Each year, the Nike South Invitational provides a venue where some of the fastest Houston-based teams as well as teams from around the state have a chance to showcase their speed over a flat course. Nike South also serves as a great measure of improvement as it's one of the last big meets before the championship season, and gives teams a great benchmark for where they stack up against their likely opponents at the regional meets.
Whether it be the stacked slate of individuals or the tight battle for the team title, this year's Nike South Invitational is sure to continue the trend of being one of the best meets in the Houston area. So, let's take a look at five predictions for the Nike South Invitational.
1. Southlake Carroll, The Woodlands, and Tompkins Battle For The Win
Southlake Carroll needs no introduction, as the most successful team in Texas over the last five years, they've thoroughly dominated their competition. This year's Carroll team has been no different to start as they've maintained the trend of having an extremely tight pack at the front of their races. That being said, this weekend provides them with their best preview of the competition to their state title in the form of Tompkins and The Woodlands.
Tompkins and The Woodlands have been two of the most recognized and successful Houston area teams over the last decade with each producing some of the best team and individual talent in the state. This year is no different as both teams come into this meet ranked #3 and #4 in the 3rd CCCAT Poll, making them the top-ranked teams in the Houston area.
The two teams have gone head to head at Friday Night Lights and the Strake Jesuit Invitational with Tompkins coming out the victor in both meetings so far. The Woodlands didn't run their full squad at Friday Night Lights, therefore making the Strake Jesuit Invitational the best measure of competition thus far. Tompkins came out on top by six points thanks to a 1-3 finish, however, The Woodlands showed that they still have the talent to compete at the top.
This weekend's race will undoubtedly be a tight battle. Southlake Carroll feels like an untouchable force at the moment but Tompkins has had a perfect year so far as they've won nearly all of their meets. However, if The Woodlands' depth continues to shine and their low sticks place where they should, we could be looking at one of the best three way battles we've seen in a long time.
2. Benjamin Montgomery Battles The Southlake Duo
Benjamin Montgomery has had a stellar start to the year as he's met or exceeded expectations at each of his races so far. Montgomery fought hard for the win at the McNeil Invite last weekend and came up just short, however, he once again showcased the strength and poise that's made him as successful as he's been.
On the other side, Carroll's star duo of Jude Alvarez and Caden Leonard have made the Dragons unbeatable. Alvarez and Leonard consistently run and work well together at the front of races, feeding off each other which allows them a strategic and competitive advantage over others.
Montgomery traditionally wins his races by holding a strong pace at the front and making a well-calculated and definitive move to seal the deal as we saw most recently at the Texas A&M Invitational. This will suit him well on a course like the one we see at Nike South as the race will go out fast and eventually become a war of attrition. The course layout also provides ample opportunities for surges and other strategic moves that suit a runner like Montgomery.
Alvarez and Leonard look to have the edge in terms of raw speed as
they've performed well over two 3 miles courses, however Montgomery has
looked strong over some tough 5k courses.
This race will be extremely close as it is every year, and the victory will ultimately come down to who makes the right move at the right time. Montgomery has shown that he thrives running in fast races where strategy plays a big role, however he will undoubtedly be tested by Alvarez and Leonard who have the advantage of working together. This is sure to be an exciting battle and has big implications on the outlook of the individual race come November.
3. Seven Lakes and Bridgeland Are Separated By Ten Points Or Less
While Southlake Carroll, The Woodlands and Tompkins will undoubtedly have a tight battle for the win, the battle for the next two top five spots might be even closer. On paper, Seven Lakes and Bridgeland are essentially the same team as they both possess a low stick with the last name Montgomery who runs around the 15:20 mark. On top of that, both Montgomerys are flanked by tightly packed depth that run nearly the exact same times.
Matthew Montgomery: 15:17.10
Benjamin Montgomery: 15:21.20
Christopher Cameron: 16:12.00
Kyle Pawlak: 16:20.40
Lucas Brighty: 16:21.90
Maddox McCallister: 16:21.50
Arjun Baviskar: 16:22.50
Nazim Benguedda: 16:23.40
Samuel Garcia Camejo: 16:32.10
Vihaan Chamkur: 16:39.00
Hudson Smith: 16:40.80
Hayden Price: 16:40.00
Both teams have had very similar seasons to this point and with their times being so close together, the battle for the podium will come down to the wire. Both Montgomery's will produce on both sides but the race will become a matter of who's second runner comes out ahead and whose fifth runner can give it that extra push at the end for their team.
Due to their proximity to one another in each place, the race between Seven Lakes and Bridgeland will be separated by ten points or less with those ten points being won over the course of the last half mile.
Final Team Predictions:
Similar to years past, this year's team battle will come down to the wire as the sheer volume of talent within each team will make for an exciting race where every move matters. Given the high level of talent that will be at the front, Southlake Carroll will edge out Tompkins for the win on Saturday.
Despite the challenge they're sure to face from formidable teams like Tompkins and The Woodlands, it's just too difficult to see a scenario in which the dominance of Southlake Carroll is challenged. Their ability to run together at the front of every race they're in makes them as close to unbeatable as a team could hope to be. Thanks to this, the Dragons will win a hard fought battle against some of the state's other top teams and come out victorious.
In terms of team makeup, Tompkins has been able to win the races they have by packing several runners right at the front of the race. This will serve them extremely well on Saturday as the race will start fast, allowing Tompkins to get their top runners out in front and hopefully keep them there as the race progresses. Their volume in the front pack will help them in their battle with Carroll, however Tompkins will come out a respectable second.
As for third place, The Woodlands will battle Tompkins all the way to the line, however, they will fall just short and finish third. While the Highlanders have showcased outstanding depth this year, they lack the volume in the top ten to compete with Tompkins at this point. The Woodlands has continued to take steps in the right direction throughout the year and despite not getting the win, this performance will serve as another one.
Final Individual Predictions:
In similar fashion to the team race, the race for the individual crown will be tightly contested and won by the slimmest of margins. Strategy and making the right moves at the right time will be critical for success and for these reasons, Benjamin Montgomery will take the individual title.
In each of his races, Montgomery has shown to be calculated and poised, allowing him to make the right moves at the right time which have led to victories in two of his races and a podium finish in the other. Montgomery will maintain his place in the front pack and unleash a definitive move over the last mile to secure himself the victory.
In second place, Jude Alvarez will battle hard with Benjamin Montgomery and earn a well-deserved spot on the podium. Alvarez has shown an ability to hammer away at the front throughout the season which has served him extremely well up to this point. While he'll run an incredible race, Benjamin Montgomery's calculated strength will simply be too much this time around.
As for third, Caden Leonard will help lead Carroll to the team victory with yet another strong performance to add to his already great season as a member of the top duo in the state. Leonard has been consistent and impressive throughout the season and his consistency will continue here as he'll snag a podium finish and a team title to go along with it.