Southlake Carroll Inv. Analysis: It Was The House Of Dragons

Starting line at the Elite Boys race

Photo Credit: Jan Smits/MileSplit TX

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Network television giant HBO has a new show called House of the Dragon, a prequel to the their hit show Game of Thrones. It's about the Targaryens, their dragons, rulers, and heirs to the Iron Throne.

The Southlake Carroll XC Inv. is less about ruling and heirs, but was still about a clash on the course and and much was in part to the Carroll Dragons.

We knew going into the meet that there was going to be some sort of early season reckoning with the many state ranked teams and individual MileSplit Preseason All-State members.

The result of the clash of talent assembled at the event did not let us down; on the contrary, it was astonishing.

Fast Elite Boys Race

In the Boys Elite race, there was a total of 39 boys who ran 16:00 and under. Lubbock Monterey senior David Mora had a solid junior season, but not to the level he was expecting. He was the third place finisher at the 2020 UIL 5A state cross country meet and replicated that in 2021, but contracting COVID-19 kept him from reaching the heights he aspired. On the track, Mora had things clicking, but at the state meet, he got tangled with other runners who were behind him and had a fall on lap two that he was unable to recover from.

However, on Saturday, the equation for a big race was in the cards for Mora with front runners like Judah Alexander-Macias (Leander Homeschool), Wyatt Athey (Denton), Angel Sanchez (Fort Worth Diamond Hill-Jarvis), Adam Burlison (Grapevine), and Hudson Bennett (Burnet). This group of boys cliqued up to prance around Bob Jones Park at a fast pace to lead the race to an outstanding result.

At the mile marker, it was Southlake Carroll's Logan Cantu who carried the race through the first one-third of the race with Macias, Mora, and Jack Johnston (Prosper) close in tow. Sanchez joined the lead group over the next 1K and he would team up with Mora as the two pulled away from the rest of the pack.

Jack Johnston and Andrew Mullen compete in the Elite Boys race

Photo Credit: Jan Smits/MileSplit TX

The duo would continue to press the pace leading the field over the second half of the race with Mora pressing into the lead in the last 800m or so. Mora won the meet with a 14:46 PR, which improves his previous 15:00 PR from RunningLane last fall. It was also the 26th fastest 5K by a Texas runner ever. Sanchez was runner-up in 14:55, Athey sprinted in for third in 14:56, Burlison was fourth in 14:57, and Bennett was the fifth runner under 15:00 with his 14:58 PR.

This race alone proves how explosive the 2022 cross country season will be. With five boys from this event alone, it already matches last season that had five boys under 15 minutes and there were eight in 2020, with them all running their times not coming until October.

Another key takeaway is that none of these five boys are UIL 6A runners. Mora, Athey, and Burlison are all in 5A, and in Region 1, so we should get to see them match up plenty of times to come. Sanchez and Bennett are 4A runners and they will connect in the future.

1 David Mora 12 Lubbock Monterey 14:46.17 
2 Angel Sanchez 11 Fort Worth Diamond Hill-Jarvis 14:55.54 
3 Wyatt Athey 12 Denton High 14:56.29 
4 Adam Burlison 11 Grapevine 14:57.98
5 Hudson Bennett 12 Burnet 14:58.42

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Unexpected Girls Results

The girls individual race was just as impressive and surprising. 

There were 12 girls who ran under 18:30 in the Elite girls race including eight girls who ran impressively under 18 minutes. Another surprise were the race leaders and eventual winner and runner-up finisher.

There were several state champions and state meet medal winners in the race, but it was two girls who one had not individually qualified for the state meet in cross country one who hadn't done so in track who were in control.

At the mile, it was Carroll junior Alexandra Walsh who was absolutely pressing the issue with Prosper senior and last year's third place UIL 6A finisher Shewaye Johnson in second, Pearland junior Madison Peters in third, and Haley Harper from Plano West in fourth who all pulled away from the field early on.

Walsh and Peters carried out their assault on the Bob Jones course and inflicted uncomfort on one another as they did anything but play it cool and easy through the first two miles. Peters would assume the lead duties with about 2K to go and press to the win in an extremely impressive 17:00 with Walsh also finishing with a fabulous 17:05. Those times rank them No. 17 and No. 23 all-time on the girls Texas list.

Six other girls would zoom around the fast Bob Jones Park course to get sub 18 Minute performances. 

Girls compete in the Elite Girls race

Photo Credit: Jan Smits/MileSplit TX

Other key takeaways from this race is how Margaret Thompson from Hockaday has already ran her second sub 18 minute race of the season. The SPC defending state champ is clearly in good fitness. Abigail Bass moved up to 5A this year, which means no more two mile races and a heavy dose of Lovejoy girls, Isabela Conde De Frankenberg, McKenzie Bailey, and Allie Love. She makes the fourth 5A girl to run sub 18 minutes this weekend.

If you haven't heard of Haley Harper or Charis Whittington, you clearly will come to know them this year. Harper was a soccer girl who came over to cross country last year. Her best effort was 20:03 last year, which wouldn't put her on anybody's radar, but the Plano West runner got the hang of running during the track season. She ran 5:19 in the 1,600m in the spring and this fall she has already been superb. Her 11:41 at Rock Hill was just an opening as this weekend she ran 17:43 to make her a legit player in this running game.

Whittington is a senior at Richardson Pearce and even though she has been running for years, she didn't separate herself. She ran well on the track as a sophomore with 5:11 and 11:31 PRs, but didn't reach them last year nor ran faster than 18:47 in cross. This year, she isn't playing around. Whittington already ran 18:37 at Plano ISD two weeks ago and followed that up in Southlake with a 18:19 PR and a 10th place finish.

Both Harper and Whittington could end up being unexpected but great recruits for some lucky college programs.

1	Madison Peters	11	Pearland	17:00.76 	0
2	Alexandra Walsh	11	Carroll High School	17:05.45 	1
3	Ava Bushaw	12	Carroll High School	17:25.37 	2
4	Margaret Thompson	11	Hockaday	17:29.53 	3
5	Shewaye Johnson	12	Prosper	17:31.56 	4
6	Abigail Bass	12	Melissa	17:35.39 	0
7	Haley Harper	12	Plano West	17:43.53 	0
8	Allie Love	11	Colleyville Heritage	17:52.95 	5
9	Izzy Lochtefeld	12	Northwest Eaton	18:15.71 	6
10	Charis Whittington	12	Richardson Pearce	18:19.84 	0

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House of the Dragons

This was the Southlake Carroll XC Invitational at Bob Jones Park, a place where they train. It's safe to say, this was their house. Contrary to the movie dismay of the dragons in Game of Thrones and the slay the dragons promoters, there weren't any dragons harmed Saturday morning, In fact, the Carroll Dragons did what we expect dragons to do -- breathe fire.

We expected to see a good first big meet matchup with some top teams in Texas. In the girls race, Carroll, who is coming off a disappointing 2021 season finish where they ended the UIL season in fourth place and off the podium were running for the first time on grass this year. We also had Colleyville Heritage, who has been running out of their minds the last three seasons, El Paso Franklin and Prosper have turned into a consistent major level programs, Northwest Eaton, who had a record run to the state meet last year, along with Rock Hill, Keller, and Grapevine are always very good.

However, Carroll was letting out some frustration and setting notice to the state that they have they swagger back. Walsh was the lead runner on this day with senior Ava Bushaw following her up in third place with an impressive 17:25 finish of her own. To add to that, their top seven runners were all in the top 28 places and outside of their sub 17 minute runners, their three through seven runners split 31 seconds.

Point scoring wise, they only scored 37 points; the Carroll Dragons were supremely dominant and their team average was a whopping 18:05, over a minute faster than the second place team and 147 points ahead.

Colleyville Heritage looks prepared for another UIL 5A team battle, Franklin looks strong and ready to battle Region 1-6A teams, and Prosper looks strong again despite graduating one of the state's top all-around runners.

Alexandra Walsh, Shewaye Johnson, and Madison Peters compete in the Elite Girls race

Photo Credit: Emma Thomas/MileSplit TX

The surprise team and one to lookout for is Northwest Nelson. Nelson has an elite coaching staff with two coaches who have won state titles as head coaches at other schools. However, it was their girls who seem to be putting things together. They ran a 19:24 team average and with only a 15 second deviation and the top five were all within 11 places of one another.

The boys team race was much of the same -- more Carroll Dragon dominance.

Cantu's 15:11 led the team with is seventh place overall finish. He was followed by two younger dragons with sophomore Blake Bullard who finished 12th overall in 15:23 and freshman Caden Leonard who was 16th overall in 15:29.

Overall, the top seven dragons were all under 16:00 with number seven coming in at 15:54 to create a 15:30 team average and 36 second split, which are characteristics of state championships. Carroll has won three consecutive state titles and are in a good position to capture number four.

This is not only stat based optimism; holding off state ranked teams like Prosper and Coppell and a soon to be ranked El Paso Franklin squad show the poise and personality of this Carroll team.

Coppell ran a strong team race with their 15:46 team average and 55 second team deviation. Prosper, Franklin, and Wylie all ran team averages under 16 minutes. Argyle and Grapevine had one of several upcoming team battles that may decide the UIL 5A team championship.

Coming out of this weekend, many big time performances were witnessed. However, the girls and boys individual races of sub 18 minute and sub 15 minute performances at the Southlake Carroll XC Invitation were season standard setting type numbers and the Carroll teams make us wonder if late August form looks like this, how good they could look in November.