Girls' Challenge Race Preview - Carlisle Invitational
This is probably the most loaded girls field we'll see on Pennsylvania soil all season, until maybe the state meet (and possibly not even that). Some of the top PA girls will matchup with some top-notch out of state talent.
The top PA girls in the field are PA#2 Taryn Parks of Greencastle-Antrim, PA#3 Hannah Schupansky of Oakland Catholic, and PA#6 Emily Schuler of Dallastown. Parks has been on fire this season, picking up runaway wins at PTXC 10 and Ben Bloser. She is yet to break 18 minutes in her career, but the best bet is that it should come this weekend on a quick Carlisle course.
Schupansky has also been rolling this season. She solo'd big wins at McDowell (18:00) and then Red, White & Blue (17:56). She should also be approaching a major PR if all goes well on Saturday. Schuler picked up a win in her only invite -- Ben Bloser -- in the AAA race earlier this year. Saturday will be a big test for the junior.
Then there's the out-of-state talent, headlined by Blacksburg (VA)'s Ailene Edwards. She's picked up three wins already this season and has a few sub-18s to her name. The VA harrier will certainly be in the mix for the win. Her teammates Kaitlynn Wolfe and Sophia Link should be in around the top 5-10, as well.
Padua Academy (DE)'s Elizabeth Bader, the University High (WV) duo of Zoe Shetty and Caroline Kirby, and James W. Robinson (MD)'s Seneca Willen are other non-PA girls that will supply a serious threat to the lead pack on Saturday.
PA#16 Jenna Mulhern of West Chester Henderson is yet to race a 5K in an invite setting in her high school, but expect the freshman to mix it up with the best of them on Saturday. She won the frosh 2 mile at Unionville over Blue Mountain's Olivia Haas earlier this season in 11:45. Other ranked PA girls in the field are State College Area's Kileigh Kane (PA#17), West Chester East's Allyson Clarke (PA#20), Central Dauphin East's Makenna Krebs (PA#21), Cedar Crest's Gwyneth Young (PA#22), Saint Joseph's Catholic's Sera Mazza (PA#24). All in all, nine PA girls inside the state's top 25 are in the Challenge Race at Carlisle.
The team race will be interesting Saturday. The heavy favorites are Virginia's Blacksburg, a team ranked US#19 by MileSplit. Led by Edwards (one of the individual favorites), Blacksburg has all the pieces a great team needs and it will be on display on a quick Carlisle course this weekend. It will be hard to take down this team this weekend.
The top PA team in the field is PA#4 Oakland Catholic. Led by Schupansky, Oakland was third at the Red, White & Blue Classic earlier this season, but did so without Teresa Davison, one of its usual top runners. With her return Oakland should make some noise in the team standings.
But this race also features four other teams ranked within the top 10 of PA. PA#5 State College Area was fourth at Foundation last weekend, despite of DNF from top runner Kane. With Kane back, SC will be even better. PA#6 West Chester Henderson has not run a 5K yet this season, but the depth was on display at Unionville's 2 mile class race earlier. Look for the Warriors to make a statement to the rest of the state Saturday. The hosts from Carlisle (PA#8) won at Big Spring two weeks ago without Meg Lebo, its No. 1 runner. The Herd will contend for a high finish, too. West Chester East (PA#9) debuted in a big way at Briarwood two weeks, and will be looking to follow that up with a big race at Carlisle.
Padua Academy (DE), University High (WV), and James W. Robinson (MD) are a trio of solid out-of-state teams that will matchup well with the aforementioned PA teams. Downingtown West, Dallastown, Elizabethtown Area, Northeastern, Manheim Township, Vincentian Academy (PA-A#1), and Saint Joseph's Catholic Academy (PA-A#2) are among the other squads in this very deep field that will hope to make a nice mid-season statement in central PA.