GACC Previews: Tales of 3 (special) runners ... in the New Balance ROCs

by Steve Underwood

Photos (top to bottom): Andrew Hunter (from NBNO 2M) by Walter Pinion, Philip Hall (2013 GACC) by Cheryl Treworgy/, Libby Davidson by Abby Brooks/

KEY LINKS: Meet home page | Entries and Seeds2013 Results | Meet Info

Runners like Andrew Hunter, Philip Hall and Libby Davidson will share the common desire Saturday to win an individual title in the New Balance boys’ and girls’ Race of Champions at the Great American CC Festival.  But coming here to WakeMed and reaching their potential has significantly different meanings for these potential victors.

For Hunter, a junior at Loudoun County HS in VA, it’s a shiny new opportunity and a debut for him on this unique layout.  A year ago, he was a fast improving soph, but pretty much unknown outside of Virginia.  By season’s end he had a state 3A title and a 15:09 5k PR from a 16th-place finish at Foot Locker South.  He quietly got that 3,200 down to 9:11.22 indoors March then stunned the prep distance running world with that beautiful work of art that was a soph class record 8:16.31 Penn Relays 3k victory in April. 

Hunter more than confirmed that talent-level by nearly winning the New Balance Nationals Outdoor 2M and now has started his junior year of XC with a pair of “solid” (faster than on the same course last year) victories at the Oatlands and Great Meadows invites in Virginia.  Now here at Great American Saturday, there’s a chance to get a big XC PR at a truly national-class invitational – perhaps his first sub-15.  Only seven others have run that fast on WakeMed.  Check out Andrew’s thoughts on that below, what it might take, and some of his other takes on things.

For Hall, a senior at South View HS here in NC, it’s a little different.  He’s returning to a course he’s run several times before.  But with a new school and a new coach, things could be different.  Last year at the time, he had surprised himself with a fast early-season start that included a 15:08 victory in the Adidas Challenge.  A sub-15 and possible victory was at hand for Great American, but the result against a very tough field was 15:11 and 6th-place. 

Hall had a few ups and downs the rest of 2013-14.  He won the 3A state title in November, but four weeks later was just 57th at Foot Locker South.  In track, he had some races that didn’t meet his expectations, but then he led Terry Sanford to a 3A state title with 24 points in the three distance races.  But during that time, a beloved coach he had worked with had passed away, and Hall and his family made some decisions that led to his enrolling at South View HS this fall.  Now he comes into Great American with a similar resume to 2013 – some fast early wins including the Adidas Challenge again – but much more experience and a new outlook with his new coach and team.  Check out what he has to say below.

Then for Davidson, it’s yet another story.  She’s not quite a newbie to the course, like Hunter.  But it’s not as familiar as it is for Hall.  The E.C. Glass soph is a rising star, with her most significant accomplishment to date being a blazing 17:16 two weeks ago here to join Hall in the Adidas Challenge winners’ circle.  The question for her, then, is can she back that up?  Can she build on it and perhaps run even faster, against a tougher, more diverse field?

While Davidson is just a 10th-grader, she, too, is feeling the confidence that comes from starting to have some experiences.  She certainly learned a lot last fall during a surprising campaign that started with marks over 20:00 and finished with a PR 18:28 to win the state 4A title.  In track, she found more state-level success, and started to reach beyond that to compete in the NBN meets, with a combined three Emerging Elite and Freshman 2M efforts in the indoor and outdoor meets highlighted by a 10:42.19 victory in the NBNO 2M affair.  So check out HER take on things below, as well!

Andrew Hunter, Loudoun County VA, Class of 2016

On what his summer was like, as far as breaks, base and build-up and types of workouts:  I took a week off after track nationals.  My parents/coaches wanted me to take at least 10 days off, but I could not wait to get training again.  I had a great summer training-wise.  I upped my mileage by 10 miles a week, compared to the spring, running consistently in the 60-65 mpw range.  I also worked out a lot in our basement (strength, agility, mobility, injury prevention).

On how he felt about his victories in his first two major meets:  I was satisfied although I would have liked to have run faster.  I find it difficult to do it alone.  My dad says he had the same problem when he competed; we can't push ourselves unless there is someone breathing down our necks!

On any significant changes he’s made to his early- to mid-fall training:  Basically, it’s just been doing more mileage.  I noticed that I can run faster at the same distance without putting much more effort into my training runs.  I also increased my barefoot running to help my foot strength, which will keep me healthier during the season.

On how Great American fits into his season plans and his goals for the race:  It is an opportunity to run fast, and it is also good for me to travel and attempt to run fast.  It is always easier to sleep in your own bed and race, so I am hoping coming to Great American will test my ability to travel and race fast.  My goal is always to win, but I would like to dip under 15:00.  I will need some help doing that, though!

On his goals for season’s end:  Easiest question!  Win states, qualify for nationals and be in the mix in San Diego!


Philip Hall, South View NC, Class of 2015

On his decision to transfer from transfer from Terry Sanford HS and how things are working out:  The transfer to South View was definitely big.  With the death of Coach Munoz, my family and I felt it was best to start fresh and Coach Autry is amazing.  (The situation overall) has been amazing so far.  I love everything about my new team.

On how he would compare his fast start this year to a similar scenario in 2013:  This year is much different.  Having a strong team has helped tremendously because it makes running and racing more enjoyable.  I am having more fun this year.  That has been a huge difference.

On not finishing quite as well as he’d hoped at GACC last year and a new approach in 2014:  I definitely feel that the hot pace last year was a shock to me, as most of my races were slow starts and hard closes.  Having Coach Autry has helped me approach races a lot better.  I completely trust him, and what he says, I do.

On his most important season-end goals:  The most important goal to me is a team state title.  That's all I am concerned with right now.  After that, I want to qualify for Foot Locker Nationals.  Being able to represent North Carolina in a national meet is a huge honor and one that I hope I get to do.


Libby Davidson, EC Glass VA, Class of 2017

Reflecting on the significance of her NBNO freshman 2M win this past June:  It was definitely one of my favorite races that I’ve ever done.  It was great racing people my own age and competing with them.  It was a night race and the crowd was really cheering for us.

On how her summer training changed from 2013:  This year I did a lot more different types of workouts, like long distance, speed work and fartlek.  There was a lot more structure.

On how she felt about her two fast victories in early invitationals:  I was really proud of how I was able to do.  I knew going in that there was going to be a lot of competition and it was going to be very hard.  I was proud of the outcome and how I was able to win.

On her goals for Great American:  It will really be the usual routine of how I approach a big race.  I just want to try and beat my best time from before, and get a PR, and try and stay up with the lead pack.

On whether she’s had any thoughts about the post-season yet:  I’ve thought a lot about NXN and Foot Locker and haven’t decided yet.  But I really look forward to it.  (If I run as an individual) I don’t feel like there’s as much pressure since you’re not trying to score points for your team.

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