Boys Varsity race from Bob Blastow last year was a thriller!
Bob Blastow Invitational Meet Preview
After an exciting "official" opening weekend, we head to the final week of August which features plenty more teams making their debut, trying to build off of last week's result, and possibly even opening up their seasons with three straight races. A cool stat I always like to look at is athletes making their career debuts. Per the nearly 2,000 entries for Bob Blastow, over 250 girls and over 300 boys will be running their first XC 5K to kickstart their careers. Pretty cool. Let's get into it.
Decatur on paper enters as the favorite after last season considering returners' best 5K times, but as of this writing, they did not have their top athletes entered into this competition meaning they're still biding their time to make their debut. If they do decide at the last minute to throw in their studs, athletes like William Carlton and Jake Westing will pace the Bulldogs and attempt to be the team to beat. The team who could punch everyone in the mouth again though? Carrollton. Carrollton has taken the early goings of this season by storm and absolutely obliterated everyone last week at Pickens, showcasing an impressive top 5 in subpar conditions. It appears the Trojans are going with a 'race early and often' strategy, and while it's early, it's working. Will Jennings, Noah Martinson, Hagan Russell, Daniel Neill, and Nathan Moseley all finished in the top 13 against the likes of Marietta, Harrison, West Forsyth, and Creekview - how will they respond to the early season success? North Atlanta makes their debut and has been making some good splashes over the last year or so. On paper, they may be a little off of Carrollton, but look to Truman Thompson and Teddy Meredith to lead the charge. Blessed Trinity and Pope could be on a bit of a collision course in what appears to be a really deep Class 6A. Both stand as podium contenders, and both have the firepower to podium at Blastow in a field that is pretty deep in its own right. Finally, Starr's Mill, a Class 4A powerhouse and a definite contender for the State title, is also in this field. They may not have an individual contender yet, but they probably have the best 5th in the field besides Carrollton, so watch out for their depth on Saturday.
This race appears to be wide open as nobody, at least in my estimation, has a resume that breaks them clearly away from the rest of the field. Houston Hamby of East Coweta enters with the fastest average 5K time but was a little off the pace last week at Zach Wansley; he may be looking for a little bit of a bounce back. The Whitefield Academy duo of Taylor Wade and Andrew Rothwell feature near the top in this one, and both are coming off strong finishes at the Kosh Classic. Gabriel Best of Whitewater made a nice jump from last Fall to the Spring and makes his debut on Saturday; look for him near the front. Tyler Phillips of South Effingham has already won his first 2 races of the season, but he will see deeper competition this time around. Carrollton may not have the winner, but it could be fun to see how many in the top 10-20 they can squeeze in to further establish their early dominance.
The Girls' team chase will be a fun one. The on-paper favorite St. Pius X is resting many of their top girls, so the door is wide open for someone else to get the Dub. Hillgrove appears to be the next team in line. Led by Reese Terza and Talia Brown in their season opener, Hillgrove hopes to factor in the championship conversation in 7A, and they could establish themselves pretty well with a win in a pretty competitive field. North Atlanta should be another squad to consider here, and while they lost a little bit from last season, Catherine Townsend is certainly no joke and will look to lead this team. The always dangerous Blessed Trinity makes an appearance here, and while on paper they may not quite be as strong as they've been in recent memory, this is a well-coached team led by Claire Petersen. One has to assume their summers were strong and will be plenty competitive as this season gets underway. Midtown, despite appearing to be down their #1 in Jamie Marlowe, should still be considered a big factor at this meet. They'll just need to look to the likes of Cary Schroeder and Sierra Pape to pull some extra weight. Other teams that should be in the conversation include Pope, Norcross, McIntosh, and Decatur.
Unfortunately, the field appears to be down quite a few studs - perhaps trying to save the legs a little for later? We might have to wait for Coach Wood for the true all-class individual races, but even so, we have plenty of talent to watch. Leading the way is Townsend of North Atlanta. She was 3rd last year at State 6A and will certainly be a major contender this year, too. She hasn't yet raced this season, so look for her to remind everyone of who she is. Pope's Addison Adair was the top freshman at State last year in 6A and will try to continue her young but impressive career. Riverwood's Alexa Hoppenfeld is yet another top 10 finisher from last year's 6A State, so we've got ourselves a pretty fun August treat to see where everyone starts their 2022 campaigns. Terza of Hillgrove has been a pretty familiar name across GA for a while now, and for Hillgrove to hit their team goals, Terza will need to put the team on her back; watch for her to be mixing it up with the best of them at Blastow. Claire Shelton of Dunwoody tends to be stronger on the track, but she's absolutely squarely in the hunt tomorrow as she actually features with the fastest 5K PR - 18:15 at RunningLane back in 2020. Others to keep an eye on include Shari Brown of Landmark Christian, Charlotte Dunn of Pope, Kyra Andrews of Norcross, Gabriella Malerba of Decatur, Peterson of BT, and Brooklyn Crabtree of Alexander.
Bob Blastow is always a keynote race that teams use at the backend of August to establish where they are heading into September, and with us still being a week away from the first official rankings, teams will be showing off what they did this summer through the first 1/3 of the season.