This Saturday, Ft. Zumwalt North High School will host Missouri's first ever high school twilight invitational at Pheasant Run Golf Course in O'Fallon. After hosting their home meet on the first weekend of races over the past few years, the Panthers decided to both move the location from their high school campus to Pheasant Run and put it under the lights after construction interfered with their course.
The JV girls race kicks off the festivities at 7:00 PM. The JV Boys race follows at 7:30 with the Varsity races starting at 8:00 (Girls) and 8:30 (Boys).
The Twilight Invite should prove to be one of the most competitive meets in the early goings. FZN Head Coach Josh Janisse noted an influx of interest in the meet, but decided to cap the entries. As a result, 22 schools will bring both their boys and girls teams while 1 team (Webster Groves) brings only their boys and 3 teams (Ladue, Nerinx Hall, and Ursuline Academy) bring only girls.
"We are keeping to about 20 teams on the boys and girls side for the first year because I wanted to provide a good experience for each team," said Janisse. "I'm hoping to have more the next few years. I've had to turn down quite a few teams this year."
With all of the interest and intrigue surround this meet, several of the state's top teams will be making the trip out to Pheasant Run.
The Girls Race
Saturday will provide the first look at a Lee's Summit West squad which looks poised to win defend their Class 4 state title. The No. 1 team in our preseason rankings, they are led by individual title contender Madison Hulsey. The Lady Titans will have a few more top 10 squads nipping at their heels with Class 4 No. 3 Eureka, No. 4 Nerinx Hall, and No. 9 Francis Howell.
The Lady Titans are the heavy favorites here after putting five girls under 12:00 in a 3200 Meter Time Trial last Saturday (as reported on Facebook by Head Coach Jesse Griffin). Nerinx Hall showed on Tuesday that they have the depth to compete with anyone after running away with the team victory at the Fleet Feet Kickoff in Arnold, putting six in the top 12 there. Marisa Jacknewitz (12:34.21) and Keaton Ibendahl (12:45.10) both led the way there. Eureka was well behind the pack in their first race on Wednesday, but a 2.7 second 1-5 split and 13:41 average paints the picture that they may not have been running the Parkway Central course at full speed. Look for the Wildcats to pack up near the front pack and compete for a top 3 finish. Francis Howell's girls, led by junior Sarah Russom, will be running their second twilight meet of the young season after opening at Memphis last Saturday. The Lady Vikings could finish as high as second, though, as their young guns continue to gain experience over 5000 meters.
Individually, the afore-mentioned Hulsey will have her hands full if she hopes to bring home the individual victory. While she makes the trip across the state, Christian's Mercedes Schroer and John Burroughs' Kylie Goldfarb, Class 3's top 2 ranked individuals will also be seeking the gold on Saturday. Watch for Russom, Jacknewitz, Ibendahl, any one of Eureka's top 5 runners, LSW's McKenna Butler, Addie Mathis, and Makayla Clark, Pattonville's Lucy Ndungu, and Lindbergh's Alyssa Forbes to all fill out the lead and chase packs.
The Boys Race
The team title on the boys side will most likely be a close one between Preseason No. 7 Lafayette Wildwood and No. 9 Lee's Summit West. Lafayette is led by Aiden Murphy and Alexander McMillen. After finishing 4th in Class 4 last fall, graduation hit the Lancers hard, but only a crazy person would count out a team led by Coach O'Connor in any race.
Lee's Summit West returns Will Carroll and Will Hildreth. Carroll is one of only two returning Class 4 all-staters in the field and is coming off a stellar track campaign in the middle distance events. He should be a contender for the team title and his low score should be a boon for the Titans in their team title hopes. Also, after missing the last half of his sophomore season and all of his track season, junior Jake Schlicht will make his return to the Titans this year. He ran 16:26.55 as a freshman.