The nationally ranked and defending Group AA state champion Hidden Valley girls open up on their home course on Saturday. With Blacksburg not running their varsity lineup, Hidden Valley girls should pick up a comfortable opening team win with a potential 1-2-3 sweep from Annie LeHardy, Carolyn Bethel, and Haley Cutright. LeHardy was the race champion in the 2008 invite with the meet record time of 20:45.
Northside's Erin Wheeler is one individual and capable of breaking up a top 3 individual showing by the host school as she ran stellar in the outdoor season clocking times of 11:08 in the 3200 and a 18:14 5K at the New Balance Outdoor Nationals. She was a runner-up in last year's Clash of the Titans and could move up one spot to first place this weekend. Anna Paden Carson of Patrick Henry, Eliza Eaton of Christiansburg, and Lindsey Siska of Salem all should be racing for top 5 individual finishes.
Eaton finished third in last year's race, while Carson ran 11:26 for 3200 meters in the spring. Both will be leading teams at Christiansburg (Eaton) and Patrick Henry (Carson) who will be Hidden Valley's top challengers on Saturday.
Patrick Henry senior Patrick Woodford is the top returnee from the 2009 Clash with the Titans (3rd place) as the defending Northwest Region 3200 meter champion will attempt to begin his 2010 cross country season with an invitational victory on Saturday at Hidden Valley High School. Woodford is a potential Group AAA All-State hopeful with his Group AAA #17 pre-season ranking and 16:13 5K PR.
Woodford will be facing off with three Group AA top 25 ranked runners in #5 Cody Seymour of Cave Spring, #14 Stuart Robertson of Staunton River, and #22 Kevin O'Connor of William Byrd. Seymour trailed Woodford in fourth place at the 2009 Clash With the Titans and finished his outdoor season with an All-State PR finish of 9:33 in the 3200. O'Connor just missed Group AA All-State honors in the spring with a ninth place finish at the state championships and will be a contender for the Region III cross country title this spring.
With the absence of Group AA state champion Blacksburg's top runners, the team battle should be much more entertaining with Cave Spring, Patrick Henry, and E.C. Glass as the top returning teams in the field. Patrick Henry will have a great front runner in Woodford. Cave Spring has a strong 1-2 punch in Seymour and Andrew Smith. Then E.C. Glass might be the best packed team with the smallest spread between their #1 through #5 runners.