Heat, humidity to play a big part in Mountain Invitational races
Hundreds of high school and middle school athletes will converge on Unicoi State Park this afternoon for the annual Mountain Invitational.
The cross country meet, hosted by White County High School, has become one of the biggest meets in the state during the first week of October, and this year's version is set up to be one of the biggest in meet history. More than 30 high school teams and 20 middle school teams are scheduled to take part in the event.
“We're excited about the meet,” WCHS head coach Matt Dover said. “It's grown every year, and we've added to the number (of teams) this year. We want to see how we fit with some of these high-level teams, and we'r excited to compete with them on our home course.”
This year's field includes a handful of some of the top teams in the state. The girls' division includes 11 state-ranked teams, including the Lady Warriors, who are ranked No. 6 in the latest Class AAAA poll.
Oconee County looks to be the class of the girls' field, coming in as the No. 7 team in the All-Classification poll and No. 3 in the Class AAAA poll.
Commerce (No. 2), Banks County (No. 3), Union County (No.8), and Rabun County (No.10) are the top Class AA teams, while Dawson County (No. 5), North Hall (No. 7), and Cherokee Bluff (No. 8) are the top Class AAA teams in the girls' field. North Oconee is ranked No. 7 in the AAAA poll, while Clarke Central (No. 7) and Loganville (No. 8) are the top AAAAA schools.
On the boys' side, there are nine state-ranked teams. Union County and Banks County are No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in AA, with Dawson County, North Hall, and Hart County ranked back-to-back-to-back at No. 4-6 in AAA. Oconee County (No. 6), North Oconee (No. 7), and Chestatee (No. 9) are ranked in the AAAA poll, and Clarke Central is No. 3 in the AAAAA rankings.
“Our kids have run well on some challenging courses this year, but it's nice to get to run on our home course and see how we can do against some great teams,” Dover said. “There are some top-level schools in the field. Our kids have worked hard all season and we want to showcase what we can do on our home course.”
With the middle school races starting at 3 p.m., the weather is a big concern as temperatures are expected to reach the mid-90s by race time.
“I think we'll have some great races,” Dover said. “Unicoi is a great course, but we're a little concerned about the heat. It's going to be in the 90s with high humidity. It's going to be a great day with all these runners here, but it's going to be really hot and humid.”
Last weekend, the WCHS runners made a trip to Rome for the 16th annual Darlington Festival.
The Lady Warriors jumped on the podium with a third-place finish among the 26 teams in the field, while the Warriors also cracked the Top 10, finishing eighth among 34 teams.
“The girls finished third against some elite schools, and the boys were eighth and really took it to the next level,” Dover said. “It was a really good meet for us.”
In the girls' race, the Lady Warriors put three runners in the Top 20. Ellie Gearing paced the effort with a time of 21:41 to finish 12th out of 185 runners. Nealeigh Broadwell was next, finishing 14th with a time of 21:44, and Sydnee Nix was 16th with a time of 21:55.
Reese Vandegriff crossed the line at 22:46 to finish 27th, while Josie Stover was 40th at 23:12. Maggie Davidson had a time of 23:48 to finish 60th and Leah Alexander was 65th at 23:52.
“The girls really stepped up and had a great race,” Dover said. “To finish third was a great accomplishment for them.”
In the girl's junior varsity race, Lily Gearing was sixth overall with a time of 23:12, followed by Micalla Corcimigilia in 18th place at 23:57, and Haylie Bailey was 30th at 24:38.
In the boys' division, the Warriors had a pair of Top 20 finishers. Eamonn O'Bryant crossed the line at 17:38 to finish 11th among 229 runners, while Iyan Windham was 19th at 17:59.
Dominick Stevens was 44th at 19:05, followed by Maverick Aguilar in 87th place at 20:00. Lance Kelley (20:22), Hector Molina (23:10) and Kyler Mayo (23:27) rounded out the Warriors' lineup.
In the JV race, Cole Gearing had the top time for the Warriors, finishing at 21:57, with Isaac Sosebee turning in a time of 22:42, and Dakota Seabolt posting a time of 23:04.