If there is a cross country meet in Section V that puts the season for Mickey Burke and other runners into a higher tempo, it’s the McQuaid Invitational.
The competition attracted to one of the Eastern region’s largest high school meets can stir teams and their coaches to test where they stand as September moves into October.
Burke, a senior at Rush-Henrietta and an All-American in 2012, has concentrated more on training, than racing. He also had to wrap up the college recruiting process for him, and gave a verbal commitment this week to Syracuse University.
There are also sinus issues for Burke to deal with, but the 2012 Democrat and Chronicle All-Greater Rochester Boys Runner of the Year said he will be fine for the 49th and what may be the largest McQuaid Invitational at Genesee Valley Park on Saturday.
“I feel like I should hesistate to call it racing,” Burke said about his two performances this season. “This is going to be my debut.
“We’re starting to turn it into quality (-based workouts) now.”
Burke and his Rush-Henrietta teammates line up in the seeded varsity AAA race, scheduled for 4:22 p.m. Even as reigning Section V Class A champions they are not favored to win, not with Fayetteville-Manlius, Liverpool and state champion Saratoga in the field.
Those teams, in order, are ranked 1, 2, 3 in the state, and that’s not all. McQuaid (14th) and Fairport (15th) hold state rankings, too.
“I’m excited, it should be a fast race,” Burke said. “It’s pretty much the first big meet of the year. The McQuaid is huge, it’s right up there with the Manhattan Invitational.
“I think the Section V guys like it because it’s kind of like a home crowd.”
There may be someone to scream your name, provide a no-hands push around the three-mile course. One thing is certain, there will be plenty of coaches, runners, parents and relatives around.
A total of 245 teams have entered, which is normal, according to McQuaid coach and race director Todd Stewart. The number of individual entries is about 7,800 — by far a record.
Hundreds of runners could withdraw from races before their teams gather at the start, and this meet would still have more participants than ever.
The Fayetteville-Manlius girls are sure to stand out from the masses, in part because of the team’s status as seven-time national champions.
“They have Hollywood-like status in the cross country-world,” Stewart said.
Unionville, a team based outside of Philadelphia, also is nationally ranked and is in the same seeded AAA race that goes off at 3:58 p.m. as Fayetteville-Manlius.
This also is another chance for Penfield, state-ranked No. 3, and Rush-Henrietta to size up each other. Penfield, led by top-25 Foot Locker Nationals finisher Katie Lembo, and Rush-Henrietta are the top two teams in the season’s first Section V Large Schools Coaches’ poll.
“I’m still proud of their effort last year,” coach Mike DeMay said about Rush-Henrietta’s first team win at the McQuaid Invitational. “This will be the true test. I think we’re going to get an eyeful of Webster Thomas, too.
“This will probably be a real good showing for Section V Class A. You could run well and still finish in fifth-place after a great meet.”
The Canandaigua girls are back in the seeded AA race for medium-sized schools at 1:25 p.m., with nationals qualifier Kennedy Jensen to lead their pack. They could get locked into a battle with Class B powers Honeoye Falls-Lima and Pittsford Mendon.
The same could be true in the seeded AA boys race at 2:07 p.m., with a third contender — Brighton. Kennedy Weisner with Elk County County in Pennsylvania broke the McQuaid Invitational girls course record last year and plans to return in the seeded A race at 11:33 p.m.
“They are calling for moderate temperatures, high 50 or low 60s, sunny and dry,” Stewart said.