Photos of 2013 GACC ROC girls' leaders at halfway (above) and Philip Hall in the '13 Boys ROC (below) by Cheryl Treworgy, PrettySporty.com
The Great American Cross Country Festival, now in its 16th year, will again include many of the finest teams and individuals in the Southeast – and the rest of the country – when it returns to WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C. on Saturday, October 4, 2014.
Highly touted La Salle High School of Providence, R.I. is a likely favorite in the boys’ New Balance Race of Champions – thanks to the fact they return all seven of their varsity runners – and is probably the “premier” entry in the meet. They were “only” 12th in the ROC last year, but improved to the point where they were 2nd at their state meet, won New Englands, then finished 8th at NXN Northeast – all with a team with no seniors. Led by soph David Principe, Jr. and junior Jack Salisbury – two of the three that ran 9:15 or better for 3,200 in track – they were tabbed preseason US#1 by Milesplit.com and DyeStat.com.
The top boys’ team chasing La Salle could be in-state rival Bishop Hendricken, which placed as high as 3rd in 2009. Midlothian VA, the 2010 runner-ups, as well as Marietta GA and Daniel Boone TN are other contenders.
The La Salle girls aren’t ranked quite as loftily as their boys’, but could well contend for the victory and perhaps make it a “sweep” in the ROC events – which would be a first for the meet. But several other teams, most notably Oakton VA, Jefferson Forest VA, Green Hope NC, Marist GA and Holy Trinity FL, could have something to say about that. Green Hope is the top returning squad from 2013 (3rd).
Individually, the biggest standout entered in the meet is Philip Hall, a senior at South View NC, where he has just transferred. Hall was one of the favorites for last year’s ROC while at Terry Sanford HS, but was a somewhat disappointing 6th. He went on, however, to win the 3A state title and then last spring in track hit 9:03 for 3,200 and later scored 24 points in the 3A finals to lead his school to the title. He and his new school are currently listed in the Seeded race, but could wind up in the ROC (where Hall will probably run individually, if not with his team).
Nick Linder of Providence Day School NC, whose now-graduated teammate Ben Huffman won last year’s ROC, is another big name to watch. So are La Salle’s top boys’ and 2013 15th-place finisher Reilly Friedman of the Galloway School in GA.
For the girls, Eliza Rego of La Salle (3rd in ’13) is the best of at least five from last year’s top 15 expected to return. There’s also Elly Henes from Green Hope (10th), Morgan Ilse from Marist (11th) and Eliza Dekker from Durham Academy NC (15th). But also watch for Libby Davidson of E.C. Glass VA, whose team is currently listed in the Seeded race. She smoked a 17:36 last weekend to win the Knights Crossing Invite and is coming off a yearling campaign that saw her capture the NBNO frosh 2M in June at 10:42.19 and place in both NBN Emerging Elite deuces. Like Hall and South View, there's potential for Davidson and E.C. Glass to move up to the ROC.
The 2013 races were thrilling, as Brentwood TN put three in the top 5 and rolled to the boys’ ROC team title, while Assumption KY nipped Blacksburg VA by a point for the girls’ ROC crown. Individually, the aforementioned Huffman led 4 boys’ ROC runners who finished within 1.5 seconds with his 14:59.4, while Hannah Long (Eureka MO junior) dominated the girls’ ROC in 17:38.0. More than 3,000 runners competed in the 15 races last year – which besides the two Races of Champions includes Seeded, Varsity Red, Varsity White and JV races for boys and girls.
The meet first took place at WakeMed from 2003-05 (when it was SAS Soccer Park), then moved to Hoover, AL for three years. It returned to WakeMed in 2009 and has been here since. As was the case last year, the meet will be held on a single-day (Sat., Oct. 4). The Festival will again be held in concert with the HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) Challenge (preview coming) The town of Cary and the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance has provided invaluable support each year.