great American this past weekend.  They will have to fend off several teams that are ranked near the top of their classifications in Marist, South Forsyth, Woodland, Cambridge, and St. Pius, not to mention Homewood, Scottsboro, and Huntsville from Alabama.  Whether anyone can knock off the favorite remains to be seen, but there will definitely be a fierce battle for all 3 trophy spots. 

Top individuals:

Ellie Hall, Marietta; McKenna Trapheagen, Woodland; Mackenzie Walls, Veterans; Jackie Addy, Holy Innocents; Grace Ellsworth, Hillgrove; Madelynne Cadeau, South Forsyth; Ashley Sechrest, Cambridge; Chloe Heetherington, Mountain View; June Mwaniki, Marietta. 

Ellie Hall is coming off of a sub 18 performance at Great American, but Naima Turbes ran sub 18 at Asics, so this should be a fun duel to watch.  McKenna Trapheagen ran 18:18 at Great American, and she will have to contend with Mackenzie Walls (18:29 at Release the Hounds), and Madelynne Cadeau (18:29 at Jesse Owens).  Also contending for top 10 spots will be Grace Ellsworth (18:32 at Great American), and June Mwaniki (18:32 at Great American). Many other girls have broken 19 this season, which will mean to get into the top 10-15 will take a gutsy effort in this stacked field. 

Varsity Boys
Top teams: Forsyth Central (without Gizalbach), Veterans, Holy Innocents, Collins Hill, Lanier, Mountain View, Hebron

Forsyth Central will be running without their top runner Calan Gizalbach, which affects how they'll do as a team. But the rest of their team will be racing to see how they match up with Veterans High School's strong squad. Also looking to be in the hunt for a top 3 trophy are Holy Innocents, Collins Hill, Lanier, Mountain View, and Hebron. 

Top individuals:

Caleb Hall, North Forsyth; Brandon Potra, Hebron; Collin Kilgore, Flowery Branch; Collin Jones, Carrollton; Michael Fabiano, Hebron; Josh Beam, Carrollton; Jayson Lynch, Hiram; Zach Mills, North Cobb; Eduardo Alvarez-Flores; Lanier, Zayed Makboul, North Cobb. 

The trio of Hall, Potra, and Kilgore should break away from the pack and see who can be the first to the finish line. Hall ran 15:53 at RMA Fall Runaway and has several strong performances under his belt this season. Potra ran 16:23 at Zack Wansley, and also was top 10 at the Gwinnett County Championships. Kilgore ran 16:22 at the Mountain Invitational.  It should be an interesting race to watch unfold!  After that, it will be a tight battle to see who can take the rest of the top ten spots and how many of them can be sub 17. s

Varsity Girls 

Top teams: Grayson, Chattahoochee, North Forsyth, Flowery Branch, Buford, Decatur
On paper, the battle for the 3 trophies should be between North Forsyth, Chattahoochee, East Paulding, Forsyth Central, and Flowery Branch. However, Grayson and Buford hope to crash the party and finish higher than what just straight results might suggest.  Decatur will be in the race but without top runner Haley Rose. With the variety of invitationals these teams have attended, it is hard to say who will come out on top.  The all important 4th and 5th runners will determine what could be some close finishes. 

Top individuals:
Rachel McGowan, Chattahoochee; Lydia Kenney, Hiram; Ava Carroll, North Forsyth; Hannah Grainger, Flowery Branch; Eva Ross, Grayson; Jordan Sullivan, Buford; Maddie Wheatly, Providence; Kat Sweeney, East Paulding; Anna Donelan, Duluth. With Haley Rose of Decatur not in this race, the door is wide open for someone else to grab the spotlight. McGowan ran 20:21 at Warpath. Kenney ran 20:53 at Asics. Carroll finished RMA Fall Runaway in 20:45. Ross crossed the line in 20:51 at Asics.  The much coveted top 10 spots will be hotly contested!

Finalized Schedule:

8:00 - Championship Boys (30 teams, 10 runners)
8:30 - Championship Girls (30 teams, 10 runners)
9:00 - JV Championship Boys (for Championship teams, 15 runners)
9:30 -JV Championship Girls (for Championship teams, 15 runners)
10:00 - JV Blue Boys - (for Championship teams - unlimited)
10:30 - JV Blue Girls - (for Championship teams - unlimited)
11:10 - Varsity Boys - (up to 40 teams, 15 runners)
11:30- 1st Awards Ceremony
11:40 - Varsity Girls - (up to 40 teams, 15 runners)
12:10 JV Cardinal Boys (for Varsity teams-unlimited)
12:50 JV Cardinal Girls (for Varsity teams-unlimited)
1:20 or ASAP-2nd Awards Ceremony