Saturday's Golden Bear Invitational is shaping up to be an exciting race on Indiana's fastest course. At last year's Golden Bear, 14 boys dipped under the 16 minute mark on the Blue River XC Course, the same course of the Shelbyville Semi-State where 38 boys went sub-16 last year. Not only can you expect fast times, but it is going to be a tight team race.
Saturday will see several teams from this week's IATCCC Poll toe the line: #9 Avon, #13 Zionsville, and #16 Christian Academy of Indiana. Westfield will also be in the field, and should've been in this week's poll. They have been ranked as high as #23 this season, but have been extremely underrated in 2017, and are a top 15 team. In a virtual meet taking each runner's season best, these four teams are only separated by 9 points.
Each team comes in with their own strengths in the team race. Zionsville comes in with numbers, and can put all of their scoring five in a 25 second spread. Avon and Westfield each have one low stick who can dip under 16 minutes, backed up by a solid four. CAI is a boom or bust team. They have one of the best top three trios in the state, and their success hinges on solely their four and five runners to have good races.
Zionsville, Avon and Westfield will all be returning to Blue River in four weeks for the Shelbyvile Semi-State, and there will be a whole lot more on the line. Those three teams are likely to be fighting for the last two qualifying spots for the State Championships. That is makes this Saturday a great preview, and it is really a tossup. I think any of those four teams can put together a winning team. They will be fighting some hot and humid conditions for this time of the year, with the expected temperature at race time at 75 degrees.
The individual race with be just as interesting. We will have 4 All-State favorites fighting it out for some fast times and the win. Caleb Futter from CAI comes in with the fastest times of the field, running a 15:18 at Brown County two weeks ago. He followed that up with a 15:48 at the Trinity Invitational, racing in similar conditions they will see this Saturday. Challenging him up front will be Quinn Gallagher from Guerin Catholic. Quinn is coming off a third place finish at the Riverview Health Invite last Saturday, where he ran a 15:41.
Gallagher and Futter have raced against each other once this season already at the THSB State Preview, with Gallagher finishing ahead of Futter by 15 seconds. Both of them will have to look out for Futter's CAI teammate, Skylar Stidam. Stidam has always been a late season racers, waiting until late September and October to start to put things together. He has put some decent races together to start his season, but they have only been good, not great. I think that changes this week, and he will show why he should be considered among the best in Indiana in late October. That is my top 3 this Saturday, with Will Persin from McCutcheon, Southport's Michael Crook and CAI's Bryce Dunn looking to round out the top five.
For the ladies, it is going to be another meet with Top 10 teams going up against each other. This week it is #3 Zionsville against #7 Brebeuf. They aren't the only ranked teams that will be there this Saturday, as #11 Brownsburg, #14 Westfield, and #17 Franklin Central will all be in Shelbyville.
Zionsville is coming of a very impressive third place finish at the Valkyrie Invitational, only behind Flo50 #15 Carmel and Flo50 #7 Centerville (OH). They beat the FW Carroll girls (IN #1, Flo 50 #14) but Carroll was without several of their top runners.
The Lady Eagles won't have it easy on Saturday, as Brebeuf has three runners who can run under 18:45. Brownsburg will also be a challenge, as they come in with one of the tightest spreads in the field (1:30), plus low stick potential. These three teams are clearly in front of the rest of the field, and I would put Zionsville down to win.
The individual race will have huge implications in the team race, as the top three times of the season coming in come from Katherine Modrall of Brebeuf (18:03) Sophia Rigg of Zionsville (18:05) and Brownsburg Abby Lynch (18:09). Breaking 18 minutes has to be one the their minds coming into to the race. None of these three have broken the barrier for a 5K, but Lynch did run three miles in 17:17 at Detweiller in July, which would convert to a 17:53 5K.
Both Lynch and Modrall are a bit of unknown entities. Lynch is a freshman, but has already run under 18:30 multiple times. Modrall, while a senior and coming off a All State 5th in the 800m this spring, is running Cross Country for the first time since 2014. I would give the edge to the veteran Rigg, but wouldn't be surprised if either Modrall or Lynch pulled out the win.
Despite the heat predicted on Saturday, I think the course will live up to it's reputation, in running fast. I expect a handful of guys to slip under 15:30, and at least one girl to go sub 18 minutes. The team scores on both sides are going to be close, so it will insure for some good racing.