Today at 10:00 AM, 15 teams will be competing at the Monticello Invitational at Bertram Regional Park. Now that these teams are getting into racing shape, since most of them already have a couple races under their belt, we'll start to have a good idea of who the standout performers are. As teams get more, and more into racing shape, times are going to continue to keep dropping. Another thing that will contribute to time drops is the weather getting cooler (today it will be low 60s and sunny at racetime), as athletes won't have to worry about fighting the brutal heat that they had to deal with at times in the summer.
In the boys race, Sartell-Saint Stephen teammates Ryan Fernholz, and Alex Nemeth both have 5k times under 16 minutes from 2016, so they are instant contenders for the individual title. However, Buffalo's Isaac Basten has already ran and won three races this season, including 16:08 just two days ago at the Bauman/Rovn Invitational (although that does beg the question of whether or not he will run, or at least run all out, on two days rest). Also, keep an eye out for St. Michael Albertville's Jonah Breuer, who still holds a very respectable 16:23 PR, and Hutchinson's Mitchell Grand, who has been a star on his team since running sub-20 minutes in 6th grade for his middle school squad. Another key individual who we expect to be ear the front is Christopher Groth of Annandale's seventh-ranked Class A team. And finally, don't count out Nick Juntenen, as he shocked the state at the Class AA True Team State Meet, taking 1st with a time of 9:37 in the 3200m.
Last year at this race, the Sartell-Saint Stephen boys dominated, going 1-2-3, and winning the race with just 31 points, 76 more than the 2nd place team, Rocori. We might expect a dominating performance by Sartell again this season, as they return their whole top 7 from this race last season. In a virtual meet using 5k PR's, Sartell wins easily by 36 points, which is just another reason why they are the clear favorite to repeat as champions of this meet this season, along with the fact that they are ranked 10th in the state in the coaches poll. However, Buffalo has actually been running better thus far in 2017, already with five runners breaking 17:15 this season. Two other teams to watch out for are St. Michael Albertville (who have three returners with PRs of 16:46 or better) and Annandale.
In the girls race, there are multiple runners that have great potential to win the individual title. STMA's Annalise Davis has the fastest 5k PR, with 18:25, and is coming off of an excellent track season, where she had podium finishes in both the 1600, and 3200, finishing 7th and 9th, respectively. Davis is currently ranked 7th in Class AA. Sartell freshman Ingrid Buiceag-Arama is the defending champion from this race last season, and she holds the 2nd fastest 5k PR in this field (18:41), so she'll be competing very close with Davis up near the front. The third main athlete to watch for is Buffalo's Amanda Montplaisir, as she has already ran 19:18 this season and showed excellent speed during track this last season running 2:20 in the 800m, and 5:15 in the 1600m. Other girls we expect to compete with the lead pack are Becker's duo of Allison Hendrickson and Victoria Kolbinger, Davis' teammate Mia Salas, and Irondale's 8th grader and 3200m State qualifier Elizabeth Vanloon.
The STMA ladies will head into this race as the favorite for the team competition. Using the virtual meet tool with 5k PR's, STMA wins by a very comfortable margin of 29 points. Monticello is the team closest to STMA, so they'll be for sure a group of runners worth looking out for, as will be Becker just behind them. But perhaps the most interesting thing to watch for will be how Class A's top-ranked team from Annandale matches up with the trio of contenders from Class AA. Annandale's strength, similar to Monticello, is their tight spread and having the second-best number-five runner (behind STMA) in the competition. This will be our first chance this season to really see just how good this team can be.