"They're young, they only have one senior. Next year, we're returning the whole squad," Jason Henley said. "It's to the point where they know how to win and know how to attack races. It's been a lot of fun to watch."
Midland is the defending champion, but Parsons knew University would be the 2013 favorite about a minute after the 2012 race ended. Still, the Knights have improved throughout the season and Parsons always looks for a way to pull off an upset - even without sidelined runner Alex Short.
"He was 14th last year, as a freshman," Parsons said. "He's been running for three weeks but he doesn't have enough time to get in shape to be in our top five."
Charleston Catholic has a shot in girls AA-A, but the Irish have to run down a talented Philip Barbour team and hold off Williamstown. Sophomore Payton Mullen and freshman Hannah Gacek lead a Catholic team with just one runner having performed on the Midland course.
Some injury luck may come into play.
"Philip Barbour is really good," said Catholic coach Scott Welch. "Their No. 3 runner has been hurt since mid-September. If she can run, I think they've got it; if she's not, it's a three-horse race with them, us and Williamstown. It would be the closest of the four races to be run on Saturday."
Bridgeport is expected to dominate the boys AA-A race.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, dougsm...@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.