Great American XC Festival Newsletter
This race is rich with top individuals and 3-way team race between Anaheim CA Katella, Christian Brothers Academy NJ, and The Woodlands TX
If you think the boys just may be over shadowed by the girls, think again. The Race of Champions will include 7 of the top 10 runners from the southeast along with another 6 or 7 runners who will be heading for potential All-American status. (If you are wondering where are the rest of the top runners in the southeast, you will likely find them in our Invitational race).
Katella, Christian Brothers Academy, and The Woodlands will likely duel for the top team spot. All three should be ranked in the top 6 in the nation by the year's end. The winner will also be able to make a strong claim for the nations' top ranking. Heading the boys' team competition will be Katella from Anaheim, California, ranked 6th in the nation in 1998. Katella is one of the most prepared teams in the country. They race a limited schedule, run as a tight pack and are capable of putting five runners under 15:40 at McAlpine. Consider the fact that they had a national leading four x 1 mile-relay team this year with a 17:51.39, an average of 4:27 per mile.
Nevertheless, Christian Brothers Academy, from Lincroft, New Jersey, and ranked 7th in the Nation in 1998, will seriously challenge Katella. Returning their entire top 10 runners from the 1998 New Jersey State Championship team, Tom Heath and his CBA men are taking dead aim at a national number one ranking. Watch the sparks fly!
However, on paper it is hardly a two-team race with a powerful Woodlands team heading to the cooler September climate in Charlotte. Led by Chris Emme, the best runner out of Texas and the second fastest returning runner from the Southeast, look for three runners under 15:50. This team is deep and is a clear top 5 team in the nation.
But two young men from Florida will make things very interesting. The Jefferson twins, Sean and John, who are headed to sub 9:00 2 miles within the next 24 months may just steal the day for their Atlantic Community High. As Sophomores, they took two and four in the Florida 4A state cross-country Championships, and have done nothing less than become better since. They capped off their spring season with a 1-2 finish in the Golden South 3000 meters and were 3-4 at the Foot Locker Nationals in Raleigh. With 4:12 and 9:12 credentials they will be all the top runners can handle. However, this team is solid through its top 5 with 3 other runners under 9:55 in the 2 mile. Look for Atlantic and the Jefferson's to establish a solid national presence in Charlotte.
The competition does not seem to break at any point in the Race of Champions. Shenendohowa, Campbell County, Brookwood, Estero, Lincoln Southeast, Irmo and Kingwood will closely follow the top four teams. These teams were the 1998 New York, Wyoming, Georgia, Florida, Nebraska, South Carolina, and Texas State Champions.
Look for Southeast from Lincoln Nebraska, with three runners at 9:40 or better over 2 miles this spring to make a run toward the front. In winning their state championships last fall, their top 5 runners were within 20 seconds of each other. If any of the top teams falter in their 4th or 5th positions they may find themselves behind 6 runners from Nebraska.
Another team that may just sneak up on the rest is Poly from Long Beach, California. A long established national track & field and cross-country power, coached by George Wright, was ranked 8th in the nation in 1998 and was the Division 1 State Champions in 1997 and 1998. They return 4 of their top 7. The team will be lead by Aaron Durham, and two of California's top upcoming runners, Oscar Mendez and Bryan Durham. In 1998, they both made the Top 25 All Time Freshmen list at the Mt. SAC Invitational last fall.
Teams rounding out the top 20 are led by runners who are among the best in the nation. Among this group is South Lakes, led by rising 11th grader and the number one returning runner in the Southeast, Alan Webb. He clocked a 9:11 2-mile and 4:06.94 which broke the great Jim Ryun's sophomore class record that had stood since 1963.
Watagua, North Carolina's top team, will be lead by Ricky Brookshire. He has ran 15:24 on the McAlpine course, a 14:57 5K at the Raleigh Relays and surprised everyone with his 7 second PR and 4:11 mile win in the Nike Golden Mile on May 30th.
Maybe we should just call off the 5K race and stage one of the top mile runs of all times, even if it is September. Joining Webb, the Jefferson's, and Brookshire will be Colerain's Mason Ward. As only a sophomore in 1998, he ran a 4:12 mile and at the 1999 Penn Relays he took second, running a strong 4:13. By mid-May he had hit a 4:11 and looked to be a sure bet for a sub 4:10 by season end. He will be one of the nations top milers next year. You can write it down now, these five will be under 4:10 next track season.
Another top individual will be Ian Dickinson, the 5th fastest returning runner from the Southeast region and the 1988 Georgia State Championship teams.
Oh! Just two more teams. Bingham and Gallup, both have long legacies and previous number one national ranked teams in the 1990's. Can anyone tell us how many All Americans have come out of these programs. Both teams will travel to Charlotte, looking for a return to national prominence and the nation's top 20 rankings.