RICHLAND -- Some terrific battles have taken place on the 3-mile cross country course that loops about Carmichael Middle School.
Today's 43rd edition of the Richland Invite promises to rank among the best, with star power, powerhouse teams and top-flight individual talent on both sides of the ledger.
In the boys race, Kamiakin senior Anthony Armstrong is the defending champ and course record holder after last year's time of 14 minutes, 53.36 seconds.
Coming off last week's championship at Sunfair, Armstrong is up to No. 3 in the national rankings. But he won't go unchallenged, with the likes of defending 3A state champ Nathan Weitz of Shadle Park and Jacob Smith of Wenatchee lining up beside him.
Additionally, the Braves are coming off a team title at Sunfair but are not the favorites today.
That honor goes to North Central, the five-time defending 3A state champ and four-time defending Richland Invite titlist.
Spokane schools have won the last seven invite titles, with Kamiakin in 2003 the last team outside the Lilac City to prevail.
The team race should be stout, with four of the top five 4A teams in the state, four of the top five 3A, 2A No. 1 Lindberg and defending Oregon 5A champion Hermiston on hand.
On the girls' side, two-time defending champ Katie Knight returns with the course record (17:35) in hand.
The North Central junior will be hard to catch, even for a field that includes such accomplished runners at Kendra Weitz of Shadle Park, Kaitlin Kaluzny of Davis and Stephanie Rexus of Kamiakin.
The Braves won the team title last season, the second consecutive year a Tri-Cities team captured the crown after Richland won in 2009.
Kamiakin again figures to be in the hunt, but Shadle Park is probably the favorite.
Among the top local runners are: for the boys, Armstrong's teammates Austin Richards and Keegan McCormick, and Walla Walla's JP Wolpert. A small-school challenge for a top-five finish could come from Waitsburg-Prescott's Seth Deal.
For the girls, Kamiakin's Michelle Fletcher and Sydney Blaser, Southridge's Rachel Dahl and Wa-Hi's Rachel Nelson could land in the top 10. Also, keep an eye on standout Richland freshman Lindsey Bradley in her first big varsity meet.
* Kevin Anthony: 509-582-1403; firstname.lastname@example.org