The first big invitational of the year will have a little extra excitement this go around. That is because it is we are going to get to see some serious stars battle it out in what could be the best race until States. That race to watch will be the Girls Varsity A race.
Headlining the race as we enter the weekend are some big names of which all are looking for that first XC State title. The biggest of those being Bethany Graham of John Champe. She will be squaring off with Annandale's Julia Ghiselli (Class 6 Runner-up), James River's Lindsey Hester, Broad Run's Ellie Desmond, GCM's Sophie Tedesco, Lee-Davis' Sierra Puleo, Freedom's Abigail Church, Midlo's Caroline Bowe, Ocean Lakes' Meredith King & Aniya Mosley, and Patriot's Hailey Yentz & Emily Graves.
All of these girls are capable of going sub 19 this weekend with some even ready to break 18. If any were to do that they would be joining a very elite group of just five girls to break 18 on this non-state meet course.
In fact, just one Virginian has ever broken 18 at this meet and that was Heather Holt (George C. Marshall/NC State) back in 2016.
This year time will not be the goal but should be the outcome. What we mean by this is that these stars are not necessarily chasing the clock at such an early meet but we should see some fast times because of the high level of competition.
The race upfront should be pretty packed for the first loop as coaches are more willing to let athletes "just race" early on the season but the pack will definitely thin out by the final 800m. That is when we expect it to get down to just three or four girls.
Right now, knowing very little about fitness or strategies, we are predicting those four girls up front will be Graham, Ghiselli, Desmond, and Hester. All have the speed and strength to win but only one will get that honor.
If we are talking pure XC talent, Ghiselli may be the one to beat and now as a junior she has some serious experience on this course. In three races here she has finished 1st, 2nd, and 2nd with only Graham having beat her in 2017.
Interestingly enough it was that race in 2017 that really put Graham on the map. Since then she has amassed six victories in seven XC races with injuries hampering her chances at making the post-season the past two years.
That means this weekend we hopefully will finally get a rematch of that 2017 battle that saw Graham win, Ghiselli second, Church third, Desmond fifth, and Tedesco sixth.
Check back later in the week for virtual meet previews of this weekend's competition and for a more in-depth preview of all the competition at The Great Meadow Invitational.