By Ricky Dimon
Several metro Atlanta schools put their 2011 cross country campaigns into high gear by taking part in the annual Bob Blastow Invitational last Saturday at Alexander High School. While the Lakeside, Evans boys stole the show with five runners posting times faster than 16:30, plenty of standout performances were turned in. … The Pope boys were led by Patrick Fleming’s third-place finish in 15:43 and teammate Justin Howell crossed the line in 16:41. Riverwood had three runners in the top 17; James Ryden, Eric Dietrich and Connor McDaniel. Woodward Academy showcased its depth with all seven entrants breaking the 18:00 mark. Chris Burnett led the way for the War Eagles in 16:12, followed closely behind by freshman Drew Sands in 16:17. Daniel Navarro, Ty Nelson, Matthew McMurray and Jack Leahey scored points for Marist, all finishing under 18:00 and in the top 13 overall. Galloway saw two of its runners cross the line with times faster than 18:00 in Calvin Henry and Jack Lovern. … On the girls side, Molly Schenck of Pope led five girls who broke the 19:00 mark. She finished in 18:14, while Lovett sophomore Hailey Branch turned in a time of 18:38, good for second place. St. Pius did not contend in the team competition, but the future may be bright for the Golden Lions. Freshman Tessa Schwarz finished in 11th place overall in 19:30. … Marist was the team to beat at last weekend’s Mercy Invitational, hosted by Our Lady of Mercy. In their season debut, the boys survived a stern challenge from Norcross. Early returns had the War Eagles trailing, but depth at the fourth and fifth spots proved decisive in a 36-44 victory. Michael Thurston of Marist finished second overall with a time of 16:34, not far behind Whitefield Academy’s Cameron Thornton. … The War Eagle girls raced to a more routine victory, placing all five of their point-scorers in the top 14. Morgan Ilse finished third overall in 20:10, Erin Connolly was eighth in 21:17 and Myriam Shehata recorded a ninth-place showing in 21:28. … Perhaps the story of the entire meet, though, was another brilliant performance by First Presbyterian star Grace Tinkey. After crushing the field by more than a minute and a half at her home Viking Invitational a week earlier, Tinkey prevailed in 17:55 at Alexander. That was more than a minute and a half faster than the second-place 19:38 posted by Katherine Yost of Norcross. … This weekend’s biggest meet for metro Atlanta schools is the annual Berry College Clara Bowl Invitational. In the Class A-3A division, Westminster returns to defend its 2010 title. Parkview and Brookwood had an epic duel in last year’s Class 4A-5A meet, with the Panthers prevailing by a narrow margin of 79-81. Both schools are back to resume their high-profile rivalry. The Brookwood girls are the defending champions.