On Thursday, one of the biggest meets of the week will be taking place at one of the most feared and famous courses in the state of Minnesota, Gale Woods Farm. This course is host to both the Lake Conference Championships and the Section of Death, and rightfully so. With it's huge hill a half mile in, followed by a daunting loop that you have to do twice, with a very deceivingly tough back hill, Gale Woods scares many runners in the state. Although it's challenging, it does has a history of having fast times being run on it, though perhaps that because so many great athletes have run here. This meet always provides the spectators with an excellent display of racing, and it will surely do the same this year with the runners and teams that are attending.
In the boys race, it'll be hard to top the 15:39 5k times at this meet last season by Seth Eliason and Matt Wilkinson, who both graduated. However, it's bound to be a very competitive and intense race, as there are multiple runners who have a very good chance at taking home the individual title. It's hard to ignore the terrific trio for Chanhassen, with Zach Long, Nick Scheller, and Torin Christanson set to compete, holding very strong 5k PR's all under 16:16. Buffalo's Isaac Basten is another runner to watch out for, coming off his very strong track season (4:26 1600, 9:28 3200) and already off to a very strong start with a 16:16 5k that he ran at the St. Olaf Showcase, taking 1st. Also, you can't count out Adam Wilkinson of Minnetonka, especially after his blazing fast 2 mile time he ran at the Irish Invitational last week, clocking in at 9:50. Other athletes worth watching include Eli Hoeft from host school Hopkins, Willmar sophomore Hudeife Mire, Paul Breitbach from Coon Rapids, and Marshall's Zach Matzner who has already run 16:45 this year
As for the team competition, the race is a lot more wide open due to the fact that Edina's varsity will not be competing at this meet. Chanhassen is going to for sure be a threat, especially after their dominating start to the season at the St. Paul Central Open. However, Minnetonka has just as good of a chance of winning this race. In a virtual meet using 5k PR's, they are just 6 places behind Chanhassen. It's going to be key as to how close Chanhassen's 4 and 5 runners can get to their front 3. Also, keep an eye out for Eden Prairie, after their dominating performance at the Irish Invitational, as they actually beat Minnetonka. Granted that was a 2 mile race, but it still was an eye opener for running fans across the state to see the Eagles perform that well after losing the dynamic duo of Parker Phillips and Zak Risken from last season.
In the girls race, 7 of the 8 finishers from last season's race graduated, which leaves a lot of open spots up at the top. Minnetonka's Sophie Whicher, who didn't run this race last season stands out as the clear favorite, especially after her dominating performance at the Irish Invitational, and her 17:38 5k PR. Lakeville South's Brianne Brewster is a very solid runner who took 6th at this meet last season, and holds an 18:10 5k PR, so as it may be tough for her to take down Whicher, she will still, without a doubt, be a runner to look out for in this race. Willmar's Leah Hanson is the third big runner to look out for, as the new top runner for Willmar and her lifetime PR of 18:25. Also, look out for Marshall's ridiculously strong top 4 to clog up the front of the pack, as Morgan Radel, Kaia Sueker, Natalee Sample, and Nichole Sample all ran under 19:30 last week at the Augie Twilight. And it would be wise to keep an eye out for Buffalo's Amanda Montplaiser, who is coming off a 19:18 performance and is already over 90 seconds ahead of her pace from past year to this point
The team competition at Bauman/Rovn will be very high quality, especially for this early in the season. 4 of the best teams in the state will be going at it, which will make for a very interesting race. Minnetonka, if healthy, will be the team to beat, as the virtual meet has them winning by 15 points. However, with Marshall's impressive performance this early in the season, they aren't going to be one you want to count on. Willmar and Lakeville South will also be in the mix, as they are programs with a very strong history, and statistically aren't too far off of Minnetonka and Marshall. Willmar is just 19 points off of Minnetonka in the virtual meet, with Lakeville South being 31 points off. However, that is just using 5k PR's, so it will all depend on which team is the most healthy, and had the best summer of training.