Alexander/Asics Championship: Preview and Course Description

The time is growing near, the day most of us have been looking forward to since many larger meets were canceled in August due to the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Alexander/Asics Invitational is now 143 high schools strong with 4000 athletes registered with a full day of racing on the slate. Beginning with the Open race at 7:30 am, and ending with the 1A-3A JV boys at 5:30 pm. MileSplit Georgia will be onsite, shooting photos and race videos throughout the day. Its forecast to be a beautiful day. A bit chilly at sunrise around 47 degrees, but warming up to 72 with a nice cool breeze throughout the day. Check out below the course video, course map, and two different takes on descriptions of the newly forged course. 

A tranquil area at Chatt Hills, horses must love this place! Hopefully, the runners will too... 

Coach Robinson's course description
(Meet Director)

Two loop course, the first 430 meters is downhill into the lower field. At 610 meters you turn right and run straight for just under 600 meters then you turn right. The 2 mile is on the lower field trail. Once you turn right you are on what I call the 'Tony Stark Trail', because the cabin from 'Avengers Endgame' where Tony Stark was living is located on this trail. This trail is 570 meters and is completely straight. The surface is the same as McAlpine Park in NC where Footlocker Southeast is every year. The 1 mile and 2.5 mile is at the same location on this trail. After leaving this trail you will go up two hills. The first hill is about 100 meters and the second is about 30 meters. Then you will go downhill for about 300 meters on the first loop and 400 meters to the finish. This part of the course is exceptionally fast, so expect a fast finish.

Coach Carr's course description
(Milton raced at Fulton County meet)

The Alexander/Asics NEW course at the Chattahoochee Hills Eventing venue is not as fast as the ASICS course at Foxhall Sporting Club. On this new course, located on 8,000 acres, runners have a climb on each loop about 3/4 of the way through, rising about 30-40 feet - nothing major, but it is not flat. The first 450-500m is downhill, and all the grass is thick. Another cut of the grass and rake up before Saturday would help. At 500m, the course flattens out, but it is also an area where water collects, so it is swampy/muddy, and tonight's (Monday) rain will not help that area dry out. Runners make a 90 degree right turn and stay on the thick grass for about 250-300m (halfway through this stretch is the 2-mile mark which you pass on the 2nd loop of the course), and then they head up a short rise of gravel to another right turn onto some hard-packed sand/dirt which runs along the lake. The course remains flat through the mile on that dirt path. At the end of the dirt trail, runners drop down a little gully and across a land-bridge (all grass) and then begin the climb up two short, somewhat steep hills. After cresting the 2nd hill, the course again slowly turns to the right and runs along the entrance/parking road as the runners drop back down towards the start line. The course heads back behind the start line, and runners re-enter the course after another right turn, about 80 meters down from the start. That loop is then run a second time - when runners go by the back of the start line again, the 2nd time, they continue straight and downhill along the entrance road and towards the finish line. The course is very pretty, and it is good and fair, but the thick grass and humidity slowed times last week at the Fulton County Championships - The very wet grass and clippings still on the course did not help for fast times. Looks like we will have better conditions for Asics.

Great Runners at Asics From the Past 
We have had so many great runners run in our invitation it is impossible to include everyone. Here is a list of some of the top runners to run in our invitational over the years.

HS Girls Footlocker Finalists:
 Lauren Blakenship Wesleyan
Emily Reese Chamblee
Kathryn Foreman Landmark Christian
Lindsay Billings Northview
Emma Grace Hurley Fellowship Christian
Savannah Carnahan South Forsyth
Nicole Fegans Landmark Christian
Anna Marian Block Athens Academy

HS Boys Foot Locker Finalists:
Joe Thorne Lakeside, Dekalb
Stephen Haas North Mecklenburg
Girma Mecheso Meadowcreek
Josh Brickell Peachtree Ridge
Brad Hort McIntosh
Jacob Mcleod Trinity Christian
Kyle Harkabus East Coweta
John Higginbotham
Justin Wachtel Mary Persons

NXN Finalists:
Reiley Friedman Galloway
Graham Blanks Athens Academy
 Serena Tripodi Lovett
Hannah Miniutti Blessed Trinity

 Also worth mentioning that have competed at Asics Invitational are:

 Myles Collins Archer
Devin Wade Whitefield Academy
Nick Nyman Starrs Mill
Chase Kennedy East Jackson
Chandler Kennedy East Jackson
Kevin Mills Peachtree Ridge
Nahom Soloman Shiloh
Andrew Kent Lakeside, Dekalb
Naima Turbes Westminster
Tayler Tuttle Providence Christian  
Boys Championship Race

This race is what the XC lovers have been waiting for. On the new 2-loop course, 32 squads with 21 individuals will blast off the starting line. The course seems wide enough per the video that there is some room to maneuver and pass. 
Teams in Contention

Marist Boys at 9-19 Tri-meet

St. Pius X: Ranked #7 all-class, Pius X hasn't run full strength yet this season, maybe Saturday will be the day. Their tight 1-5 split makes them very dangerous in a large race like this. Ryan Boyle is their #1. Coach McClay is very savvy, and his focus is on State. 

Marist: #6 all-class, the War Eagles bested St. Pius X on their home turf with 'double dips' in play. Dramatically improved since 2019 when they finished 7th in 4A. Diego Palmisano and Jaylen Mallett are a strong duo upfront.

Viera HS: Melbourne (FL) The Hawks have the 23rd fastest team average all-classes in Florida. They boast a strong top 3 in Robbie Naberhaus, Cameron Rainey, and Aeden Rendek.

Bolles: Jacksonville (FL) The Bulldogs of Bowles could be the favorite to capture the team title at Asics. They boast the 3rd fastest team average in Florida (16:31) and a tight 1-6 pack.

Marietta: #3 all-class, the 7A Blue Devils are a threat to finish higher led by Kamari Miller and super-soph Jared Fortenberry. Their fate will depend on the performance of their 2-5 runners.

Denmark: The #9 all-classes Great Danes have been up and down this season, but lately it has been all up. Ethan Ashley is their top harrier. They also boast a pair of twins, juniors Tavian and Xavier Anderson who have been key.
Individuals to Watch

Justin Wachtel
Justin Wachtel: Wachtel is unbeaten this season and no one has come close. The Foot Locker National finalist has a pr of 15:03 and will finally have some real competition to race against at Asics.

Kamari Miller: Miller has had a Fall XC season for the ages, including the unbelievable 14:07 he turned in at the Bob Blastow meet (3-mile) Kamari is undefeated, but like in 'Mad Max Thunderdome', "two men enter, one man leave" this Saturday.

Sam Rich: A star at Lakeside Evans for three years, Rich transferred to Catawba Ridge HS in Fort Mill, South Carolina. He's currently ranked #1 in all-classes posting a 15:06 at the Lakelands Invitational on 9-26. His former competitors in Georgia will warmly welcome him back.

Andrew McGinnis: Much like former Georgia great Jacob McLeod, a junior, McGinnis comes from a small school (Calvary Christian) and competes in the growing GAPPS, but has run great in GHSA events including Bob Blastow where he posted a 15:08.

Woodrow Dean: Not a known name in Georgia, all the Tallassee, Alabama native Dean did was the cross the Hooch' and torch the field at the AT&T Panther meet back on 9-5 going 15:32. Dean is undefeated this Fall and may well have designs on keeping it that way.

Michael Toppi: This guy has been busy, wow, seven races thus far this Fall. He is Viera's top harrier having a pr of 15:34 at the Cecil Field Summer Classic on 8-21. He should be well-rested for Asics having not raced for two weeks.
Girls Championship Race

This may turn out to be a team battle between Bolles HS (FL) and Waxhaw Jogging Institute, aka Cuthbertson HS, (NC). Should be a battle royale to determine the top Georgia squad between the catholic triumvirate of Marist, St. Pius X, and Blessed Trinity.

Teams in Contention

Blessed Trinity gals at Bob Blastow

Bolles HS: The Lady Bulldogs of Bolles HS have won many state titles. They are currently ranked the fastest squad all-classes in Florida with a team average of 19:12. Their top 5 is nearly unmatchable with a 1-5 split of :37... Any of their top 3 can be the top runner on any given day.

Waxhaw Jogging: This a club team, that is actually Cuthbertson HS out of North Carolina. Its been a strange Fall of teams in this state with no scholastic competition allowed due to COVID-19. Waxhaw comes in with the 2nd fastest team average in North Carolina at 19:08. Madeline Hill will be in a lead chase pack Saturday trying to track down speedy Hutchins.

Marist: After a shocking loss at 4A state in 2019, the War Eagles have come back with a vengeance this fall and are currently #1 in all classes. They bested St. Pius X and Blessed Trinity at their home Tri-meet back on 9-19. Ruby Little is the top freshman in Georgia.

St. Pius X: The #2 all-classes Golden Lions have an incredibly strong top 3, and were missing a top 4/5? runner at the 9-19 Marist meet. The 2019 4A champs moved up to 5A this season. Mary Brady is their top harrier.

Blessed Trinity: The Lady Titans appeared to have it all early this season. They have not been full strength since the Bob Blastow Invitational on 8-22. NXN finalist Hannah Miniutti has been absent the past 3 weeks but should be back for Asics as well as Katie Hamfeldt.

Viera: The Lady Hawks of Viera HS are not to be overlooked. Viera has the 3rd fastest team average all-classes in Florida at 19:35. Isabella Babilonia is a front runner to be watched Saturday.

Individuals to Watch

Jenna Hutchins

Jenna Hutchins: The junior from Science Hill HS (Johnson, Tennessee) Hutchins is on a whole nother' level than the field. Having a season-best of 16:25 (twice) The 2019 Foot Locker South Champ and 5th at Foot Locker Nationals is scary good. As loaded as this field is, Jenna is just too fast... She would have been a favorite to win the 2020 Foot Locker National Championships.

Isabella Babilonia: The senior from Melbourne has been on a tear winning six of seven races thus far in 2020. Isabella has a season-best of 18:13 in early August. but has been very consistent her past three races with times ranging from 18:30 - 18:36. The Asics course will be a test as courses in that area of Florida are very flat and Chatt Hills does have some elevation changes.

Madeline Hill: The senior from Cuthbertson HS (NC) is currently the 5th fastest female runner in the weird 'club-like' season North Carolina is having. What is very telling is her 18:15 ran at the 'Hare and Hounds' meet on the McAlpine Park course (Foot Locker South)

Makena Gates: The Creekview senior is currently the fastest HS girl in Georgia with a season-best of 18:24 at Warpath. Makena has really pushed the envelope at Foot Locker South, placing 11th/2018 and 14th/ 2019. She has won 2 XC state titles (2017-2018)

Alyssa Preisano: This up and coming sophomore of Waxhaw Jogging (Cuthbertson HS) will be in a large chase pack trying to keep Jenna Hutchins of Science Hill within 'hailing distance' - Star Trek reference. An 18:34 pr at McAlpine Park means she has a big upside.

Ashley Thompson: This junior from Gainesville HS is one of the most improved top runners in Georgia. Thompson has established herself as a contender to win the 7A state title having a pr of 18:35 at the Warpath Invitational.

Sophie Boice: The Pope junior has been a model of consistency this Fall. Sophie has won 3 races, including the Cobb County Championships, and posted a 19:34 at Carrollton in 100-degree heat back on 9-12. Her nemesis is Gates from 6A Creekview, they will matchup at Asics and State.

Mary Brady: The St. Pius X senior has done what former Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis said best, "Just win, baby." And that's what Brady has done, undefeated this season going back to Bob Blastow where she clocked a 17:38 (3-mile) This will be her biggest challenge thus far.