Three of the top ten teams in the Northeast will be putting everything on the course as they face each other in the Race of Champions at the Great American XC Festival 10/2. US#18 NE#2 Toms River North NJ will have to contend with US#20 NE#3 Cedar Cliff PA and the other regionally ranked squads in Cary, NC, including NE#9 Cherokee NJ. Cedar Cliff has been aiming for Great American. Toms River North NJ usually visits the Cherokee Challenge, which will be held 9/18. But that\'s just two miles, and divided by class, so little will be learned there. The next big convergence of Northeast ranked teams will be the 10/9 Manhattan Invitational. While all the top teams may not race each other, they will be on the same course on the same day, so comparisons can be drawn. Almost half of the NE\'s top ten will visit Van Cortland Park that day, including NE#4 Lockport NY, NE#5 Fayetteville-Manlius NY, NE#6 Chaminade NY (?), and NE#8 Shenendehowa NY. NE#9 Cherokee NJ will race the boys\' Eastern States 10/16 at Van Cortlandt, but may switch that with Manhattan, depending on team factors. NE#6 Warwick Valley NY is using a slightly different strategy. They\'ll run the Seeded Boys Invitational at Great American 10/2, a week after racing in the 2nd tier race at the FLrunners.com V race in Florida. They\'ll put their stock in their performance at Federations. That\'s the race all the New York teams look to as make-or-break. Right now, NE#10 New Milford CT is looking for the New England Championships to make their case. NE#4 Lockport NY and NE#5 Fayetteville-Manlius NY will also face each other at the McQuaid Invitational 10/9.
Can anyone catch or stop the US#1 Saratoga Springs NY march to another year of near perfection? US#7 NE#2 Bay Shore NY has been chasing them for years, and at last year\'s Great American XC Festival it was clear that the gap was there. Saratoga is even better in 2004 with the addition of key transfers. So NE#2 Bay Shore NY is trying a different tact this year. They\'ll tune-up just as they did in 2003, running at the Spiked Shoe Invitational 9/11 at Penn State University. 2002 FL Finalist Laura Cummings won\'t have a Frances Koons (Allentown Central Catholic/Villanova) to chase her this year. Bay Shore NY will then visit the McQuaid Invitational 10/2 in New York, followed by the girls Eastern States 10/9 at Van Cortlandt Park, NYC. They\'ll cap off their invitational season at the Brown Invitational 10/16. That\'s a three-week stretch which will tell the tale of this year. NE#3 Hatboro-Horsham PA has already run into a bit of a snag. They were upset (although this editor should have seen this team coming) by unranked St. Basil, PA. Hatboro was missing one of their top five, and another is a traditional slow-starter. But that aside, St. Basil dominated the field, and will surely find their stock rising over the next few weeks. Hatboro will run against NE#3 Gwynedd Mercy PA on 9/18 at the Briarwood Invitational. Gwynedd and St. Basil will meet 10/2 in the ROC at Great American. That will be the first of two critical races for the squads this year. One of those two teams, despite potential national rankings, will NOT BE GOING TO THE PA STATE MEET. The reason is that District One in the Philly suburbs does not have enough small schools to merit two auto team qualifiers. Last year, Gwynedd won the District meet by two points. St. Basil qualified three individuals, and all three medaled at States. Stay tuned. Four other NE unranked teams will try their hands at the ROC 10/2 in Cary NC, including Ocean City NJ, Ridgefield CT, Monsignor Donovan NJ, and Monroe-Woodbury NY. NE#10 Warwick Valley NY is also in the race, along with Saratoga Springs NY. St. Basil will race at the Eastern States 10/9. Hatboro may also make the trip. NE#5 Amherst MA will race at the Brown Invitational 10/16. NE#6 Champlain Valley VT will run 9/25 at the Manchester Invitational in New Hampshire.