Super 2017 at WakeMed for GAXC, HBCU Harriers!
The 2017 Great American Cross Country Festival -- in the 2nd year of its partnership with Nike and as the NXN Southeast Pre-Regional Meet -- and the Cedric Walker HBCU Challenge commanded the day at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C. the first Saturday of October.
At left, 2-time World Champs gold medalist Quanera Hayes was our HBCU Challenge special guest starter. At right, Nike athletes sub-4 miler Craig Engels and World Champs steeplechase silver medalist and Olympian Courtney Frerichs delighted hundreds of athletes signing autographs all day long.
The festive day was special in so many ways. To wit:
- The tremendous competitive efforts of more than 2,500 athletes, a handful of near-record performances, and the crowning of champions old and new.
- The presence of world-class athletes, like Nike's World Championship silver medalist and Olympian Courtney Frerichs and sub-4:00 miler Craig Engels signing autographs, and 2-time World Champs gold medalist Quanera Hayes as a guest starter for the HBCU races.
- The enjoyable activities and attractions on the infield that each year make the event a "festival."
- The support of several special sponsors and supporters that make GAXC and the HBCU Challenge possible (see below).
Blazing individual and team efforts were the order of the day in all 14 races. The best of the best:
Top GAXC Performances
- A sizzling 16:50.3 5k by Kelsey Chmiel (Saratoga HS, NY) in the Girls Nike Race of Champions, #2 in meet history and 4th-fastest ever on WakeMed.
- The 115-point tally by Blacksburg HS (VA) in that same race, giving the Bruins their 3rd-straight title.
- A near-course-record team effort by US#1 Loudoun Valley HS (VA) in the boys' ROC -- averaging 15:29, just :05 off CBA's 2012 mark.
- Dalton Hengst's victory kick, as the McDonogh School (MD) senior clocked 14:57.1, just ahead of Michael Phillips and Jacob McLeod.
Top HBCU Performances
- Trey Simons (Morehouse) defended his '16 Men's Challenge title, clocking 25:48.1 and winning by almost 30 seconds.
- The North Carolina A&T State men, helmed by new coach Ernest Barrett, edged Morehouse College, 48-52, for their 4th straight crown.
- The Hampton U. women rode the 1-2-3 finish of Eusila Chepkemei (meet record 17:27.3), Faith Keitany and Janet Okeago to dominate with 25 points. It was their 2nd consecutive title and 5th overall.
Another reason to celebrate the 2017 GAXC was our special guests from Kingwood HS in Texas. The NSAF invited both Mustang varsity teams to Cary after learning of their displacement from their school following Hurricane Harvey in September. As a non-profit foundation, the NSAF can provide travel grants to teams in special circumstances.
The Kingwood boys finished 8th and the girls 13th in the Nike ROC races. Check out our interviews with Coaches Tate Symons and Jeremy Dye and with many of the varsity athletes. The Mustangs also developed a special connection with the girls of Seneca HS in NJ after they and their Coach Karen O'Neil presented Kingwood with a $500 donation thanks to their own fundraising effort.
Finally, a HUGE THANK YOU from the NSAF to our title sponsor - Nike - as well as the other generous supporters for whom our races were named: The Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance, the Town of Cary, Primo Water, Roll Recovery, Agogie and the Bone and Joint Surgery Clinic.
We also greatly appreciated two of our newest sponsors; Gatorade, which provided recovery drinks and other product at the meet; and CyroMAX, which handed out sorely needed ice packs at the finish line -- which runners took big advantage of as the temperatures rose!