Katie Caples Invitational Preview

The Katie Caples Invitational attracts some of the top talent from across the state and individually. The 2013 edition will be no different. Ricky Quintana and Mike Leary will be on-site with a complete recap, race video, interviews, and hundreds of photos from the event.

Girl’s Individual Preview

Julie Wollrath has proven herself time and time again. She has shown speed with her 4:58.24 1600m win at the 2011 1A FHSAA State Track and Field Finals, speed stamina with her 10:53.15 3200m win at the 2012 1A FHSAA State track and Field Finals and strength in her consecutive 1A FHSAA State Cross Country Final wins in 2011 and 2012. Her 26-second win at the Wickham Park Jamboree last weekend in a quick 18:48 showed her progress has not stymied.

To defend her 2012 Katies Caples individual title, Wollrath will face a formidable field: 2012 2A State Cross Country Champion, the fastest cross country returnee from last season and the 2012 2A 3200 State Track and Field Champion, Julia Montgomery of Pine Crest; up and comer, Karen Xiang of Nease, who won the Bob Hans Ridgeview Invitational convincingly; 2012 2A State Cross Country Final runner-up, Mackenzie Wilson of Bolles, and host of other contenders looming in the wings.

Expect a sizzling start from the gun. Xiang was told to “start out slow” last week, but by the mile had a 15m lead as she sped through a 5:40 first mile. Wollrath, and Montgomery have the wheels to stay with her and a fast start will string the field out into a bicycle race like pace line. Anyone who is not ready may die off in the end and others who bide their time can pick off the any struggling casualties to move up in the standings over the final stages of the race.

When all is said and done, it will be the runner with the strength and determination who will pull out the victory. It’s anyone’s race!

Girl’s Team Race Preview

For the past few decades, the Bishop Kenny Meet has been a litmus test for the top notch teams in the North Central and Northeast Florida. The flat course and tough competition has proven to be a good site to air out runner’s legs after a long summer of base building running. Saturday night’s competition should be no different.

It is rather appropriate that the highlight of the meet will be the girl’s individual and team competition.  The meet, now named after Katie Caples, a former Bishop Kenny cross country star runner who passed away in 1998 in an automobile accident, will field some of the best teams in the state.  #1 1A Holy Trinity (Melbourne), #2 1A Oak Hall (Gainesville), #3 1A Providence (Jacksonville) and #1 2A The Bolles School (Jacksonville), #2 2A Pine Crest(Fort Lauderdale), #3 3A Creekside(St Johns), will all toe the line for an early season battle that will give fans a glimpse of the outcome at the state championships in Tallahassee on November 9.

If last weekend’s season opening meet is any indication, this meet will be a barn burner.

Oak Hall opened the season #1 in 1A, but a strong performance from Holy Trinity at their home Wickham Park Jamboree meet showed that it won’t be a cake walk this season for the defending state champion Eagles. The Tigers’ 19:34 average came on the heels of veteran Julie Wollrath (JR), Shelby Smith (SO), Samantha Folio (FR), Maleia Storum(JR) and Marie Groppel (7th) unseated the Eagles from the top spot. Before last weekend, the Tigers were ranked seventh in the 1A preseason polls. But transfers, Smith and Storum propelled them to the top of the state ranks.

174 miles to the north, the Eagles showed they are no slouches and contenders to keep defend their first state title in school history at their opener. Using solid performances from their top five, they overwhelmed 2nd place Nease by 49 points to claim the Bob Hans Ridgeview Invitational team title in Orange Park.

Two of the contenders in Saturday night’s contest fared well in a face to face meeting too. On the north side of Jacksonville, Bolles edged Providence by a mere three points to claim the North Florida 110% Cross Country Invitational.

Creekside claimed a team title winning the Spurs and Classic while Pine Crest remained idle the opening weekend.

On paper, Holy Trinity wins convincingly: by 24 points over Providence; 25 points over Bolles;  and 31 points over Oak Hall. But, as in any sport, so many factors will play a role in the final outcome of this edition of the Katie Caples meet. How different were the courses last week? Did anyone hold back in their effort?  How will the athletes handle the lime light?

Several things will be certain; each team will run the same course at the same time on Saturday night under the lights and the team winner will have some confidence heading into the meat of the season. It should be an exciting race to watch shake out.

Boy’s Individual Preview

Saturday’s boys race has some of the top runners in the state who’ll be opening their season with high expectations after sizzling track seasons.

Timber Creek’s Brandon Marquez had one of the finest freshman years in Florida history. After placing second at the 2012 4A FHSAA Cross Country finals behind wunderkind, Andres Arroyo (Colonial, Orlando), in a personal best of 15:33.8, Marquez sped to personal bests of 4:18.77 to win the 1600m at the Holy Trinity’s All-Star Showdown and 9:33.33 to claim the Golden South Classic two weeks later.

Bishop Kenny’s David Yarborough made a big leap from the last year’s cross country season 2nd place finish at the 2A FHSAA Cross Country Finals to the FHSAA Track Finals in the spring. He claimed the 1600m win with an impressive 4:20.89 personal best. He also posted a personal best of 9:25.06 to win the FSU Relays in March. Both those credentials put him in Marquez’s realm and on his home course, the 26 second gap gap between their cross country personal bests could close quite a bit.

 Other top contenders include several ranked runners: #8 4A Mandarin Senior, John Weaver; #3 3A Bolles Senior, Austin Decker; #1 1A Holy Trinity Junior Andrew Cacciatore; and #5 3A Creekside Junior, David Tampa.

Look for a fast start and finish. The new course starts with a shorter loop followed by two big loops finally finishing the final 200 meters on the Bishop Kenny track. How apropos if the winner was decided on the track?

Boy’s Team Preview

What a tough race to call?!! Based on last season’s times, current #2 2A Trinity Prep (Winter Park) comes out ahead Saturdaynight. Using this season’s results, # 2 4A Mandarin (Jacksonville) comes out on top. But what about the week 2 FACA rankings? #1 2A Bishop Kenny’s (Jacksonville) top runners sat out last weekend’s Bob Hans Ridgeview Invitational and #1 1A Holy Trinity opened with a comfortable 30-point win at their own Wickham Park Jamboree.

Mandarin’s 16:53 average at the Spikes and Spurs Invitational in Flagler and Holy Trinity’s 16:55 average at Wickham Park are too close to give the edge to either. Trinity Prep’s opener was cancelled because of lightning last weekend, but they have a close knit top five runners who could make the difference. And Bishop Kenny will be at home so they will be familiar with the new course and have an advantage. The deep field also includes #13 3A Boone(Orlando) and #7 3A St. Augustine.

This early season race will sort out the pecking order for the year and give good insight into who has the best # 4 and #5 runners who can make all the difference during the season.

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