The start of the girls Championship race from Asics last year
Alexander ASICS Invitational Preview
Note - Hurricane Ian has caused several teams to pivot their racing plans and could be coming to the meet but didn't change before this preview was written
Let's get this out of the way quickly: This race, the 2022 Alexander/Asics Invitational, is going to be an absolute monster. This meet has gained multiple teams due to Hurricane Ian ravaging Florida and set to drench the GA coach and the Carolinas. With all of that happening, Coach Robinson has worked around the clock watching the weather and adding / subtracting teams. What we have is a meet that was already competitive but could become arguably the most competitive ASICS there's ever been.
At the top are three visitors from Florida that also feature as among the best all-class teams in the Sunshine State. The Bolles School out of Florida is set to lead the charge in the ladies' team standings. Bolles, one of the strongest teams in the southeast, feature 4 girls projected to be top 20 threats. Among them include individual threats Jillian Candelino and Ella Mickler. Bolles dominated other talented Florida teams at Bale n Trail and the Florida Horse Park Invitational and look to continue their winning streak "up" in Fairburn. This is a very talented squad with their main weakness being a some-3:00 gap from their 1-5. Bolles should win this meet; the question is how close can other teams come? The word "should" is not "will"... and this is why we run the race! New addition Maclay, also out of Florida, is attempting to dodge Ian and should be the next biggest threat to Bolles. They took 6th at Southern Showcase in what was a pretty loaded field, but they did lose to Bolles at the Cecil Field Summer Classic 109-195. Even so, Maclay should be a nice challenge for Bolles and the rest of the competition. Look for sisters Susan Gracie Koeppel and Lillian Koeppel to lead the charge. Buchholz, yet another Florida school, is another Florida threat. They actually beat Maclay at the Summer Classic and will try to keep them at arm's length. Will they be strong enough to take down Bolles? Probably not? But this could be a Florida 1-3 sweep in Georgia if the "home state" can't keep pace. Kate Drummond and Lucy Voss should feature near the top of the field and help pace Buchholz. James Clemens out of Madison, AL is another out of state team looking to make some noise in GA. They took 7th at the very competitive Chickasaw Trails Invite and will look to continue their strong momentum. They're a step or 2 behind these Florida teams, but they could strike hard if one is off / missing a few to snag a top 3 spot. Pace Academy, Westminster, and McIntosh appear to be the biggest in-state threats, but they'll need to have some big days to contend with these studs from Florida and Alabama.
This appears to be a three-way race for first. The first 2 are obvious: Caroline Hood of Pace and Candelino of Bolles. They've raced each other once recently - at Eastbay last year - and Candelino beat Hood. That ended Candelino's season however, and that may have been more of a tune-up for Hood who went on to run 17:36 at RunningLane. Fun fact: Guess what Candelino's career PR is? Yup. 17:36. This could be a really fun duel. But woah woah woah - hold the phone a minute. Guess who makes their debut this weekend? That's right - reigning Meet of Champions title holder Katelynn Dollar! Dollar defeated Hood at RunningLane (albeit only by 6 seconds) and holds a faster career PR (17:30) than both of them. She's starting her season a little later, and while I don't have any inside scoop as to the 'why', her history dictates that she deserves to be mentioned. If she's healthy and ready to roll, watch for her to be a major threat in this race. Throw in Clara Heppner (Johnson Ferry), Ella Mickler (Bolles), Catherine Townsend (North Atlanta), and Susan Grace Koeppel (Maclay), and this will be a fun race where the top few will separate, likely a chase pack will follow, and places 10-20 could be really close together.
Some unfamiliar foes will embark on Fairburn to mix it up with some familiar home grown squads. At the top sits Carrollton, GA's #1 all-class squad. Carrollton has barely missed a beat so far this season. They were toppled by Westminster at their home course earlier this season but rebounded well to finish well into the top 10 at Southern Showcase. Noah Martinson, Will Jennings, and Hagan Russell have all run very well for the Trojans and will need to do so again. The next 2 teams behind Carrollton at Southern Showcase are also featured at ASICS this weekend! North Atlanta only lost to Carrollton by 10 points at SS, and in a race that big, that's basically nothing. The powerhouse duo of Sumner Kirsch and Truman Thompson match up well with Carrollton's top 2, and at least at SS, North Atlanta had Carrollton beat through 4, but the ever-important 5th was the difference maker. If North Atlanta can win the battle or at least cover some of that deficit, then perhaps their luck will change. James Clemens was 9th at Southern Showcase and finishes off the 7-8-9 team performances of the top 3 projected teams in this meet. Fun fact: Clemens had the best 5th man of the trio at SS in John Luke Stovall. They were a little off pace otherwise, but that's still good enough for a strong 3rd place finish at this meet and possibly a little bit more if studs Luke Alverson and Cole Robinson can run big. New addition Christ School (NC), Bolles (FL), Starr's Mill, West Forsyth, and Mill Creek will try and threaten these 3, but I assume these other teams will be battling each other a little bit off pace of the SS rematch.
Uhh... Rocky Hansen of Christ School is... really good. The man has raced twice this year... and has gone 14:57 and 14:45, both for the W. Most impressively? 3:59 for 1600m to win the RunningLane National Track Championships last Spring. Hansen is on a mission to be among the best runners in the United States, and assuming Ian stays away from Fairburn like it's expected to, Hansen could blitz this thing. He hasn't been challenged yet, and while I'm certainly not hating on my own state here... all I can say is... either good luck, or enjoy the view? Martinson of Carrollton rebounded after a slight hiccup at his home course to run 15:15 at Southern Showcase which is really good in its own right. Will he be gutsy enough to try and run with a sub-4:00 / sub-9:00 kid? Hayes Trapp of Augusta Prep is a big name in the GA scene and has gone 15:18 so far this season. He should be factored into the conversation. Emerson Miller (Buchholz - FL) and Luke Kalarickal (Mill Creek) have both had really strong seasons... will they be good enough to contend for the top 3? Martinson and Kalarickal look to be huge rivals for the 7A crown, so this'll be a fun little dress rehearsal for those 2. There are 17 guys entered in this thing who have broken 16:00 in their careers. Aside from the already mentioned, look for Parker Harris (Franklin), Diego Fernandes (West Forsyth), The North Atlanta duo of Sumner Kirsch and Truman Thompson, John Jessup (Gainesville), and Steven McCartney (Archer) to stick their noses into the top 10.
ASICS is set to be a really, really fun morning - especially if the weather holds up. Coach Robinson always puts on a show, and I fully expect him to be thanking the weather gods at the end of this thing come Saturday.