Photo by Ted Plunkett
The second Saturday in October finds meet management once again very pleased in welcoming all competitors, coaches, parents and other relatives, friends, and also just plain old supporters of high school cross country to the 16th Annual Glory Days Grill Invitational at Bull Run Regional Park.
Everyone involved with the meet is looking forward to another exciting morning and afternoon of racing. with more than 2,500 runners representing 75 different schools from the area scheduled to compete in one of the nine different races to be contested on Bull Run's approximate 5,000 meter (3.1 miles) layout.
Even though the course has undergone a few changes over the years due to varying interests by the Northern Regional Park Authority, meet management has done it's best to maintain much of the original course set up by Mike Dobson back in 1992.
The race course has now remained very much the same for the past three years and still has to be one of the most spectator friendly courses for a large scale meet in the mid-Atlantic area.
For those first time fans to the high school cross country course, if you position yourself somewhere between the starting line at the bottom of the long, gradual incline and the finishing line with the Glory Days Grill banners for the beginning of the races and then follow the general flow of the experienced onlookers in the crowd, it should allow you at least a half dozen opportunities to be close to and encouraging, but of course not impeding, any of the athletes competing.
This meet relatively late in the high school season, with most district championships barely a week and a half away, will once again try to fulfill all the runners and coaches needs with a variety of races scheduled to accommodate various skill levels of participation.
At each level, the boys race will precede the girls race. The freshmen boys race will start things off at 10:00 a.m. followed by the freshmen girls at 10:30 a.m.
Both races have an unlimited number of entries for each school as these ninth graders get an important opportunity to race solely against their other first year high school peers.
The junior varsity races begin at 11:00 a.m. and greatly benefit the large number of hardworking youngsters who are very involved in their respective school's distance running programs, and like the freshmen races, are also set up to have an unlimited number of entries for each school.
For many of these J.V. boys and girls runners, it is probably their last chance, and also quite possibly their first chance of the season, to compete in such a large scale meet.
Due to the large number of junior varsity runners on the boys side; there will be two J.V. boys races, determined by a random split, with Division I junior varsity boys starting at 11:00 a.m. followed by the Division II boys at 11:30 a.m. and then the J.V. girls race at 12:00 noon.
The junior varsity races are a big draw, with a total of more than 1,000 finishers among those three races last year.
The Varsity B boys race then follows at 1:00 p.m. with the Varsity B girls at 1:30 p.m. in races that will pit many of the top runners from schools with smaller enrollments against the second tier of the larger schools entered.
Highlighting the day will be the Varsity Seeded boys race, which is scheduled to go off at 2:05 p.m. and the Varsity Seeded girls race with their start slated for 2:30 p.m. as many of the top individuals and teams from the metropolitan area square off against each other; with the awards ceremony to follow at 3:15 p.m.
This meet began in 1992 mostly from the mindset of former Northern Region coach and activities director Mike Dobson (retired) and was originally known as the Bull Run Invitational, but it has since become the Glory Days Grill Invitational due to the generous sponsorship by Glory Days Grill restaurants.
"Glory Days" is now in its tenth year of sponsoring the meet and restaurant co-founders Jeff Newman, Rich Danker and Bob Garner are once again pleased to be involved in the myriad of action and cooperation which is needed to pull off an event like this; which needs a great number of people to be pro-active.
Jeff, Rich and Bob, along with the rest of the Glory Days Grill staff, led by Tracy Atwell, would like to thank in advance all of the volunteers involved in concessions, parking, results compilation and all other necessary forms of meet management and would especially like to thank Mike Dobson, Mike Kiernan, Scott Raczko, Matt Gilchrist, Mark Stripe, Dan Woolley, George Siragusa, Gale Faulkner, Matt Ryan and Charlie Lihn for all of the extra time and help they put in for this meet each and every year along with all the support Nike gives for the meet, both up front and behind the scene.
Also, a very special thanks in advance is in order for Mark Courtney, the president and owner of runhigh.com.
They are handling all the entries and also using the championchip timing system, which will be a first time thing for the invitational this year.
For anyone who was at the Oatlands Invitational three weekends ago, they were able to see Mark and his runhigh crew in operation and would have to deem it a highly successful venture.
The James Robinson boys will be the favorites at Glory Days this weekend and shooting for their second straight invitational victory after winning Octoberfest last Saturday. The Rams should see challenges though from Thomas Jefferson, Potomac Falls, Clarke County, and Gonzaga.
(Photo by Ted Plunkett)
Quince Orchard is the defending Seeded Varsity boys team champion, but was hit hard by graduation last year, including the 2007 individual champion Neal Darmody (15:08).
Robinson, last year's runnerup team to Quince Orchard, has looked very strong this season and last week won the Seeded A division at the Octoberfest Invitational in The Plains led by seniors Jared Berman and Stuart Steen.
Potomac Falls finished third in the seeded race last year and is running well again this year led by senior Josh Hardin, who was seventh at Glory Days in 2007 at 15:40 and senior Ryan Hagen.
Clarke County should greatly improve on their 18th place team finish of a year ago. They finished just behind Robinson and ahead of Potomac Falls at the Maymont Festival in Richmond two weeks ago with their top runners being Chris York and Ben Veilleux.
Lake Braddock has not competed against many of their Northern Region counterparts of late, but are certainly a team to be reckoned with after winning the Monroe Parker Invite at Burke Lake a month ago with solid races from Alex Clark and John Cruz.
Jefferson may lack the front running firepower of some of their previous years, but they are certainly still a team for their opponents to be wary of with their tightly timed trio of Alex Witko, Logan Gates and Timmy Galvin.
Top individuals entered include Edison senior Leoule Degfae, runnerup at both Octoberfest and Monroe Parker and the top returnee entered from last year's Varsity Seeded race (4th; 15:30).
Chantilly junior Chris Foley finished just two seconds behind Degfae at Octoberfest last week and also just edged Degfae at the line for the win at Monroe Parker.
Others to watch include Campbell Ross of The Potomac School, Annandale's Scott Plunkett, Kevin Dowd of Fairfax and Gonzaga's Billy Ledder.
The Lake Braddock girls have not raced often in Virginia since their win at Monroe Parker in mid September, but their trip to Rhode Island two weeks ago for the Ocean State Invitational proved to be worthwhile and indicate another strong Braddock squad this fall with their runner-up showing behind one of the top teams in the Northeast region. Lake Braddock looks to defend their title at Glory Days, but will get tough tests from Thomas Jefferson and Bishop O'Connell.
(Photo by Ted Plunkett)
Lake Braddock is the Seeded Varsity girls defending team champion and has looked impressive again this year. They were easy winners at Monroe Parker last month and had the individual champ in junior Liana Epstein and had more than ample support at the numbers two and three slots from juniors Kelly Hagan and Amanda Parker.
Jefferson did not make an appearance at Monroe Parker but will get their first chance of the season to see how they match up against Lake Braddock with their top two performers thus far this season being sophomore Stephanie Marzen and freshman Sarah Stites.
O'Connell is fresh off a big win in the top seeded division at Octoberfest from last week and has one of the top individual contenders in senior Megan Fitzpatrick while Clover Hill placed second last Saturday at the flrunners.com meet in Titusville, Florida and will look to get into the mix.
O'Connell's Fitzpatrick will once again be up against Anneka Wilson of The Potomac School, who had a very strong surge in the last mile to claim a convincing win at The Plains last week.
Some of the other top girl runners include Britt Eckerstrom of Northwest; Edison sophomore Myah Hicks, the runnerup at Monroe Parker and winner at the William and Mary Invite three weeks ago; Stephanie Paradis of Stone Bridge, Langley's Lauren Shaw, Natalie Young from George Mason, Chantilly's Rachel Grochowski, Kelsey Rosenberg of West Potomac, South County's Madeleine Wilner and Sophia Holmes of Clarke County.
Photo by Ted Plunkett
Parking will be $5.00 per vehicle this year.
Concessions will be sold throughout the meet behind the press box area. There will also be a tent set up by the concession area for sales of tee shirts and hats.
We appreciate the help and additional sponsorship of Nike in swooshing down to the Manassas area to help in that endeavor and also the commitment through the years of Metro Run and Walk for their continual support of both cross country and track and field.
The team and individual awards ceremony will be at the pavilion situated down the hill and to the left of the press box approximately fifteen minutes after the conclusion of the final race (Seeded Varsity Girls).
Please do not impede the progress of any of the runners during the race by being too close the course's race line. This is important at all times and especially near the finish line area where some spectators invariably display a slight bit of overexuberance.
Team and individual results will be posted during the meet at the press box area as soon as we have them and will be sent to www.milestat.com immediately following the conclusion of the meet.
We are certain Brandon Miles will post them shortly after getting himself and the Clover Hill squad back safely to the Richmond area.
Finally, please do not leave any trash discarded on the grounds of the park at any time during the meet. Mike Dobson has been working too hard this week to also have to be picking up other people's garbage as nightfall approaches.
Thanks in advance and good luck to all the participants.