The 2007 Great Meadow Invitational looks to be one of the first major invitationals in Virginia having many of the best of the best racing against one another. A total of four NTN Southeast ranked boys teams will be present with #1 Midlothian, #4 Mountain View, #8 Oakton, and #9 Oakton. Meanwhile, individual race should be exciting as well with two potential Footlocker finalists in Thomas Porter and Jason Witt going head to head, which will be an early season preview of the AAA state battle. Oakton's Joe Lorusso and Jamestown's Andrew Colley also will make for a great race up front while leading their nationally ranked programs.
The US #2 ranked Midlothian girls will obviously be heavy favorites at Great Meadow led up front by a pack of All-State caliber runners including 1600 meter state champion Kathleen Lautzenheiser (pictured left by Linda D'Amato winning 2006 Great Meadow Invite). Kristen Wolfe, the defending Central Region champion from James River, will be a strong individual contender to challenge last year's Great Meadow Invite champion Lautzenheiser. There will be some solid teams behind the Midlothian girls as well including 2006 AAA third place squad Douglas Freeman and Eastern Region title contender Western Branch.
The most anticipated action at Great Meadow on Saturday will be in the varsity "A" boys race with the state's top four ranked teams all going head to head with one another. Rarely does an early season meet see such a collection of Virginia's best, but it is exciting to see the coaches of these teams not afraid to lock horns early. Oakton comes in slightly favored as the #1 ranked team in the state after this past week's coaches polls as pre-season #1 Midlothian took a heavy transfer loss in Mark Merritt leaving to go to Cosby High School in late summer.
Oakton looks to have the deepest squad this weekend with half a dozen sub 10 two milers and will led be up front by a strong individual runner in Joe Lorusso. The depth on Coach Phil Tiller's squad could potentially expose some of the other top teams who have some question marks after their top runners.
With the transfer of Merritt and Thomas Cole also injured, two of Midlothian's projected top four returnees in the preseason are gone leaving Jason Witt and Michael Hammond to attempt to guide a damaged ship. The defending AAA state champions will have to count on some inexperiened big invite racers as well as freshmen with Brayden Burleigh and Darren Barlow, who ran within the team's top five this past Wednesday at Collegiate.
For the second week in a row, Mountain View and Jamestown will be racing against one another as Jamestown won the Chancellor Invite by 13 points over Mountain View, who held out their top runner in Footlocker finalist Thomas Porter. Expect Porter to be back in action this weekend with his team, while Jamestown may be racing a man down as their third runner Colin Mearns has been suffering from flu like symptons this week.
The winner of the Great Meadow Invite among these teams will be putting themselves in the driver seat early, but it is also a long season with plenty of more races to go including another major showdown later in the month with the same teams as well as other NTN regionally ranked caliber squads at Maymont.
The individual race will also be very loaded when the names Jason Witt and Thomas Porter headline the field. Witt won last year at Great Meadow in 16:03, while Porter started his season out slower in fifth at 16:25 as he later went onto qualify for Foot Locker Nationals as the ten place finisher down in Charlotte.
Three of the state's top ranked harriers will be competing with #2 Witt, #4 Porter, and #5 Lorusso. Jamestown junior Andrew Colley makes for four runners in the top 10 as he is coming off a close runner-up finish to Turner Ashby's Alex Ott at Chancellor as the #10 ranked runner in Virginia.
In 2006, the Midlothian girls were big winners at Great Meadow for their opening invitational as well as their state championship, but will hope this opener to be less dramatic than in 2006 when they had two of their top seven runners drop out of the race. However, they still won by a substantial 65 point margin with their bare minimum of five finishers. The 2007 squad could potential put up a lower team score this year with another strong lineup and no realistic challengers for the US #2 ranked squad.
It will be more interesting to watch how the shake down of teams will be after the Lady Trojans with several squads looking to prove themselves of being in the upper echelon in the state. The Douglas Freeman girls already did just that last November with a third place finish in the AAA state race, but lost one of their top returnees due to transfer and their best in Casey Fowler will be competing for the first time since her knee surgery. Western Branch comes in as one of the Eastern Region's better squads in recent years and hopes it can show itself as a team dominant outside of the region onto the state level. They are led by one of the top returnees from the 2006 Great Meadow Invite in Callen Powers, who garnered a ninth place last year.
Midlothian sophomore Kathleen Lautzenheiser, the top ranked runner in AAA currently, will be looking to win her second straight Great Meadow Invite title. In her first high school race last September, Lautzenheiser took it to the older girls with a 19:20 5K clocking.
However, Lautzenheiser will be facing a runner that has had her as well as everyone else in the Central Region's number in cross country with defending regional champion Kristen Wolfe. Wolfe is looking to shake the bad memories of Great Meadow last fall when she collapsed prior to the finish at the state meet and bring back the good memories such as her outstanding runner-up finish at the Octoberfest Invite last year behind Catherine White. Wolfe has the fastest 5K cross country time among all runners on Saturday at 17:58.
The top individual girls finishers could be very Central Region heavy with the likes of the Midlothian girls, Wolfe, and the Capital District's talented sophomore pair of Hanover's Lauren Hopper and Lee-Davis' Amanda Lineberry. Hopper won at Great Meadow a year ago like Lautzenheiser, but in the Varsity "B" race with a time of 20:07. District rival Lineberry opened up with a win on Wednesday at Collegiate in 20:24 on a very humid day for racing.
The sophomore trend continues with potential contenders in Osbourn Park sophomore Ariel Karabinus, who finished just outside of a top 10 finish last year in 11th race place. Karabinus ended up finishing her freshmen year of cross country with a top 15 AAA all-state finish. Karabinus is ranked #12 in Virginia currently to make for a total of five top 15 ranked runners in the race with Midlothian having a trio in #2 Lautzenheiser, #9 Paige Johnston, and #13 Samantha Dow and then Kristen Wolfe at the #5 spot.
Great Meadow Invitational Time Schedule
9:00am - Varsity A Girls
9:45am - Varsity A Boys
10:30am - JV (Fr/So) Girls
11:20am - JV (Fr/So) Boys
Noon - JV (Jr/Sr) Girls
12:45pm - JV (Jr/Sr) Boys
1:20pm - Varsity B Boys
1:55pm - Varsity B Girls
Great Meadow Invitational Team List
Freedom (South Riding)
Heritage - Leesburg
Park View (Sterling)
Stonewall Jackson- Manassas
The Potomac School