Team VA is ready to head down south to Cary, North Carolina for the biggest meet of the year, The Great American XC Festival. Team VA's contingent also includes teams and individuals all vying for the big win and PR in the Nike Race of Champions.
Here are some of the biggest things we are going to be watching this Saturday.
Loudoun Valley vs. Great Oak Boys
Arguably the biggest headline of the meet, at least on the team side of things, is going to be how Loudoun Valley runs against the Great Oak boys from California. This team, Temucla TC, was second a year ago to Valley at NXN and returns this year ready to take the Vikings down.
We have yet to see LV at full strength and know they are more concerned about peaking in December than this weekend but we also know they are competitive and that you don't win two NXN titles in a row without having desire for the win.
This team battle is going to be super close and while we focus on those two teams, Huntsville and Northwood may try and sneak up.
Loudoun Valley vs. Blacksburg Girls
Over on the girls' side two VA teams actually have a chance at winning this weekend, albeit an outside chance. Those two teams are Loudoun Valley and Blacksburg. It will be fun watching them both try and place as high as possible but the real treat will be watching them duel it out in a pre-state meet preview.
As of today these two teams are separated by just .05 points in XC scoring with even their sixth place runners being just one point away as well. Simply put, they could put on one of the best state meets we've ever seen.
Loudoun Valley are the defending team champs but Blacksburg wants that title back after winning the previous seven titles in a row. This weekend is going to show us a lot more of what to expect in November.
Another team we are really going to be watching this meet is Midlothian. With just one senior on their team and a VA #3 ranking, it goes without saying that this is a team to watch. Though they have some very tough competition ahead this weekend, the real test for them will be NXR in November.
They are most likely using this race not only as a gauge for how fast they can run but also as a way to familiarize themselves with the WakeMed course. They are going to be one of the toughest teams in the state for years to come and this weekend we get our first glimpse of them going against the best VA has to offer.
Albemarle vs Western Albemarle Boys
This weekend will be part three of four for the battle between the two great Charlottesville area teams. Though they are just miles apart, these two powerhouses only meet four times a year. The first was Ragged MT Cup which Western Albemarle won. The second was FUMA where both teams battled it out to the end, it ended up being Western taking this one as well 33-38.
Now comes this weekend which might actually be in Albemarle's favor. They are very used to running this course and meet while Western hasn't been in years. Then it will be followed by the Albemarle Invitational next weekend at Panorama Farms where Albemarle is the defending champ.
Western is in Class 3 and Albemarle is in Class 5 so you won't get this battle in the post-season...enjoy it while we have it.
Oakton vs. West Springfield Boys (And W.T. Woodson)
Bethany Graham vs. The Clock
One of the biggest stars in our state and nation, Bethany Graham, will also be racing this weekend. Though she won't come right out and say it, we will... she is chasing a sub 17 time. If she were able to achieve that goal she would be just the sixth Virginia athlete to ever go that fast and cement herself as one of the all-time greats.
In a weird twist of things, it looks like though she will not be able to win this race, this race is going to be perfect for her. It is completely packed from front to back with great competitors and the weather is perfect as well. The big mention though is the fact Katelyn Tuohy is racing in it as well.
What this means is you can almost guarantee who is going to win. Tuohy is a three time defending NXN Champ and the fastest 5K runner in high school history. This weekend while most girls are trying to break 18 and some are trying to break 17, she will be trying to break 16!
Knowing that you don't need to run a crazy pace and that you can focus on your own splits is why this race is going to be perfect for Graham. She will have company throughout and no pressure at all.
How Will L.C. Bird Run?
The final team to preview is L.C. Bird. They are a big underdog and dark horse for the Class 5 boys title this fall. This weekend is going to be their first big test and first fast race all year meaning they could legitimately beat some of the other Class 5 favorites this weekend.
We don't know what to expect but know they have some very competitive killers on their squad so sit back and watch them run.
Individuals Chasing Big PR's
Finally we also have to mention some athletes we are excited to see race this weekend. Though they may not win the overall title this weekend, they all are definitely chasing some PR's and that should be very exciting to see considering how fast they've already run.
In the boys' race the guy we're watching is Bryce Lentz. He will get to see the Oakton and West Springfield guys here and seeing how he races them will preview states in a big way. This weekend though we are most excited to see what he can run time wise. He ran sub 16 at Octoberfest and that is not easy. This weekend's course though is easy so watch the clock in his race.
In the girls' ROC we have five girls we are excited to see race. Those five girls are Jette Davidson, Alli Crytser, MC Heinen, Julia Ghiselli, and Hailey Yentz. All five have run very fast this season and already rank as some of the best athletes in the state. This weekend though they get some competition finally and get it on one of the fastest courses in the nation. Be ready for an exciting one for the VA leaderboard.