ATLANTA - September 20, 2022 -- The slow lifting fog and cool fall air that has blessed the Saturday morning of the Wingfoot XC Classic for the past several years creates ideal racing conditions for the day's marquee races: the Varsity A boys and girls events. In the boys race, Richmond Hill dominated in 2021 beating second place Lovett by 95 points. But Richmond Hill is only returning two of its top five, so while they might have some singlets in the lead pack, they will have a much harder time winning the team competition this year.
Richmond Hill's Memphis Rich comes into the race as the top returner from last year when he took third. Rich is coming off a 15:52 at the Southern Showcase in Huntsville, AL last weekend and has only raced twice this season. His teammate and fellow junior Noah Sybert was fourth last year and ran 16:18 at Southern Showcase. He'll need a breakout race to be on the podium in Cartersville.
Rich's chances got a big boost Wednesday morning when Roswell announced its varsity team will not be competing. That means Christian Jimenez, who has run 16:22 this season, won't be challenging Rich for the victory.
That leaves McIntosh senior Caleb Kreitner as Rich's closest challenger on paper. Kreitner opened his season with a dominant win in Varsity Race 3 at the Bob Blastow Invitational running 16:25. He followed it up with a personal best of 16:22 for 9th place at the AT&T Starr's Mill Panther XC Meet. Kreitner's most recent race is a 17:14 on the state meet course in Carrollton, but that was likely not an all-out effort leaving him fresh for Wingfoot.
Seth Grogan, a senior at Cherokee, is quietly having a good season as well and will be in contention for his first victory of 2022. Grogan was also at Bob Blastow where he ran 16:15 in the highly competitive Varsity Race 1. He was third at the Big Peach Mustang Stampede on September 10 and took 10th in the Varsity race at the Warpath Invitational last weekend.
In the team competition, with Roswell out of the mix, McIntosh will be ready to pounce. With Kreitner at the helm, the Chiefs took second in the large school varsity race at the Carrollton Orthopedic Invitational with a team average of 18:03 on the historically challenging course. And at Bob Blastow, they dominated Varsity Race 3 with Kreitner and second runner Zander Hasslewood taking first and putting five runners in the top six finishing positions.
Other teams that would benefit from a good day include Riverwood International Charter School. Riverwood has looked strong against tough competition this year. They were sixth at the Kosh Championship with only teams entered in the Wingfoot XC Championship race ahead of them. And Cambridge High School could sneak into a top spot as well. The Bears won the Fowlkes Memorial Invitational earlier this season, but will need to tighten the spread between their third and fifth runners to have a shot at the crown.
The Varsity A race will be streamed live on Milesplit Saturday morning starting at 7:40 a.m.
The Varsity Girls race at last year's Wingfoot XC Classic was an exciting battle between Dunwoody's Claire Shelton and Alexa Hoppenfeld of Riverwood International Charter School. It was Shelton in the end, besting Hoppenfeld by five seconds. Saturday, we could see a rematch.
Neither have raced much this season. Shelton ran 18:21 to win Varsity Race 1 at the Bob Blastow Invitational last month, but hasn't raced since as she did not join her team at the Warpath Invitational last weekend. Hoppenfeld's only result is a victory at the notoriously tough Milton XC Invitational where she beat Claire Peterson and Carmel Yonas, both who are top seeds in the Championship race on Friday night. The unknown could make for an exciting showdown.
Runners that could serve as spoilers to Shelton-Hoppenfeld rematch include Shari Brown, a sophomore at Landmark Christian School and Elizabeth Stamey, a sophomore at Roswell. Brown was runner up to Shelton at Bob Blastow and won the Fowles Memorial Invitational earlier this season. Stamey ran 19:40 at the Southern Showcase in Huntsville last weekend and was second at the Zack Wansley Clash last month.
Riverwood comes into the race as the team to beat by far. At the Milton Invite, they were 5th behind only teams entered in the Wingfoot XC Championship race and they performed well at Bob Blastow and the Kosh Classic without Hoppenfeld. Still, they'll need a solid run from their second runner, sophomore Anna Glass.
If Shelton rejoins the team, she makes Dunwoody an outside contender. Even with her victory at Bob Blastow, Riverwood beat Dunwoody and that was without Hoppenfeld running. Dunwoody has a massive, nearly five minute gap between its first and fifth runners and that will have to shrink significantly if they want to be in the mix.
The Varsity A race will be streamed live on Milesplit Saturday morning starting at 7:55 a.m.