Blaha and Ashley had a thrilling finish at the Asics Invitational. We can all only hope that we see these sort of fireworks again. Skip ahead to 4:51 to relive the exciting finish.
Hillgrove Twilight 3200m Preview
I wonder if this thing should be renamed the Mike Pence Twilight. Anyone who lives near the city and relied on I-285 to get to Hillgrove last year may remember that Pence was visiting the city, and his crew went the wrong way around the perimeter and therefore shut down the entire city... just in time for the vast majority of us were trying to head to Hillgrove. I think most of us made it... barely. Or hey - maybe a better idea! We should just run this meet going the wrong way around the track instead! Joking... possibly?
This "meet" is set to be incredible. Many, many of the top runners in the State have elected to either continue or finish their seasons at Hillgrove seeking a 3200m PR. The weather will be incredible - around 45 degrees with very little wind and no chance of rain. When you put a bunch of fast kids on the track together in Fall weather in prime physical condition? Special things happen. I predict that tomorrow night will be truly special. Let's get to it.
Boys Feature Heat: Currently, there are 16 boys entered with seeds of 9:30 or faster and a further 23 boys seeded between 9:30 and 10:00. 128 (!!) total boys are entered in the field which means lots and lots of racing. In the feature heat though, all eyes will be on Ethan Ashley and his very public attempt to break the illustrious 9:00 barrier. He went 9:03 last year at the 2021 Wingfoot Night of Champions
and has been far more successful this XC season than last; the question just remains - how sharp is he for a 3200m? Well, the kid is undefeated this season and nearly broke 15:00. His last loss in competition was that 3200m (to Andrew Jones's 9:01). Will he have any help? Can he coax a rabbit or 2 for the assist, or will he have to do it on his own? Well, some others in the field might just be saying "Hold up, Mr. Mid-30s and Past His Prime; I'm racing, too!" The field includes a slew of talented boys. There are 5 other State Champions entered! We've got Christian Gonzalez (5A), Edward Blaha (2A), Andrew McGinnis (GAPPS), Joe Sapone (1A Private), and Hayes Trapp (GISA). Add to the mix the likes of Ethan Nordman, Jared Fortenberry, Caden Hall, William Carlton, Ryan McKee, Zack Burke, and Kaleb Ellis? Dang. Blaha and Ashley taking it to the line at Asics.
McGinnis Holds off Gonzalez at Meet of Champions. Photo by Marc Logan
Hall and Nordman at State two weeks ago. Photo by Brian Henley
Sapone won Wingfoot. Photo by Marc Logan.
Fortenberry is a top contender too. Photo by Marc Logan.
Blaha went 9:09 at Night of Champions last year and took Ashley to the wire (0.01 seconds!!) at Alexander / ASICS earlier this season. Could revenge be in mind? Gonzalez and McGinnis had an epic showdown at Meet of Champions (Gonzalez prevailed 15:26 to 15:28 for 2nd and 3rd overall) and both, as stated, are State Champions. They know how to win, so you have to believe they'll put themselves up there, too. Sapone has only lost once this season (8th at Coach Wood), so he's easily in there. Nordman, Hall, and Fortenberry are all 7A foes who took 3rd, 4th, and 7th respectively at State; where will they stack up? And then we've got an "outsider" in Woodrow Dean coming to town. Dean went 15:20 at the Alabama 5A State Championship, narrowly missing out on a title by under a second. He's not a complete stranger to Georgia running, taking 5th as Alexander / ASICS as a junior. He may welcome himself back to Georgia with a strong finish. There are over 20 (Thanks, Coach Gambrell) top 10 State finishers entered in the field, so this race in general has a bit of an elite "all-class" feel to it like a Coach Wood or a Meet of Champions. This is going to be awesome, and you are going to be disappointed if you miss it.