The La Salle RI boys, the Blacksburg VA girls, Andrew Hunter (Loundon Co. VA) and Libby Davidson (E.C. Glass VA) – all favorites or co-favorites – claimed New Balance Race of Champions titles Saturday during the 16th Annual Great American Cross Country Festival in Cary, N.C. Saturday. The victories were achieved with varying degrees of difficulty – Hunter’s was the easiest, while the La Salle boys had a relatively narrow win – and three of the four ROC team and individual champs were from Virginia.
A quick recap of these two key races, held in moderately warm, partly sunny, 65-70 degree conditions with little wind.
New Balance Race of Champions Boys (Individual): Andrew Hunter wanted to finally get his first sub-15 Saturday and boy, did he! The Loudoun Valley, VA junior – ranked US#8 (DyeStat) and #11 (Milesplit) ripped a 14:46.1, just a few ticks off the course record and a winner by 26 seconds – by far the biggest winning margin in boys’ ROC history. He took the lead shortly before halfway and kept extending it.
Expected to perhaps give Hunter his biggest challenge, South View NC senior Philip Hall was leading the chase pack at halfway but was an unfortunate DNF. So rallying for the runner-up spot was Adam Barnard, a Daniel Boone TN senior who led his team to a 3rd-place finish with his 15:12.1. He overtook Reilly Friedman of The Galloway School in Atlanta, who was 15th in this race last year as a junior and Saturday clocked 15:15.8. Finishing 4th was Tatnall DE senior Stephen Garrett in 15:25.5, rising up from 19th in 2013. Then 5th-12th places finished within three seconds of each other, with unheralded Zachary Stewart of Cooper KY rounding out the top 5 with 15:30.3.
New Balance Race of Champions Boys (Team): The mighty US#2 (Milesplit) and #3 (DyeStat) La Salle, RI boys came to Great American and conquered – as anticipated – but it wasn’t easy. Still without Jack Salisbury – their injured junior who typically is anywhere from 1st to 3rd runner – they had a dominating top four, scoring 5-7-15-20. But their 5th scored 85th, 48 seconds back. Nonetheless, they tallied 132 points and, as it turned out, won the closest boys' ROC battle in meet history. La Salle also become the first Rhode Island team to win the ROC. Soph DJ Principe (15:30.9), junior Matthew Bouthillette (15:31.8), senior Jake Grundy (15:44.6) and senior Daniel Paiva (15:47.5) were just too much to overcome.
Upstart Marietta HS from Georgia (close to being ranked in the Southeast) had a solid top two and a great 3-5 to come very close to La Salle and claim 2nd with 140 pts. They finished just ahead of Southeast #2 (Highschoolrunner.com) and #4 (DyeStat) Daniel Boone (Gray, TN) HS, which tallied 144 – led by the previously mentioned Barnard’s runner-up finish. Rounding out the top five were Midlothian, VA at 186 and 2013 champ Brentwood, TN at 216.
New Balance Race of Champions Girls (Individual): At the Adidas Challenge two weeks earlier, Libby Davidson moved into the national spotlight with her 17:16 win, while Ryen Frazier was 3rd in the college/open race at 17:37. Saturday at the Great American CC Festival’s New Balance Girls’ Race of Champions, they were battling in the same race. Davidson took the lead before halfway, withstood a challenge by Frazier and others early in the final mile, then pulled away on the hill for her impressive PR 17:07.3 victory. The E.C. Glass, VA soph moved to #3 all-time on WakeMed and should surely move up from her US#25 ranking (both DyeStat and Milesplit).
Frazier, the Ravenscroft, NC senior from nearby Raleigh, held a strong 2nd with 17:22.7. The next three finishers paced strong team efforts. In 3rd, Green Hope, NC junior Elly Henes moved up from 10th in 2013 with her 17:35.8 and paced her squad to a 3rd-place finish. In 4th, LaSalle, RI junior Eliza Rego dropped a spot from 2013, but ran faster with her 17:38.3 and led her crew to the runner-up spot. And in 5th, Blacksburg, VA senior Bonnie Angermeier was the top finisher for her team champions as she clocked 17:43.6. Only two runners broke 18 in this race last year, but eight did so Saturday.
New Balance Race of Champions Girls (Team): When the Blacksburg, VA girls finally achieve perfection, it will be something to behold. Last year, they just missed winning here, finishing one point behind Assumption, KY. Two weeks ago, they dominated the Adidas Challenge on this course, despite #1 Bonnie Angermeier and another runner suffering food poisoning. Saturday, Angermeier said they were all a little of their hoped-for times, but they still ruled supreme in the Girls’ ROC – becoming the first Virginia champ with 56 points, winning by nearly 50. Angermeier led the charge in 5th overall, as Coach James DeMarco’s team scored 3-7-12-13-21. The next four were Jenn Fleming (18:08.1), Emily Beatty (18:29.3), Annie Kaye Combs (18:29.5) and Samantha Marin (18:38.4).
The runner-up spot went to La Salle, RI (105 pts.), which moved up from 7th last year and showed that their girls’ program deserves attention just like their highly touted boys. They were led by the aforementioned Rego in 4th and also scored Karina Tavares (5th, 8th overall) and Sheridan Wilbur (8th, 11th overall) in the top 10. Local power Green Hope, NC reprised their 3rd place finish from 2013 with 130 markers, paced by the aforementioned Henes’ 3rd-place finish overall, and 9-time champion Saratoga Springs, NY took 4th for the second straight year with 143. Defending champ Assumption, KY was 8th.