The hilly, double-looped course is always a tough one and more of grinder course than speed friendly, even if some quick times have been put down in recent years.
The varsity girls race is scheduled for 10:15 a.m. with the boys following at 11.
Weather is expected to warm during the latter part of the week, which could dry out the course and make for faster times. Temperatures are expected to climb into the lower 80s by midday on Saturday.
Dobyns-Bennett’s Sasha Neglia torched the course last year in near-perfect racing conditions with an 18:22, eclipsing the meet record.
However, the Lady Indians are not expected to come to Bristol this weekend as they are also entered in the A.F. Bridges Invitational at Percy Warner Park in Nashville on the state course.
With D-B apparently out of the picture, the team title will be up for grabs between three or four schools, including David Crockett and Daniel Boone.
Boone pulled out both head-to-head meetings with the Lady Pioneers — at Run for the Hills in the opening meet of the season and at the Cherokee Classic in Knoxville two weeks ago.
The spread from the first to the fifth runner for the Lady Trailblazers at Cherokee was an impressive 36 seconds, the best by far in the 32-team field.
On the individual title race, Crockett’s Taylor Roy has the second-best time coming in — behind Anderson County’s Maddy Moody. Those two are the only girls that have sub-19:00 season bests coming into the meet.
There are several Knoxville girls behind the front two and Knoxville-area schools have historically fared well at Steele Creek.
Look for close races for the individual title and for the team title. Local teams also get an early look at the conference course in October.
Last year, Webb’s Carter Coughlin made 15:33 on a sneaky-hard course look relatively easy by smashing the course record, which had stood for five years, by 11 seconds.
Last year’s runner-up, Jake Renfree of Knox Catholic, is the only boy to have a sub-16:00 entry — a 15:32 from last weekend at Trinity/Valkyrie in Louisville. That performance got him the win in a highly competitive meet.
In the projections, the first five runners are all from Knoxville. The first local is Boone’s Chance Bowman with a time of 16:36, and right behind him is teammate Matt Huff at 16:46.
The Boone boys have impressed early this season, winning Run for the Hills going away and falling one point short of the team title to Montgomery Bell Academy at Cherokee Classic two weeks ago (121-122).
Despite having a better average than MBA (17:08-17:13), a spread of 34 seconds for the Big Red is tough to beat. The ’Blazers still had a solid spread of 1:19, but it wasn’t enough at Cherokee.
This weekend should be a good test for Boone again, with the Trailblazers going up against several Knoxville schools and a newly-energized Morristown West team that has found its footing after a shaky opening meet at South Holston Dam.
Individuals to keep an eye on include Crockett’s Hank Lowe (second at Run for the Hills) and University High’s Blake Ryan, who is putting together a solid season so far. Ryan’s personal best (17:26) came last week in Salem, Virginia, at a competitive Knight’s Crossing Invite.