The Midlothian High School cross country team and long-time head coach Stan Morgan made their annual trip every October to Van Cortlandt Park for the Manhattan College Invitational. Riding high from their runner-up team finishes by both the boys and girls at Great American earning them national rankings and recognition, the expectations were high for another big day this weekend in their second travel meet in consecutive weeks. However, the state's top ranked boys and girls squads from Midlo did not enjoy as great of a day as Great American.
The Midlothian girls ran respectable for fourth place but still have work to do to seriously challenge Delaware's Tatnall squad to become the best team in the NXN Southeast Region. US #2 and Great American champions Saratoga Springs of New York pulled out last second, so US #1 ranked and defending Nike Cross Nationals team champions Fayetteville-Manlius of New York won quite convicingly with a 14:43 team average on the 2.5 mile course and team score of 32 points. The Tatnall girls looked strong and the best from the Southeast in second place this weekend with 80 points and were clearly superior to Midlothian at Manhattan, who finished in fourth with 164 points. Midlothian hopes to maintain itself at least as the #2 team in the Southeast Region next month in Cary, North Carolina for one of the two NXN automatic qualifiers from the region. Midlothian freshmen Kari Johnston ran spectacular in her first trip to Manhattan to finish among the top 20 with a time of 15:32 for 19th place. Midlothian had a great tightly bunched top four pack at Great American, but was unable to keep the same pack together at a 1K shorter distance this weekend with Johnston and teammate Claire Benjamin (23rd, 15:35) coming in close together, but the rest of their top five spreading out.
The Midlothian boys only had 34 seconds separating their top five but their front end and back end both needed to finish higher in order to be competitive in a field against many of the top teams in New York and Northeast region. Brayden Burleigh was projected to finish well within the top 10 and well under 13 minutes on the historic Van Cortlandt Park course after his 15:20 5K PR run at Great American, but suffered an off race in 21st place with a time of 13:15. The team's chances of finishing high in the field were severely dampered without an individual among the top 15. The Eastern States team champions Shaker (102 pts, 13:14 avg) of New York did not have a single runner break 13 minutes, but nearly put four runners ahead of Midlothian's top finisher and brief 15 second swarm was it took for their entire top five to finish (13:08 to 13:23). The Midlo boys finished 7th in the 19 team field with a team score of 207 points and 13:30 average.
It will be 18 days from now until Midlothian will race their top squad again at full speed in their district meet at Pocahontas State Park.