Seahawk Invitational Meet Preview

Howard and Severna Park are two of the top teams in the state and could very well end up being the top two teams doing battle at the 4A state meet in two months. They waste no time meeting this season as Allysa Combs (middle, number 1334) and the Falcons will square off against Amanda Eliker (left) and the Lions on Saturday. (Photo by Craig Amoss)

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This Saturday, South River High School will host the 9th Annual Seahawk Invite featuring some of the most competitive races all weekend. The Seahawk Invite, a staple for many team's first race of the season, has been a coming-out party for some of the top teams and individuals in Maryland. This year, no one runner can be deemed a true favorite on both the guys and girls side. There are several runners within seconds of each other that could potentially take home the title for Seahawk champion.

River Hill's Anish Nanjappa is the top returning runner from last year's meet when he finished third with a three-mile time of 15:40. (Photo by Lisa McArthur)

On the boys side, we could see a very tight battle between Sam Keeny of South River (home favorite) and the top three Severna Park boys, which includes the duo of Nick's (sophomore Nick Benedict and senior Nick Engleman) and Jake Gelfand. Keeny dropped a blistering 15:53 on the exact course at the AACPS county meet (held also at South River High School). However, all three Severna Park runners ended last season with no slower than a 16:05 effort at the Great American Cross Country Festival, just seconds away from Keeny's 15:53 time at his county meet. Another top contender will be Anish Nanjappa of River Hill who grabbed his first cross country state title last fall and returns ranked sixth with a time of 16:08. Some other potential contenders include the Wedding twins from Chopticon (Zach and Jeff, both sub-10 2-milers), Tanner Piotrowski of Arundel (15:36 3-mile PR), and James Dennison of Severna Park (9:45 3200m outdoors). More runners who could potentially crack into one of the top finishing places this weekend include Kendall Phillips of Howard (6:40 PR in the 2K Steeplechase) and Conor McGirr of Huntingtown (4:22 1600m outdoors).

On the team side, the Severna Park boys look to take the title once again with their top 5 runners (Engleman, Benedict, Gelfand, Dennison, and Louie) all within the top 15. However, it should be a close battle for second and third place as teams such as River Hill, Chopticon, and Howard all look similar in the team standings.

Leonardtown's Nelle Ray won this race as a sophomore last year by 13 seconds. Can she defend her title this Saturday in the face of a stacked and talented field? (Photo by Lisa McArthur)

On the girls side, the duo from Northern-Calvert (Oakley Olson and Hannah Mack) look to assert their dominance early into the season. However, similar to the boys race, there are many potential contenders that could take down the Northern-Calvert girls. Mount de Sales' Juliette Whittaker, the now-sophomore phenom who made her mark as a freshman running times 2:05.25 in the 800m outdoors (5th nationally) and 4:48 in the 1600m, could definitely challenge Oakley Olson for the title as Whittaker is ranked fourth with a time of 18:59. Severna Park's excellence extends over to the girls side as well as Allysa Combs looks to make her way into a top finish, returning with a time of 19:00. Some other potential contenders for the individual title include Nelle Ray of Leonardtown (11:17 3200m this past outdoor season), Amanda Eliker (11:05 3200m this past indoor season) and Sara Kindbom (5:19 1600m this past outdoor season) of Howard, Faith Meininger of River Hill (2nd in last year's Seahawk Invite), and Sydney Yankanich of Northern-Calvert (18:55 3 mile PR).

On the girls team side, it looks to be a very snug race especially between the Northern-Calvert and Severna Park girls. With three girls potentially in the top ten (Olson, Mack, and Yankanich), the Northern-Calvert team looks to put an early statement to the other teams. However their depth could make or break their title chances. Severna Park, led by Combs, includes seven girls in the top 20, giving them a lot of depth. Other teams such as the duo of Eliker and Kindbom from Howard and the Leonardtown girls led by Nelle Ray could look to upset both Northern-Calvert and Severna Park for the team title.

Whatever the outcomes tomorrow, there will be no doubt some blistering times on the Seahawk Course that will also allow certain teams to make an early statement at their first meet of the season.

- written by MileSplit senior student writer Brian Lau