With the course expected to be dry by race time Saturday and the grass cut very low it looks like the 2018 MileStat.com XC Invitational will once again be the home to nearly everyone's PR's and season bests.
There will be a staggering 130+ teams represented this weekend and over three thousands athletes as well. Highlighting the competition though will be two Varsity "A" races that should complete reshape the state leaderboard and all-time list on the course.
Up first will be the ladies taking to the course at 8:30am. Temperatures should be decent at this hour meaning for the first time all year we may actually have an XC race in fall weather. The big teams here to watch are Colonial Forge, Maggie Walker, James Madison, and Atlee. All of these teams except Madison will be heavily relying on front runners while Madison will need sustained strength throughout.
This team title race will definitely be decided by how well front runners run though. This race is nearly twice the size of a state meet meaning those low points are worth nearly twice as much. This of course favors Colonial Forge in a big way with their 1-2 punch. Maggie Walker and Atlee also have decent second runners so it is truly anyone's title to get.
Individually things are way more interesting.
In this race we will get to see VA #1, #2, #4, #5, #7, #8, and #11. The deadliest one of them though could very well be Julia Ghiselli who is VA #4 but on the toughest course (Great Meadow). She will have her work cut out for her with Mary Caroline Heinen, Rachel Mudd, and Lindsey Hester all right there as well. It should also be noted that out of the top 11, only Ghiselli has not raced at Pole Green.
The course itself is not an easy course to run away from competition as it is very flat and even throughout. Strategically speaking there are few places to really make a dominant move outside of 1K to go. That means someone will have to either really push the pace from the gun or make a move late. Neither of those tactics particularly plays into anyone's hands so this race is certainly going to be exciting gun to finish.
Now we don't profess to know exactly how the race will play out but here is our best prediction of finish both for teams and individuals.
MileStat's Top 5 Predictions
- Julia Ghiselli
- MC Heinen
- Rachel Mudd
- McKenzi Watkins
- Lindsey Hester
MileStat's Top 3 Team Predictions
- Colonial Forge
- James Madison
After all that excitement is over things get going again with the boys taking to the course. Here we have six teams all trying to make serious names for themselves this post-season. The favorites on paper amongst them is Atlee who is not only looking to win the week but possibly 5A state as well.
Atlee is joined by Deep Run, Maggie Walker, James Madison, James River, and Christiansburg. The interesting thing about all of these teams, aside from Maggie Walker, is that they are fighting for some recognition and a spot on the podium at states. They do not lead their classification but have serious shots at winning a trophy at Great Meadow. That means these teams have some serious incentive to run very well this weekend.
The team competition will be a hard fought battle and will be decided on who's 4th and 5th man step up the most. All of these teams lack a full squad up front so it will take their entire varsity squad to win a title this weekend.
On the individual front there are some big names as well with Theo Woods, Dan O'Brien, Aaron Johnson, Chase Osborne, Adam Sachs, and Colby Burcham all taking to the course. All of these guys are familiar with the course and training thru to states. That means we may not see a sub 15 performance but certainly will see some new VA top 10 times.
Just like we said with the girls' race, this one is not going to be won in runaway style. The entire field will be together basically through the first 2K and after that we should see some movement up the long and very minimal incline to the 3K mark. By the second mile we expect a small group to create separation and push to the finish.
Also like the girls' race, this one is very hard to predict so here is our best shot.
- Chase Osborne
- Daniel O'Brien
- Theo Woods
- Aaron Johnson
- Colby Burcham
- Deep Run
- James River
- James Madison