Jon Anderson figures to be one of the boys' favorites at Saturday's 10 a.m. Elizabeth S. Broughton Memorial Invitational at the Broughton Nature & Wildlife Area in Marietta.
If the Fort Frye senior All-Sate cross country runner does cross the 5k finish line first, he'll join older brothers' Jeremy and Jordan as winners of the event. Jeremy Anderson won it in 2009, while Jordan Anderson did the same last year.
As of Monday, the Marietta High-hosted Broughton invite had 11 schools entered in the race (up three from last year), including defending varsity boys' champion Warren, Fort Fyre, Caldwell, Meadowbrook, and Waterford of Ohio, and Elkins, Williamstown, Linsly, Ravenswood and Magnolia of West Virginia.
RON JOHNSTON The Marietta Times
The Warren boys’ cross country team toes the starting line of the 2013 Broughton invite. The Warriors are the defending champions in this year’s event, which is scheduled for Saturday.
"We still have three days before entries are closed, and we should see Belpre, New Lex, Eastern and perhaps Federal Hocking," said veteran MHS cross country coach Dale Leeper. And we always seem to have a surprise entry or two."
So far, Logan of the Southeastern Ohio Athletic League (SEOAL), the defending varsity girls' champion, was not entered.
"Entered runners as of today (Aug. 18) are at about 185 for high school and 160 for middle school," Leeper contined. "We should be close to 400 when entries close, if not over.
"When we started this meet 15 years ago, it was one of only a few on this date in both Ohio and West Virginia. As cross has grown, it is now one of 28 meets in Ohio alone scheduled for Saturday. So we're glad to have the quality and quantity of entered schools. Southeast Ohio and north central West Virginia both have many state level teams year in and year out, so we're looking forward to very competitive races."
Last year, Jon Anderson didn't even toe the Broughton starting line due to an early-season knee injury. He didn't run his first race until late September.
"Jon has come back great," said first-year Fort Frye cross country coach Jason Lipot. "He's stronger and determined. His goal is to win at state."
Anderson is way ahead of last year with one race already under his belt. Last Saturday, he placed seventh in a time of 17 minutes, 22.05 second at the OHSAA Early Season Invitational at National Trail Raceway in Hebron.
He can run faster as he covered the same course at the 2013 state meet in an all-state clocking of 16:10.38.
Anderson is expected to be joined by FFHS running mates' Ford McElroy, Owen Young, Liam Thompson, and Raymond Cooper. The Cadet boys' team was ranked No. 19 in the OATCCC Division III cross country preseason poll.
"We lost a lot from last year," Lipot said. "But it's a long season, and we want to be able to peak when it's time to peak."
During the race, Anderson should have plenty of competition from Warren state qualifier Sam Goodman and Brent Ash, who finished fifth and sixth, respectively, in last year's run. If Belpre enters the competition, freshman Keller Windland and Cray Sistrunk, a 2013 runner-up at Broughton, will also be in the hunt.
Look for Caldwell's Tanner Harding to be in the mix as well. As a team, the Dugan Hill-coached Redskins were ranked No. 17 in the OATCCC D3 cross country preseason poll.
Marietta will be paced by Jake Haught, an Ohio Division I district honoree, Kody Phillips, Connor Brack, Jeff Davis, and Cameron Barnhouse.
Don't count out any of the W.Va. schools, either. The boys' winner could also be on one of those teams.
On the girls' side, Fort Frye state qualifer Mary Kate McElroy might be the one to beat. A year ago, as a freshman, she finished fourth at Broughton in 21:25.10.
Last Saturday, McElroy was first in a clocking of 20:36 at the Early Season invite.
McElroy will be joined by teammates' Katelin Hart, Reagan Skinner, Jessi Callihan and Natalie Hart.
In the lead pack, some others to look for will be Caldwell's Katie Saling and Lindsey Furr, the younger sister of last year's winner Jenna Furr, and Warren's Hannah Dugan.
Again, the girls' winner could be on one of the W.Va. squads.
The Lady Warriors will also be paced by senior Sydney Brague, the daughter of first-year head XC coach Neil Brague.
MHS will be led by seniors' Olivia Wesel, Emma Martin and Brittany Deskins. The Lady Tigers' top runner may be sophomore Kelsey Hall, a 2013 all-district honoree.
"Our high school girls and boys teams are very different from last year's squads," Leeper said. "So, we're not quite sure what to expect. Our girls team had a very solid group of ninth graders last year, and most return with a year of experience. Our boys team experienced a surge from Middle School last year, with 11 new ninth graders this year. We expect them to make a little noise."
"As much as we'd like to do well at our home meet, with both teams being fairly young, we've made the decision to focus on the ECOL (East Central Ohio League) and tournament competition, so we will be going into the Broughton Invitational with a pretty heavy early season training load. But the great thing about athletics is that we really have no idea how any contest will turn out."