On paper, the girls' field for this year's Double S Stampede in Georgetown looks more competitive at the top, so we'll start there for the outlook.
Lexington Catholic sophomore Caroline Beiting is running for just the second time this season. She's coming off a second-place finish at the Mason County Invitational last weekend. Beiting, last year's runner-up in the Class 2A KHSAA State Cross Country Championships, ran that race in 19:19.80, the second-fastest XC time of her career. She's seeded second with a 18:57.67, earned in a victory at last season's Mason Invite. Beiting also has the distinction of being the only top-five runner who's competed in this event; she ran it in 20:22.28, finishing second.
This weekend's field will be the largest that Audrey Shelton has competed in this season, but the Grant County senior has two wins in as many trips out and set a PR in her last race. She ran 19:22.80 at the Grant County Invitational on Aug. 27 to double her career win total. She bettered Maggie Twehues in last season's Class 3A KHSAA State Cross Country Championships (a 15th place finish to Twehues' 19th).
Esther Kratzer of West Jessamine ran 18th last weekend at the Rumble in the Jungle (20:55.99) and hasn't run a time below 20 minutes yet this season. She posted PRs in shorter distances during the spring. Her seed time - 19:33.53 - came in last year's KHSAA Region 7 Class 3A meet. The only runner better than her there? Madison Central superstar Ciara O'Shea.
Might another LexCath runner threaten the lot? Cate Conklin, a junior, ran the Mason Invite in 19:40.60, finishing fourth and earning a new PR. She's seeded fifth and has five straight top-five finishes going back to last season - don't discount her on Saturday.
Two more with sub-20 minute times: Lilliana Greathouse and Ava Plumb. The former, a freshman teammate of Kratzer, ran one spot behind her in their 2021 KHSAA regional (19:48.03, a PR). Plumb, a Montgomery County junior, ran third here last season (21:06.88) and is seeded seventh with a 19:52.10.
A last-minute shake-up slowed the boys' field considerably.
Ryan Hendrix and Jase Crume, both of Woodford County, were scheduled to run here but registered for the Trinity/Valkyrie Invitational within the final hours. That leaves Grant County's Lincoln Herald (16:59.50) as the only runner here with a sub-17 minute PR. From there, the seed list times start dropping in a hurry: only three runners after him have career bests under 18 minutes.
Herald's PR, like his female counterpart at Grant County, came at the school's invitational on Aug. 27. The sophomore ran 17:31.44 the week before in the Trimble County Backwoods, his only other race this season. He's ran faster in other competitions, but his most impressive showing might have been in last year's Trinity/Valkyrie Invitational; Herald ran 15th overall there and was eighth among all Kentucky runners with a 17:24.34.
Great Crossing senior Carter Russell is the only other runner whose seed time is close to Herald's. His mark, 17:11.37, came as a sophomore in the Woodford County Invitational. However, he was faster here (18:00.81) than many runners last season. His best time this season is 17:35.62, which earned him gold in the Run for the Water Barrel to open the year on Aug. 20.
Ty Balser (Model, 17:51.26) and Ben Tennill (Anderson County, 17:58.20) are the other sub-18 minute runners in the boys' field. Balser's PR came at the Woodford County All-Comers on Sept. 6, only 10 days after setting a PR in the Colonel Charge. Tennill, a junior, is coming off three competitions held over an eight-day span. His best time, 18:16.40, was in last weekend's CHHS Fairgrounds Frenzy.
Addison Moore (Woodford County) set the girls' meet record last season, running it in 19:50.78. She's competing this week at the Trinity/Valkyrie Invitational in Louisville.
John Reinhart, a junior at Lexington Catholic, won last year's boys' race (16:56.44). He has not competed in 2022.
About half of the 306 middle school boys who've registered don't have seed times. With that in mind, here are the top three: Kyle Stickel (Woodford County, 14:25.71), Will Houlihan (Tates Creek Middle School, 15:09.40) and Yakob Davison (Morton Middle School, 15:22.50).
Same goes for the middle school girls, who have 224 registrants. The top three seeds are quite close: Sophia Anderson (E.J. Hayes Middle School, 16:03.25), Kylie Blackburn (Bryan Station Middle School, 16:16.54) and Tye Park (Bryan Station Middle School, 16:16.96).