First Thoughts: Wolfpack Invitational

Wednesday's meet gave us plenty to talk about as ACC foes squared off against each other in Cary, North Carolina. Here are the major headlines that we pulled from this race...

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Virginia Men Stun NC State With Upset Win

I was convinced that NC State would win this race. Convinced.

They have a strong top three, an experienced backend and a handful of youngsters who could have potentially stepped up and contributed in a meaningful way. In fact, in our meet preview, I even went as far as to say that "The NC State men should be able secure this win with relative ease".

Looks like I was wrong.

The Virginia men shocked us by taking home the win over the Wolfpack, scoring 28 points to NC State's 31 points. Rohann Asfaw continues to impress as he secured the individual win over the likes of Flavin (2nd), Bistritz (3rd) and Shanklin (4th).

You would think that by taking the next three spots behind Asfaw, that would be enough to produce a NC State win. However, the Cavaliers' depth was simply too much to handle as they went 5-6-7-9 thanks to the scoring of Wes Porter, Bryson Crites, Randy Neish and Derek Johnson. Out of those four men, three of them are underclassmen.

Even if this had a been a one-on-one duel meet, and you take out the UNC scorers who finished between NC State's fourth and fifth runners, Virginia still would have won (28 to 29) thanks to the displacement by their sixth and seventh runners.

Wes Porter looks like one of the best true freshmen in the country (alongside Kentucky's Matt Duvall) while the rest of the men in this young lineup are running like experienced veterans. Not only that, but UVA took home the win without Peter Morris and Colton Bogucki.

We were confident that Virginia's depth would keep them competitive this year, but we didn't think that they would be this good.

Clairemonte Emerging As A Low-Stick Threat

The team race was less surprising on the women's side as the Wolfpack took care of business (as expected) with a win, scoring 24 points. UNC and UVA were 2nd and 3rd with 49 and 59 points, respectively.

Seeing Dominique Clairemonte emerge as the overall winner over teammate Hannah Steelman was an encouraging result. She had a nice race at the Virginia Tech Invitational a couple of weeks ago where she finished 2nd overall and has followed that up with a performance that is arguably better than that.

In 2019, Clairemonte struggled a bit during the cross country regular season before she finished 54th at the NCAA Championships. The NC State veteran and 15:55 (5k) runner was a major question mark for us coming into this season, but it looks like she has returned to top form and could become a true low-stick alongside Steelman this year.

The potential scoring potency that Clairemonte could give this NC State team is an exciting development for a program that has yet to debut Tuohy or Starliper.

Battle of the Recruits (Round One) Goes to UNC

We didn't get to see Tuohy or Starliper race on Wednesday, but we did get to see the rest of NC State's top-tier recruiting class run in their second meet of the season. The combination of Schulz, Quarzo, Walters and Hendrix fell behind a group of UNC freshmen which were flat-out phenomenal.

UNC's Sasha Neglia proved that her season-opening win was no fluke as she placed 3rd overall behind Clairemonte and Steelman. She beat a handful of experienced NC State and UVA runners and seems to be the clear top option for this squad moving forward.

NC State's Jenna Schulz did earn an encouraging 10th place finish overall, but UNC's Kelsey Harrington (12th) and Taryn Parks (13th) continued to pour it on after she finished.

This would obviously be a different story if Tuohy and Starliper had run. But for right now, the North Carolina women look like they have the edge with Neglia leading the way.

Additional Notes...

  • UNC freshman Patrick Anderson was a DNF for the second straight race in a row. We're not entirely sure what happened to the 2019 Foot Locker bronze medalist, but this kind of result has left us scratching our heads.

  • Despite being listed in the entries, UNC's Paige Hofstad (TSR #39) ended up not starting the race according to the DNS in the results. It would have been super exciting to see her battle the likes of Steelman and Clairemonte, as well as fellow teammate Sasha Neglia. However, it looks like we'll have to wait a little longer for that to happen.

  • Not the best race ever for Kelsey Chmiel (TSR #13) as she finished 9th overall in a field where we were expecting her to be (comfortably) in the top five. Even so, this is a smaller meet and we're in a year where nothing is normal. When the time comes, we think that Chmiel will be ready to perform at the highest level (or at least close to it).