17th Annual Coach Wood Invitational Preview

53 schools and 2,900 runners will descend on McIntosh Nature Reserve on Saturday for the 17th Annual Coach Wood Invitational.  7 boys have a season average of under 16 minutes, and 9 girls have a season average of under 19 minutes entering the meet, and with temps in the 60s for the early races and the ground hard from a lack of rain, there should be some fast times put up as teams head into their Region, Area, and State Meets.  

The meet is named after Coach Rick Wood, who is now retired from teaching and coaching.  While coaching at South Gwinnett in the 1980s and 1990s, Coach Wood had numerous podium finishes in AAAA, then the highest classification. Highlights include his team winning the 1992Cross Country State Championship, and his runner Josh Crowfoot qualifying for the 1996 Foot Locker National meet after running 15:06 at the South Regional.  Coach Wood is a member of the Gwinnett County Cross Country Hall of Fame, and has been recognized by the Atlanta Track Club numerous times. 

Also, a part of the meet each year is the Hope and Hoppines Canned Food Drive, which benefits the Southeast Gwinnett Co-Op food bank in Gwinnett.  Coach Wood handpicked this cause as something he hoped the running community could rally behind. The food goes to families that are struggling with getting food, and is especially helpful as we head into the holiday season.  Please bring whatever you can! As added incentive, the team that brings the most will have their own portojohn for their team next year, and the coach will receive a Fleet Feet gift card. This year Parkview gets their own portojohn!

Finally, a word about the course: last year some of it had to be adjusted, due to flooding. Due to popular demand, as close to the same layout will be used this year, with runners once again making a few forays into the middle of the field, so that the course doesn't strictly stay on the perimeter.  It will be 5,000m long, with 2 coaches measuring the course at least twice each with calibrated wheels, adhering to the guidelines put forth by the GATFXCCA.  

Championship Boys top schools: Harrison (#1 All Class, #1 6A), Pope (#2 All Class, #2 6A), Lambert (#3 All Class, #5 7A), Brookwood (#6 All Class, #3 7A), Parkview (#7 All Class, #4 7A), Westminster (#10 All Class, #3 3A), Wesleyan (#1 A Private), Holy Innocents (#3 A Private), Lovett (#1 3A), Marist (#1 4A), St. Pius (#2 4A), Carrollton (#4 5A), Archer (#7 7A), Norcross (#8 7A), Marietta (#9 7A), Mill Creek (#10 7A), Homewood (AL), Scottsboro (AL), Vestavia Hills (AL)

As you can see, this race is loaded, and will provide bragging rights to the teams that can emerge from this all classification showdown.  Harrison and Pope lead the charge as the top all classification and 6A teams, but they will face stiff competition from a variety of schools, including Lambert, Gwinnett County Champion Brookwood, and Parkview, who was only 1 point back from Brookwood at County. 

For the individual race,  with Justin Wachtel deciding not to race, it looks to be a battle between Myles Collins (Archer), Sully Shelton (Harrison), Devin Wade (Whitefield Academy), Andrew Jones (North Hall), Sam Rich (Lakeside Evans), and Justin Strand (Vestavia), all who have run under 15:30 (and don't count out defending 7A State Champion Kyle Harkabus).  Maybe we will see a runner or two (or more) dip under the 15 minute mark!  

Championship Girls top schools: Marist (#1 All Class, #1 4A), St. Pius (#2 All Class, #2 4A), Hillgrove (#6 All Class, #2 7A), Marietta (#8 All Class, #3 7A), Harrison (#9 All Class, #1 6A), Milton (#9 All Class, #4 7A), Holy Innocents (#2 A Private), Wesleyan (#3 A Private), Westminster (#1 3A), Lovett (#2 3A), White County (#6 4A), Woodland (#4 5A), Pope (#3 6A), Allatoona (#4 6A), Parkview (#6 7A), Brookwood (#8 7A), Lakeside Dekalb (#10 7A), Homewood (AL), Scottsboro (AL), Vestavia Hills (AL)

Another unofficial all classification State Meet looms for this race, with 4A powerhouses Marist and St. Pius leading the charge.  Cobb County rivals Hillgrove (Cobb Champions), Marietta, and Harrison will also be in the hunt for coveted trophies.  With several other schools ranked in the top 10 of their classifications, this looks to be a stacked field that could produce some tight team scores!

The lead pack should consist of McKenna Trapheagen (Woodland), Mackenzie Walls (Veterans), Morgan Vaden (St. Pius), Lainey Phelps (Homewood), Kathleen Schellman (Marist), Mary Brady (St. Pius), and Grace Ellsworth (Hillgrove), all who have run under 18:20.  Just like the boys with the magical sub 15 mark, how many girls will we see go sub 18?

Varsity Boys: Paideia (#4 A Private), Whitefield Academy (#7 in A Private), Mount Vernon (#9 in A Private), North Hall (#4 3A), Hart County (#6 3A), Rome (#6 5A), Woodland (#8 5A), Allatoona (#6 6A)

On paper, this potentially looks to be a tight race between Woodland, Rome, Allatoona, and Paideia. With these teams running a variety of races over the season that are dissimilar, it is hard to pinpoint a favorite. But 3 teams will leave McIntosh with trophies!  Individually, Mikias Mekonen (Lakeside Dekalb) and Elijah McCauley (Paideia) have both been under 16. They will be pushed by Giovanni Jackerson (North Paulding), Matthew Brown (Hart), Sam Colton (Paideia), Patrick Motes (Rome), and Lukas McCorkle/Gabriel Bowman (Allatoona). 
Varsity Girls: Hebron (#6 A Private), Paideia (#8 A Private), North Hall (#5 3A), Rome (#6 5A).
The virtual meet says this should be between North Paulding, Rome, and Paideia.  However, Carrollton will hope to have a thing to say about that, and North Hall might be in the mix for a trophy as well.  Luna McCauley (Paideia) should head up the lead pack, but she will be chased by Caylee Wagner (North Hall), Emily Raeside (Mount Vernon), and Jordan Walter (Paideia).  A slew of other girls will be looking to get into the 20 minute mark and help their team lay claim to one of the 3 team trophies!

Meet Schedule

8:15am - Championship Boys (30 teams, 10 runners)

8:45am - Championship Girls (30 teams, 10 runners)

9:15am - JV Championship Boys (for Championship teams, 15 runners)

9:45am -JV Championship Girls (for Championship teams, 15 runners)

10:15am - JV Blue Boys - (for Championship teams - unlimited) 

10:45am - JV Blue Girls - (for Championship teams - unlimited)

11:25am - Varsity Boys - (up to 40 teams, 15 runners)

11:30am- 1st Awards Ceremony

11:55am - Varsity Girls - (up to 40 teams, 15 runners)

12:25pm   JV Cardinal Boys (for Varsity teams-unlimited)

12:55pm   JV Cardinal Girls (for Varsity teams-unlimited)

1:35pm or ASAP-2nd Awards Ceremony