|Reprise of Nike South |
and Texas State Meet rivalries
by John Sullivan, DyeStat South regional editor
Many of the same athletes that competed at Nike South back on October 6th return to Bear Branch Park this weekend, now running on club teams. As the gun sounds early Saturday, expect many of the usual big names near the front and very tight team battles, with a trip to Portland on the line!
In the girls race, eyes will be on the Carroll XC and Kingwood RC clubs. Just last weekend, athletes from these teams competed for their respective high schools, Southlake Carroll and Kingwood, at the Texas 5A state meet. Kingwood was initially awarded the team title, only to have the results overturned on Monday due to a scoring error and the championship awarded to Southlake Carroll – and both teams disappointed with the delay and confusion. It might be fitting for both clubs to earn the trip to Oregon, and they certainly have the talent to do it – plus the experience as they’ve made that trek before. In fact, Carroll clubs have finished 3rd at Nationals the last two years.
But there are other teams on recent upswings, or coming off disappointments of their own, who will have plenty to say about the final outcome. The Hereford CC Club, whose athletes just won the Texas 4A title, will be in the mix and looking for that “perfect” race which has eluded them this year. The Rogers Arkansas XC Club is made up of runners that hit new heights to take home last week’s 7A state meet trophy and hope to reach even higher. The Keller RC and Cinco Ranch RC had plenty of success for their school teams, as club members defeated Southlake Carroll, Kingwood or each other more than once during the season. Both of them are coming off state meet performances that weren’t what they’d hoped for and are itching for another shot at glory. And local clubs The Woodlands XC and College Park RC will be dangerous, with school season bests that will put them in the hunt if they can repeat those efforts in their own backyard.
The individual race will be exciting, with Kingwood RC’s Kristen Hanselka, The Woodlands XC Club’s Sarah Andrews, Carroll XC’s Tara Upshaw, Hereford CC’s Abby Metcalf and Ashley Mason, and Plano West RC’s Jenny Swan expected near the front, along with many other talented runners. Hanselka was 2nd at her state 5A meet and might be the favorite, but it’s a close call as the field won’t go down without a fight. Expect Tara Upshaw to push the pace.
It could be interesting to see how the female athletes and clubs from Texas adjust to the 5000-meter course, which is longer than the state’s official 3200-meter distance. However, this isn’t as big a question mark as in past years, since more and more meets now offer the 5k distance during the school season, including Nike South.
The boys competition will be another thriller. Athletes that ran for the top five schools in the Texas 5A state meet will be here representing their clubs. That includes The Woodlands XC, which will be without the services of Reed Connor who led them to gold before struggling home and crawling across the finish. That also includes Carroll XC (Southlake TX), which appeared to get stronger each week on its way to silver and boasts a possible 1-2 overall upfront. Both clubs have twice made the trip to Portland for the NTN National meet, with Woodlands posting a 7th-place finish in 2004, while Carroll’s best was 11th last year.
Cedar Park RC runners won the Nike South Invite for their school, and hope this course is kind to them again. In that same meet, Rogers AR XC athletes earned the silver, surprising the many who took them lightly despite impressive wins at Missouri Southern and the OSU Cowboy Jamboree. Rogers went on to tally 16 at last week’s 7A state meet and their athletes are looking forward to a return visit to this course.
The Seven Lakes Harriers came together last weekend to strike TX 4A gold for their school, with a faster average than 5A champs The Woodlands, and will be adding a key member from the school’s JV team to its young and potent club. The Fleet Feet of Tulsa Team and Elysian Fields RC also pocketed state gold while competing for Tulsa Union HS (OK 7A champs) and Brother Martin HS (LA 5A winners), and will be making their maiden journey to Bear Branch Park.
Carroll XC’s Colby Lowe and C.J. Brown will push the pace and are favored to duplicate their 1-2 Nike South finish. Marcus RC’s Craig Lutz, just a freshman and 4th in the TX 5A state meet, would like to improve upon his bronze. Five others from the Nike South top ten are back to try again (and 7 more from the top 20): Georgetown XC’s Evan Hibbs (6th) and Jacob Guerrero (9th); Rogers Arkansas XC’s Aaron Hamilton (7th), who won his state’s 7A title; Mayde Creek TC’s Eric Doll (8th); and Panther TC’s Jeremy Warren (10th). Fleet Feet of Tulsa Team’s Stephen Baker won the OK 5A crown and St. Pius X RC’s Joey D’Eramo is the TAPPS (TX private school) champ.
Expect teammates Lowe and Brown to set a hot pace, daring anyone to tag along. Lowe began a tough 5-week stretch last Saturday with Texas 5A state gold, and it would be extremely impressive if he added NTN South, Foot Locker South, NTN Nationals and Foot Locker National titles. That’s a tall order to fill, but he’s one tough customer and will certainly make a run at it and certainly come home with plenty of hardware.