Meet Preview: Riverview Health Invitational

Riverview Health Hospital, located just a few miles from Westfield High School in Central Indiana, has taken over complete naming rights to one of the most popular invitationals in the state.

3 of the top 5 individuals so far, this season will get to go head to head to head with each other before they meet again in the Noblesville Regional. Flo50 #4 Gabe Fendel , Junior standout Cole Hocker and North Central Senior Ian Hunter will all three battle it out on the tough Northview course in Carmel, IN.

A quick little recap of last year for those of you who don't remember or weren't there. Cole Hocker shocked everyone when he topped Gabe Fendel in the boys' race, beating him by 3 seconds. Ian Hunter finished 22nd. Now last year Ft. Wayne Carroll came to this meet and won by a huge margin, with all 5 of their scorers in the top 15. They totaled 42 points with Hamilton Southeastern placing 2nd with 117 points. Carroll is not returning this year, so that puts HSE in the hot seat as the top returning team. A big factor in last year's race was the weather. The course was majorly flooded with areas of the course looking like little ponds were forming. Last year's meet should've been renamed to FlashFlood instead of FlashRock. 

But no need to be concerned with what happened last year, we should be concerned with what could happen this year. The weather will be a complete 180 of last year. With the high being in the mid-80's and the low being only 60, it'll be a little warmer than the past few weekends but still nearly perfect weather for a great race. 

This is a tough one on all sides to predict what could happen individually and in the team race as well. Based on this season's PR, Hunter has an edge over Fendel by 2.20 seconds. But that means very little since, 1: they weren't racing each other, 2: the times were on different courses. Personally, I have a feeling Gabe and Cole will be battling with each other once again this year. Gabe should come out on top. He has not raced since Hamilton County so his legs should be fresh and ready to go. Being his senior year as well, Gabe may just go out there and attempt to break the course record of 14:36.2, set by 3-time Indiana State XC Champion Futsum Zienasellassie back in 2011.  Hocker should follow not far behind in 2nd with Hunter in 3rd.  Jesse Hamiln, Quinn Gallagher and Sam Kuhn should all also be within that first top group of finishers.

The individual girls champion should be a no brainer. Tyler Schwartz should have no issue dominating this race from start to finish. There is a good chance she may be running part of the race on her own. The real race will be for 2nd place. Abi Little(Noblesville), Gabby Dilick(Westfield) and Sydney Lambert(Norwell) will be stride for stride with each other for most of the race. Abi Little, I believe, will take 2nd place over the rest. Purely based off her prior experience. She was 14th at state last year and holds and 18:03 PR, set on her home course, and she beat both girls at this meet last year. 

On the team side of things, I don't believe Hamilton Southeastern will be able to score enough high enough to win the team title. I think this year North Central has the upper hand to take the team title. Fisher's is also looking strong this season, so I can see them placing 2nd and possibly Cathedral 3rd. NC shouldn't have a problem with their top 5 all being in the top 35 individual placings, with Fishers possibly only have 3 in the top 35. If the 2-5 Tigers can hang with Sam Kuhn for 3K, they will have a much higher chance at stealing that title from the Panthers, but I don't really see that happening. 

Now with the girls Championship Race, things get a little interesting. Zionsville is sending their varsity to the Trinity/Valkyrie Invite in Kentucky this weekend. If they had sent their top 7, their top 7, I would have predicted them to be the team winners. With them out of the team race essentially now, I would pick Noblesville as the top team. They have been using the great method of pack running throughout all their meets this year, with the exception of Abi Little. She always seems to be at least 10 people in front of the rest of her teammates. She will be probably the most important part of the Lady Millers earning the team title this year. Following very close behind them will be the Lady Royals of Hamilton Southeastern. I don't have them as first for a couple reasons here. First, they have not been able to prove that they can pack up well enough for the entirety of the race this season. They do a great job at it towards the first couple of K's but after that they seem to each find a different gear and go on their own. Second, Noblesville did beat them at Hamilton County, but narrowly, by just 2 points and Noblesville's average times are a little better than HSE's. So, Noblesville should be the girls team winners with HSE not far behind.

Stay tuned on all weekend for coverage from the Riverview Health Invitational and the Trinity/Valkyrie Invitational.