MECHANICSVILLE, VA -- The modified Pole Green Park will be debuted on Saturday at the Lee-Davis Invite with 23 teams in attendance. The top team coming into the meet will be the Hermitage boys as last year\'s Central Region champions return to the venue of their 2005 regional championship. Hermitage was ranked #7 in the Nike Team Nationals Southeast Region preseason rankings, but is coming off a third place finish at the Great Meadows Invite behind two NTN ranked teams in SE #1 Midlothian and SE #6 Brentsville.
The Panthers will be led by senior John Vial (9:40 3200, 16:15 5K). Vial has had success at Pole Green as he was a regional runner-up at last year\'s Central Region Meet. Vial kicked off his season last weekend at Great Meadows with ninth place finish against some of the state\'s better runners. Hermitage actually had a tighter pack than both Midlothian and Brentsville with only 38 seconds separating their top five.
However, two things need to happen before Hermitage can match up well with the two teams. Vial will need to step up more as a front runner and their pack needs to move up while staying in tact. Racing at Pole Green on Saturday also gives Hermitage an advantage heading into the post season that regional rival Midlothian will not have in having raced the regional course before. Hermitage could post a very low score and take up many of the top individual positions with Nathan Puckett (16:20 5K), Ben Hendrick (16:41 5K), Walter Kidd (16:54 5K), and Kieran Lee (17:06 5K) all having the ability to break 17 minutes for 5K.
Defending Eastern Region champions Hickory may be Hermitage\'s strongest challengers at Lee-Davis as their return their entire top seven from their 2005 squad. Hickory is led by defending Eastern Region 3200 meter indoor champion Andrew Zohorsky (9:53, 16:36 5K) and Andrew Earhart (4:33 1600, 16:43 5K).
James Robinson also adds team depth to field as they posted a third place finish at last weekend\'s Monroe Parker Invitational behind two NTN ranked schools in SE #5 Thomas Jefferson and SE #8 West Springfield. The Rams are a team that will be fighting it out with others this season for that final state meet qualifying spot out of the Northern Region with defending AAA state champions Oakton also returning a strong team this season. James Robinson is led by Dan McHale, who went under 16 minutes last Saturday on Burke Lake Park\'s 2.98 mile course with a sixth place time of 15:53. McHale is the younger brother of Kevin McHale, currently one of top distance runners at the University of Virginia.
The Maggie Walker girls will be aiming to win their second consecutive invitational of the season as their opened their cross country season with a win at last weekend\'s Fork Union Invitational. Maggie Walker will feature two of the top individuals in Saturday\'s race in sophomore Susannah Piersol (11:30 3200, 19:26 5K) and junior Natalie Davis (5:14 1600, 18:48 5K). Piersol and Davis finished fourth and sixth respectively last Saturday at FUMA.
Some of the top individuals in the girls\' race include to All-State caliber runners in Gloucester senior Emily Webb and Lafayette senior Anastasia Abid. Webb seized the final All-State position of 15th in last year\'s AAA state cross country race, while Abid finished 11th in the AA state race. Webb has the faster 5K best at 18:53 (Abid 19:14), while Abid has the faster 3200 meter time at 11:20 (Webb 11:30).
While the meet has a strong Central Region representation, the meet has definitely grown to include teams from other parts of the state as shown by the team list for 2006. James Robinson from the Northern Region, Hickory in Chesapeake from the Eastern Region, and Washington D.C. private school Gonzaga will be in attendance.
Heritage (Newport News)
Schedule of Events
8:30 am Small School Girls Varstiy
9:00 am Large School Girls Varsity
9:30 am Small School Boys Varsity
10:00 am Large School Boys Varsity
10:30 am JV Girls
11:10 am JV Boys
12:00 pm Awards