The canned food drive is a big part of the coach wood invitational too. Please bring your cans on Saturday!
2022 Coach Wood Preview
The 2022 Coach Wood Invitational, as usual, is set to be incredibly competitive. Over 3,000 kids are entered in this thing, and it has for quite some time now been the premiere mid-October meet in Georgia. This serves as a final no-strings-attached PR opportunity for many athletes as they embark on their respective Region Championships. Some treat it as an unofficial 'all-class' State Meet while others just sort of close their eyes, swing for the fences, and see what the time is. Whatever the strategy may be, we're in store for yet another great installment of the Coach Wood Invitational.
Sooo this will be fun. The entire top 8 ranked All-Class girls teams are entered on Saturday, and they will be joined by Lawrence County, Homewood, and Scottsboro all out of Alabama. This shakes out to be even more competitive than what ASICS was a couple weeks ago, and it will be incredibly interesting to see how this all shakes out. All-Class #1 Marietta had a dominant performance at ASICS and truly swung for it there as they had their entire top 5 in the top 10 early. They did more than enough to hold off Bolles and have, for now, taken claim as the top girls' team in Georgia. Maddie Jones, Kristal McQueen, Mary Nesmith, and Nora Hart have all done a tremendous job for the Blue Devils this season. With so much talent breathing down their throat, can they get the job done once again on a blazing fast course? Harrison has lost a little bit of ground to Marietta as the season has wore on, but that doesn't mean they can't right the ship on Saturday. Ace and Cobb County Champion Samantha McGarity has put together another strong season and should be in the mix for the win. Supporters Lidia Longo, Angelina Villamar, and Peyton Reeves will be needed to assist, and the all-important #5 could make or break any team in a field that will be this dense. As the all-class #2, they'll want to show they belong near the top, and Coach Wood is a great opportunity to do that. Marist is another squad that has had a dominating season, and that's thanks in large part to Ruby Little who won Wingfoot, Warpath, and AT&T Starr's Mill earlier this season. Kate Selover and Maeve Waddell have also been big contributors to the Marist cause, and they'll need to once again be on their 'A' game for Marist to hold off other tremendous competition. St. Pius X could finally be running a full squad on Saturday, and if they are rounding to form at the right time, well, they're as good a team as any in this field. Grace von Biberstein and Hannah Schemmel have both had great careers thus far, and it'll be interesting to see how they shake out against other athletes who are simply a little more 'seasoned' in the 2022 campaign. A rapidly improving supporting cast like Zoe Garcia and Jessica Sheehan could absolutely be critical for the Golden Lions on Saturday. They could be a couple weeks away from true "showdown shape", but it'll be fun to see what they can do. And then we've got our biggest out-of-state threat in Lawrence County. Lawrence County raced and defeated both Harrison and Marist at Jesse Owens a couple weeks ago. While it was close, it must be noted that this squad is every bit as good as what the top echelon of Georgia has to offer. Top runner Savannah Williams was narrowly beaten by McGarity and Little head-to-head, but their 5th runner proved to be the better of the 3 teams. Katie Mae Coan, Taylor Williams, and Katie Dumas will look to assist and keep Bama ahead of the game. Will they be strong enough to down Marietta? Other teams that must be factored in include Walton, Brookwood, South Forsyth, Homewood, and Scottsboro - among many, many others. This team race is going to be nasty.
Speaking of nasty - could the winner of the girls' race be the one with the nastiest kick? Marist's Ruby Little, on paper, enters as the slight favorite here. As mentioned earlier, she does have several wins this season; however, she did look a little vulnerable at her most recent race (Jesse Owens) as she only held off McGarity by about a second and a half, but even so, she's still undefeated against Georgia competition this season and has often looked dominant. If this form continues, she could be too tough to beat. Of course, the aforementioned Samantha McGarity of Harrison will absolutely want revenge on Little. She's got wins of her own this season in Pickens and Cobb and has raced basically top competition in most of her races this season. Does that give her an advantage over some of the field? Armuchee has 2 studs in the field in Shelby Green and Marissa Kimple. Green was 3rd at ASICS while Kimple was 5th which dispatched all other competition in this field. They haven't raced Little nor McGarity head to head yet this season; could they run up and scare these better-known veterans and pull off a surprise? Savannah Williams of Lawrence County, as I said before, took Little and McGarity to the wire; can she get some revenge at Coach Wood? Will she try and take it to them early on? There is so much talent in this field. Palmer Walstad of Westminster, the Yonas sisters of South Forsyth, Bella Cammarota of Lambert, the duo of Hannah Schemmel and Grace Von Biberstein, Maddie Jones of Marietta, and Claire Shelton of Dunwoody are all studs. Caroline Hood of Pace hasn't raced since August, but she's entered. We've got Tori Meyer of North Gwinnett, Catherine Townsend of North Atlanta, Allie Wardle of Brookwood, Kristal McQueen of Marietta... it's just a who's who in this meet. It'll be insane.
This more or less will settle out as an ASICS rematch. #2 all-class Lambert headlines the boys field, and they are definitely in spitting distance of the top spot in 7A when it's all said and done. At full-strength, the Longhorns are awesome to watch. Kushan Patel missed a meet earlier this season but didn't miss a beat, and he features as a top 10 individual threat. Jackson Hogsed brings strong support, and Reid Latimer and Matthew Miller all have broken 16:00 this season making Tigue's Guys the team to beat on Saturday. With no Carrollton to contend with - who will step up to the challenge? North Atlanta is coming a dominant win at their city championships and were 60 points off Lambert at ASICS. That's not too big of a gap in a field that deep, especially when considering only a 9s team average deficit. North Atlanta needs help at #5 though if they're going to beat Lambert. Their top 4 are all great. Sumner Kirsch, Truman Thompson, Teddy Meredith, and Holt Harris all match up pretty closely with Lambert's top 4 - but the Longhorns reign supreme at 5. If North Atlanta can fix that issue, we could see some unexpected excitement on Saturday. Westminster was also at ASICS and wasn't far behind North Atlanta and is another contender. In addition to individual threat Joseph Jacquot, Westminster features a strong supporting cast which includes little brother Jacob Jacquot and Esfan Daya. Westminster can hang with both Lambert and North Atlanta through 3, but they'll need some assistance at 4-5 to contend. A top 3 finish in this field is nothing to be upset with. Brookwood is back to prominence, and they've been plugging along well down the stretch of the season. A last minute trip diversion planted them at ASICS where they finished a strong 6th place. They've got probably the second best 5th man in the field, but they're prone to coughing up points at the top. If Lambert or Westminster puts 3 in front of Brookwood's 1, that'll probably seal the deal. If Brookwood is able to get out and 'throw punches in the first round', can they pull off a shocker and say that they need to be taken seriously? Charlie Thomas, Truitt Fowler, Austin Dezwart, Carter Dehnke, Don Pressley, and Alex Thompson have all been one big clump this year with Thomas starting to show signs of why he was top 15 at State last year. I'm calling the Broncos a wildcard team here. Of course, when Marietta is invited to the party, all the fun can be crashed. They don't seem quite as strong as recent memory, but this is a well-coached team who seems to respond to setbacks pretty well. What this team has going for it is experience. Their entire top-5, at least by season best, are seniors. Experience plays a huge factor in races like this, and with a stud like Jared Fortenberry at the helm, they've got their low stick. It's just a matter of if Hines Doyle, Jack Boland, Jack Baltz, and Paddy Boland can all do enough damage to sneak their way into the top 3-5 or so. Marist, Mill Creek, Starr's Mill, Etowah, Homewood, Decatur, Roswell, and Paideia are all also definite top 10 threats in a field this dense.
Can anyone take down Holy Innocents's Joe Sapone? He's undefeated this season and won like 90% of his races during Track season. He could ultimately end up being a top 5-10 "All-Timer" in GA history once his run is done, and I'll be curious to see if he just throws it all on the table and takes it from the gun tomorrow and dares anyone else to come with him. Evan Hill of Scottsboro is the only other one in the field with a sub-15:00 to his name, but he did lose to Sapone head-to-head by over 20 seconds. That's not devastating - but it's still a pretty good gap at that skill level. I'll be interested to see if Hill takes another swing at Sapone on Saturday. Hayes Trapp's 15:04 at ASICS was good enough for 4th place and top GA honors; will he be willing to try and take it to Sapone? Joseph Jacquot of Westminster was only a couple seconds off of Trapp at ASICS, so he's certainly in the mix as well. For as good of a season as he's had, he's yet to win a race... while Coach Wood seems unlikely thanks to Sapone, in a field like this - why not shoot your shot? Tommy Latham was just 3 seconds shy of Evan Hill at Jesse Owens, so he's certainly in the mix here. Throw in Jared Fortenberry of Marietta, Luke Kalarickal of Mill Creek, Taylor Wade of Whitefield Academy, and Kushan Patel of Lambert into the mix? Fun stuff. And then - we've got two wildcards in Alex Arrambide of East Forsyth and Ben Bergey of South Forsyth. Both have been very under the radar this season yet Arrambide is undefeated and Bergey has won 2 of the 3 races he's entered. Neither has raced in almost a month (and I'm not certain why, so I won't speculate), but a 4:11/9:08 guy (Arrambide) and a 4:14/9:16 guy (Bergey)? Yeah - deserves mentioning in any race they are entered in. Look out for these 2 to potentially make things really interesting as they try and shake off the rust to prepare for the end of the season.
Coach Wood is always a super fun way to head into Region and beyond. It's a fast course, it's crazy good competition, and it's a great 'dress rehearsal' run for State. Many State rivals/friends/foes will take to McIntosh Nature Preserve to see what they've got as this season is surprisingly already about to wind down. Nuts. Enjoy! I... won't be there as I'm a turncoat and am taking my team to Alabama...