2023 Alexander Asics Invitational Meet Preview

Well, let's call a spade a spade. The Alexander/Asics Invitational is the premier meet in Georgia this season in terms of both in state and out of state talent attending the meet. There are almost 40 teams in the championship races, including almost 10 from 5 different surrounding states. Every single team is ranked in the top 10 in their classification. And 10 girls teams and 9 boys teams are ranked in the top 10 in their entire state. This thing is absolutely loaded with talent. And on top of that it's incredibly deep. Kids that are used to top 20 or top 50 finishes will be in for a different kind of race than what they're used to. It probably doesn't simulate the state meet very well and thus is likely not the best predictor of how a team will perform at state. But Asics has never been about state meet prep in Georgia. Asics has always been about running fast. It's almost always on the perfect weekend when the weather conditions and training plans line up perfectly for kids to run faster than they ever have before. You combine that with a fast course, and you get some pretty impressive performances. So let's take a look at what's in store.

Note - I am 100% certain that I will leave somebody off in this preview as it's just that deep of a meet. Please do not take it personally and instead just go out and remind me just how good you are with your performance at the race tomorrow.

Boys Team

Can we just say that everybody is a favorite and be done here? No? Fine...It's definitely possible that the Georgia boys teams get shutout in the trophy hunt this year at Asics. Most likely, the best Georgia team who has a chance of coming home with a trophy is Denmark. They are hoping to not have to play 2nd (or 3rd) fiddle to some of these top out of state teams. They've got two front runners and enough depth to hang in a race like this. But everything has to go your way when the field is this big and this deep, so one small mistake and Denmark is several places back from what they're capable of. The other Georgia team who might have a chance at getting a trophy is Carrollton. There are still some question marks surrounding this squad, but I definitely think that if they get full strength they can match up with almost any team in the state and if that happens tomorrow then they could reassert themselves as the top team in Georgia. They haven't quite shown that yet this season, but I do have a feeling that it's there somewhere and they're just one race away from getting back up there. Another team who appears to be waiting to get back to full strength is West Forsyth. These boys have front running talent and depth as well, but haven't been 100% yet this year. If they can get these, then they'll be very hard to beat as well and could end up shooting up the rankings this weekend. Other than that we have several other teams who are ranked in the top 25 in Georgia who could be looking to improve upon their rankings including Mill Creek, Paideia, Pace Academy, Whitefield Academy, Cambridge, Milton, Parkview, Marietta, and North Atlanta.

In terms of out of state talent, it's a little harder to know which team is the top dog as we don't know as much about how fast those courses are. But there are multiple teams who could come to Georgia and take home a win. From next door in Alabama we have Huntsville and Auburn as the big threats. I wouldn't be surprised to see either of these teams win as both of them are notorious for coming to other Georgia meets in recent years and being very competitive. From Florida we have Sunlake and Buchholz who are both strong performers in their state. And we all know Florida is almost always churning out top team talent. North Carolina is sending Broughton who is always a name that comes up if you go race in North Carolina. And Kentucky is sending Oldham who is a team that has historically done well in the southeast region. 

Boys Individual

This is even harder to figure out than the boys team race! There are a ton of boys who have already broken 16:00 this season and I'm sure we will add to the list tomorrow. I think you have better odds of winning the lottery tonight than you do of correctly predicting the top 10 boys in this race. And that's honestly not an exaggeration. The top boys in the field coming in is Eric Moore from Huntsville as he comes in with the only sub 15:00 time so far on the season. But in spite of that, I really don't see him as much of a favorite. Owen Clemons is making his season debut and actually beat Moore by one place the last time they raced. But that was back in 2022. They both had very similar track seasons so this should be a very good dual between the two of them. It would be a little surprising to see any Georgia boy take those two down for the win, but this is cross country and we don't crown champions based on previous results. Leading the way for Georgia is Noah Martinson who is off to a very solid start so far this season. He just might be the favorite for class 7A this year and there are not too many Georgia runners who can beat him. The most likely candidate from Georgia to take him down is Diego Fernandes. Fernandes is having kind of a quiet start to his season, but I think that might be by design. It's definitely possible that he's ready to stop pulling punches this weekend and just goes for it. A kind of wild card to keep and eye on is Adam Lippe from the GIAA. He's undefeated so far this season and has been very quietly following up his impressive year last year with a much stronger one this year. I could see this being his breakout race. Conner Proffitt is another boy that I don't think is scared of any other Georgia runner in Georgia. I watched him almost upset Latham at the 6A state 3200m race last year. It would have been an amazing upset, but was still a very gutsy race. He's also looked really strong for most of this season, and seems to do best on fast courses. Memphis Rich is the defending 7A state champion who is also a little bit of a wild card here. He seems to do his best in races with alot of question marks. His resume isn't quite as strong as the others, but it wouldn't surprise me to see him as the top Georgia boy. Jacob Pullen and Zach Patell are two more guys who are having strong seasons and definitely could be a factor in the top 10 individual finish. Christian Jimenez is another wild card as he's back from injury this year and has shown he can run fast. Malachi Burnett is another boy that would be foolish to count out in this one as he is only a sophomore but already has some serious big boy races on his resume. I think it's still not quite his turn to be at the very top and he will have to get stronger for another year before that's the case, but you never know. Like I said I'm sure there's somebody I'm leaving out because this field really is just that deep. I highly doubt the boys will finish in the order I have them in for this preview.

Girls Team

This one has a much better chance of seeing a Georgia team coming home with a trophy as Marietta is here and ready to go back up their amazing performance here last year when they won with 73 points and beat several top out of state schools in the process. They're the top team in Georgia this year and will look to continue that top ranking again this year at Asics. While they aren't quite the super power they were last fall, they're still very good and maybe are just starting out a little slower this year. Who knows what they're capable of if they gain steam. Another top Georgia girls team is Pace Academy. They have talent at all 5 positions and should hold up well in a race like this with girls at the very front of the pack and a 3-4-5 to match just about anybody else in the field. It would not surprise me to see them go home with a first place trophy this weekend. The St. Pius X girls are another team who is always near the front of packs in Georgia races and is off to another strong start this season. They don't quite have the front runners they've had in recent years, but they have a strong pack and if they can put it all together this weekend, they could also go home with a trophy. And just like the boys race there are several other girls teams who are ranked in the top 25 in Georgia who will be looking to prove themselves this weekend. Don't be surprised to see any of them higher up in the results than this preview indicates. We've got strong teams coming from Northview, Richmond Hill, Mill Creek, Brookwood, Gainesville, McIntosh, Milton, Cambridge, West Forsyth, Brookstone, and Sequoyah. 

And just like the boys race, the out of state talent is very strong. From Alabama we've got auburn coming over to try to mix it up with our top girls. Florida is sending Sunlake and Buchholz on the girls side as well, and Buchholz will look to improve on their 3rd place finish from last year. North Carolina has Broughton and South Carolina has Chapin coming as well. Each of those teams are ranked in the top 5 in their entire state, so it's definitely possible that all of them finish in the top 10 overall in this meet and one or more of them go home with a trophy. 

Girls Individual

Well this race is straight up loaded individually. We've got 7 girls who have already broken 18:00 and 34 more who have broken 19:00. There are two girls who really stand out to me as the two favorites in this one. From Georgia we have Caroline Hood who has been on a tear since coming back from injury last fall. She's been one of the top runners in the state for over two years now and will look to defend her home state tomorrow. She's probably the best bet for a Georgia girl winning this race. Tula Fawbush from Oldham might be the favorite though. She's got the fastest time coming in this season and did it on a slightly slower course than her competitors. She's definitely not going to run away with this thing, but she's got all of the credentials to be the favorite in this one. The wild card is Katelynn Dollar. She's had an up and down career in high school, but don't let that fool you. She's one of the most talented runners in the state, and if she's on, then she could definitely win this thing. I see this more as a race for her to keep improving to her actual goals in November and December. She just doesn't appear to be quite there yet but she has a habit of coming alive when it matters most. Abby Merner is one of the next best girls in this race and she also has the credentials to challenge up front. I'm not sure if she's quite strong enough to challenge for the win, but I wouldn't count it out. Georgy Helmers is another GIAA kid representing for her association on the big stage. She's had some really good races over the years that have gone a little unnoticed by some. This is definitely an opportunity for her to prove she's just as good as some of these other girls. Marissa Kimple had a very strong race at this meet last year and has had a stellar career overall in high school. She's sometimes been overshadowed by slightly faster girls, but she's always in the mix. I don't think tomorrow will be any different for her and I fully expect to see her up near or in the front pack. Sarah Tole, Adda Helmers, and Zahara Bernal are all top runners on their own, I'm just not sure if they're quite on the same level as some of the other girls mentioned here. I do expect them all to challenge for top 1o spots in this race, but we will have to wait and see exactly where they end up. And finally Mary Nesmith and Morgan Grace Sheffield are two girls who are likely seeded lower than they will finish. They've both shown they're about ready to take that next step and I won't be surprised if tomorrow is the day they do it. They are also very possibly heading towards a potential duel for the 7A state title in a little over a month. Although McGarity will have something to say about that...

It's going to be an amazing morning of running. And on top of that several Georgia XC alums are running in the college races. I can't think of a better way to end the month of September.