This afternoon, Faribault High School will be hosting its self-titled Faribault Invitational. This will incredibly be the 52nd installment of the race, making it one it Minnesota's longest-running cross country invitationals. The talent will surely live up to the history of the race, as 19 teams on both the boys and the girls side will be in attendance, along with plenty of ranked individuals. The course resides in North Alexander Park in Faribault, and it consists of two 2.5k loops. Each loop winds around the park, past baseball fields and then along the the Cannon River Reservoir. It's expected to be in the mid 60s and sunny, decent weather for solid times. Given the level of competition, there are usually very strong times run at this race. A year ago, in spite of heavy rain causing muddy and slippery conditions, 9 boys broke 17:00 while 15 girls broke 20:00, so we'll see if this year's crop of talent will outperform those marks.
The boys race will feature a storied program that has very strong chance of making the podium at State this season. Third-ranked Addison Stansbury of Stillwater will look to lead his squad to the team win, but he's also the individual favorite. He broke 16 minutes in 2016 (just his first year running XC), and has already PRed, impressing everyone by hanging with Wayzata's top athletes and finishing in 15:50 at the Columbus Catholic Invitational. He'll have plenty of talent to battle though, as 18 other athletes broke seventeen minutes in 2016. A trio of teammates might be Stansbury's closest competition, as Jacob Ring, Joe Hesse-Withbroe, and Jack Degonda all ran 16:30 or better last season. Watch out for the young guns Carter Briggs of Winona and Noah Revels of Farmington, as both sophomores had impressive freshman seasons. Rochester Mayo's Spencer Moore is the top returner to this meet after his 4th place finish last year, so keep an eye on him. Math & Science Academy's Harris Anderson and St. Thomas Academy's Luke Kolar should likely be in contention, as will be yet another pony in Noah Johnson, who won the Suburban East Conference 1600m title during track. 3rd-ranked Stillwater's incredibly deep team is not only favored to win, but will also have a chance at a perfect score of 15 points. In a virtual meet, they go 1-2-3-4-10 to win with 20 points, creating a battle for 2nd place. Farmington is favored to be the runner up squad with 147 points, but they'll have to fight off Winona and Mankato West, each of which are projected to score 168 or less. With such a large race, it's anybody's guess who will follow Stillwater in the standings.
While the boys race undoubtedly holds some top notch talent, the girls field might be even more impressive. 2017 State champ Anna Fenske of Farmington headlines the competition, and she'll look to defend her title from this race a year ago. Of course, any race that Farmington attends is guaranteed to have a good showdown, as Fenske's teammate Lauren Peterson, an NXN and Footlocker Nationals qualifier, is currently ranked 9th in the state. Hanging right with the Tigers will be Class A superstar Tierney Wolfgram, who won State last year and impressed with an 18:04 runner-up finish to Grace Ping at the St. Olaf Showcase. Faribault teammates Madelyn Skjeveland and Ruby Gernandt will aim to represent the home team up front, and they both cracked 19 minutes in 2016. Kenzie Misgen of Shakopee also dipped under 19:00 a year ago, so she will be in contention. Pay particular attention to Kendall Pfrimmer of Rochester Mayo and Molly Moynihan of Apple Valley, as both just missed All-State last year. Pfrimmer finished in 26th, just one place out, while Moynihan was 32nd. Despite Farmington's 1-2 punch, Shakopee's tighter pack leads them to the win in the virtual meet, but by the narrowest of margins. They're predicted to score 74 points, just 4 more than the Tigers. The lack of much difference between the two sets the stage for an epic team showdown. Lakeville North is projected to take 3rd with 101 points, but they lack the depth of the other two top contenders. But if their 5th runner has a strong day, they too could surprise with a win.