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Weather conditions in and around Houston will be ideal on Saturday. But it is predicted to rain on Friday, so the course conditions could possibly be a concern. Course conditions will continue to be monitored, but at worse, they could resemble NXN conditions.
2018: 1. El Paso Eastowood (TX); 2. Southlake Carroll (TX); 3.Flower Mound (TX), 4. The Woodlands (TX)
2017: 1. Flower Mound (TX); 2. Southlake Carroll (TX); 3. El Paso Eastwood (TX); 4. The Woodlands (TX); 5. Klein (TX)
2016: 1. Southlake Carroll (TX), 2. College Park (TX), 3. The Woodlands (TX), 4. El Paso Eastwood (TX), 5. Kingwood (TX)
2015: 1. The Woodlands (TX), 2. Southlake Carroll (TX), 3. Flower Mound (TX), 4. College Park (TX), 5. Smithson Valley (TX)
2014: 1. Southlake Carroll (TX), 2. The Woodlands (TX), 3. Rogers (AR), 4. College Park (TX), 5. Katy Seven Lakes (TX)
CONFIDENCE PICKS BY MILESPLIT:
1. El Paso Eastwood (TX); 2. Southlake Carroll (TX); 3. The Woodlands (TX); 4. Flower Mound (TX); 5. Grapevine (TX)
Teams To Pay Attention To:
- El Paso Eastwood (TX): The squad qualified for NXN for the first time in their program history last year. They finished last in the entire field. But, they are back. They take losses every year, but they keep coming back. Three years ago, they graduated perhaps the best runner in their history in Daniel Bernal, they come back and finish second place at the UIL 6A state meet. They then win the 5A title the next year and qualify for NXN. Last year, the graduate three key members of the NXN team and they come back to win state again and are some how possibly better than last year's team. They had the best team statistical race at the state meet and for the first time they will arrive in The Woodlands as the team to beat for the NXR South team win. They are carrying their city, their school, and their community on the backs. Coach McLain's El Paso Eastwood Troopers have wide shoulders!
- Southlake Carroll (TX): The Dragons have not let their foot off the pedal all season long and they show no signs of stopping now. The Dragons have attained the UIL 6A state championship trophy that has been in their sights for four years. What hasn't eluded them was an NXN berth. While they haven't won the state title the last four years, they have managed to keep punching their ticket to Portland. The sweet taste of doing both in the same year is one nobody has tasted in years and Coach Leonard's group would like to. Carroll has beat everybody in the last couple of weeks in the season, and they placed third at Woodbridge Cross Country Classic and the Chile Pepper Cross Country Festival. They also have a win over Eastwood head to head at Wood bridge. The rematch is tomorrow. Sit back and enjoy because it will be a heck of a match up!
- The Woodlands (TX): The Highlanders have finally fallen. Sort of. While they did not win the 2019 UIL 6A state championship, it took one of the best team performance ever to beat them. If not, we'd be talking about the Highlanders winning five state titles. And even though we aren't, it should not be overlooked that this team is very good. Just look at what they have have accomplished the last two years and at what level they continue to rise to. The Woodlands has major wins in a couple of meets including Nike Desert Twilight Festival over Eastwood. They have two low stick runners with Ryan Cardinal and Ethan Hammer that will keep them in a good position. With the state meet in the rear view mirror, the Highlanders are definitely expecting redemption at Bear Branch Park tomorrow. Trust me, they are well aware that the girls and boys UIL 6A champs have not not won the NXR South title in over four years and the boys winner hasn't qualified for NXN. No better time for them to keep that streak alive.
- Flower Mound (TX): The Jaguars had a great 2019 season. They have hit a lull over the last two meets, but you can expect them to get their groove back for this meet. If they are clicking, things will be extremely close between the top four teams. Fast and Tight is the only way to qualify out of this bunch and Flower Mound can do that with the best of them. They been tested a lot this season and have passed more so than not. Like The Woodlands, they have two legit low sticks, but their pack has been faster and just about tighter than anyone else. If they are on their A game, the Jaguars could win this meet and relive their 2017 NXR South title.
- Grapevine (TX): The team is young and most of their roster was running in the Rising Challenge races last year. What a difference a year makes. These young guys are gutsy and good. This could be another developmental and experience type of race for them before they have undoubted expectations, but that doesn't mean it's a throw away race. Sophomores Walker St. John and Trey Leathers are two of the young leaders of this group that doesn't lack confidence. The Mustangs are probably a year away from flexing their muscle, but they are still a threat in tomorrow's race.
- Klein (TX): The team another squad that will be a force next year, but can still throw a wrench in the plan of one of the favorites. They proved their potential at the Region 2 race and the UIL 6A state meet. Christopher Daniels and Gustavo Posada are a solid 1 - 2 punch and they keep their squad in the mix. They have a very solid 3 - 5 set of runners, who could navigate their way through Saturday's race and capitalize on the short comings of the top teams.
- El Paso Americas (TX): Americas had a great race at the Region 1-6A meet. They were a part of the amazing 6A team race, but the got lost in the shuffle with the amount of deep teams who ran well that day. However, their 15:38 team average and 42 second split is still worth mentioning and keep an eye out on them. They know how to race and are capable of catching people by surprise if you over look them. Just ask the Region 1 folks.
Top Returners From 2018:
1. Jarret Kirk (TX); 3. Anthony Monte (TX); 5. Edwin Gomez (TX); 9. Spencer Cardinal (TX); 10 Nate Lannen (TX); 12. Judson Grer (TX); 14. Ethan Hammer (TX); 16 Christian Rivera (TX); 19. Erik Lara TX)
- Ryan Schoppe, La Porte (TX): Schoppe hopes to have a better race than last year. He had to drop out of the race due to an injury, but after a 14:12 and his first cross country state championship, he has high expectations. Schoppe has never qualified for a post season cross country meet due to complications, but he is perfectly healthy and in the best shape of his life.
- Jarrett Kirk, Flower Mound (TX): Kirk is the only person in the field who has already won an individual state title and a NXR South individual win. In fact, he might be the most decorated athlete in the field. He has had a great 2019 season, but that doesn't mean that Kirk hasn't had some issues this season. He was beat at his district race, then ran very well at regionals, and then not as good at state. Kirk has done this before, like last year and we know how that ended. So, bottom line, don't count Kirk out because anything is possible with this guy! He is also the only guys to beat Schoppe heads up.
- Judson Greer, Melissa (TX): Greer is the two time UIL 4A state champ. Greer is also a super stud! He had raced a couple of big races this year and he is undefeated. All that gets put on the line this weekend. He is a 4A guys who doesn't race the big boys much, but he hasn't ducked anyone. He raced at Marcus I, where he beat everyone in this field and he raced at Chile Pepper Cross Country Festival and went heads up with Schoppe until he had to drop out of the race. Keep in mind, at last year's NXR South, Greer led the entire race for over half of it until he succumbed to is own hard pace. He did the same at the state track meet when he ran a solo 9:06 3200m. This year, he is a totally different runner and has continued to take races out hard like when he soloed a 14:34 at state. We'll have to see how he handles the pacing tomorrow. Will he take it from the lead or run with the pack and focus on the finish.
- Anthony Monte, Austin Vandegrift (TX): Monte was third place overall last season at the NXR South. Even since then, he has established himself as one of the top runners nationally. He was second at the UIL 6A state meet and is having a great 2019 season. The Columbia University commit looks to finish his high school career in a major way and he will compete for the win tomorrow.
- Edwin Gomez, San Elizario (TX): He won the 4A state title his freshman year over Greer, but then Greer beat him last year and then again this year. Last year, Gomez rebounded at NXR South to qualify for NXN. Gomez has the opportunity to do it again this weekend. He gained invaluable experience at last year's NXN run. Will that pay dividends?
- Evan Caswell, Coppell (TX): Caswell has been one of the top Texas runners this season and will no doubt be one of next year's leaders. However, he has one more chance to solidify his junior year and he can do that with a great race here and qualifying for NXN. Caswell beat Kirk at their district ran and was second to him at regionals. He bounced back for a fourth place finish at state with a 14:48.34.
- Ryan Cardinal, The Woodlands (TX): Cardinal is one of The Woodland's leaders. He was third at last year's state meet and was third again this season. His 14:38.86 proves he has the speed and his ability to ensure he has top finishes is a knack that will come in handy tomorrow. Cardinal's worst finish is fifth place at Desert Twilight with a 15:03. He will be in the lead pack and has a kick to be in the mix at the end.
- Samuel Ashley, Canyon (TX): Ashley is another 4A stud. He was undefeated all season long until state where he finished third behind Greer and Gomez. His 15:17.11 shows he can handle a fast pace. He won last year's NXR South open race and he'll look to add another win in a different level this year.
- Ethan Hammer, The Woodlands (TX): Hammer had a great state meet. He dropped a 14:50.32 for fifth place at the state meet. Hammer is one of the leaders for The Woodlands and he will be running with his A game. He is important for his team's success and that should endure he is clicking on all cylinders.
- Nate Lannen, Southlake Carroll (TX): Lannen is Southlake Carroll's No. 1 runner. He is capable of running with the best of the best. His state meet performance was lackluster compared to his consistent running over the last two years. A bad performance for him is 15:44 and a good one is as fast as needed. He was last year's NXR South 10th place finisher. Lannen will bounce back, especially with everything on the line for his team.
- Will Muirhead, Lucas Lovejoy (TX): Muirhead is always a threat. His 14:59.28 and fourth place finish at state is evidence to that. He is always near the action as his races at Marcus I, Lovejoy, and Chile Pepper indicate. The Oklahoma State commit will once again be in the mix tomorrow.
Other Athletes To Watch: Andres Arroyo, Dallas St. Marks (TX); Pablo Arroyo, Dallas St. Marks (TX); Isaiah Billingsley, Miller Grove (TX); Derick Bible, Decatur (TX); Ben Black, College Park (TX); Nicklaus Brawner, College Park (TX); Solomon Chavez, Southlake Carroll (TX); Jonathan Chung, Allen (TX); Christopher Daniels, Klein (TX); Gabe Embree, Decatur (TX); Ryan Fillingim, Marcus (TX); Gavin Frick, Celina (TX); Hayden Gray, Round Rock (TX); Trey Leathers, Grapevine (TX); Caleb Lopez, Dripping Springs (TX), Nick Majerus, Kingwood (TX); Triston Read, Decatur (TX); Christian Rivera, Kaufman (TX); Ben Shearer, The Woodlands Christian (TX); Foster Wilfong, Boerne Champion (TX); Wyatt Wingard, Frisco Reedy (TX); Jack Woods, Cedar Park (TX); Victor Neiva, Keller Central (TX); Juan Olmos, Eastwood (TX), Elias Perez, Eastwood, (TX); Julian Baeza, Austin St. Stephens (TX)