This afternoon, sixteen of Minnesota's top private schools are going to battle on the grounds of Saint Catherine University. Open for all non-traditional or non-public schools, the meet attracts top talent and has been attracting more every year. This year's edition not only features several ranked individuals and teams in Class A, but both defending champions from last fall. The third major meet to take place at St. Kates in 2017 so far, the course will be very flat and firm, and great for spectating and fast times. But as has been the case for the majority of meets across Minnesota today, the weather will certainly be a factor in the final result. Sunny mid-80's temperatures with moderate wind will challenge these runners and could prove to be the biggest external factor in the outcome of the races.
In the boys race, there is a favorite, and he is a heavy favorite. Mounds Park Academy's Declan Dahlberg will run in his first 5k of the season after opening with a victory over Washburn's Joseph Minor at the Ron Kretsch Invitational last week. Dahlberg will be attempting to defend his State Title this fall, which will be no easy feat considering the talent we've already witness in Class A this year. Nevertheless, in this field his PR outpaces the next fastest by nearly 40 seconds, so it's going to be Dahlberg's to lose. Attempting to give him a challenge up front will be a duo of St. Thomas athletes in Ryan Tracy and Luke Kolar. Tracy is only in his first year of high school running despite being a senior, but is making up for lost time as he already has a third-place finish at Faribault and runner-up honors at the Metro East Preview, running 16:45 and 16:39 respectively. While Kolar's start hasn't been as hot, his 16:34 PR from 2016 is a strong indication of his ability. The next tier of athletes hoping to break into that top group contains Spectrum's Zackary Anderson, Nova's Chris Norton, and Math & Science's Harris Anderson. In the team battle, MileSplit's virtual meet projects a clear first, second, and third in this competition. St. Thomas, riding on the tails of their top two, scores 49 points for the win, while Minnehaha Academy sits second with 69 and Nova Classical Academy comes in third with 96. However, early season results suggest that perhaps second and third could be switched, as Nova is off to a much hotter start that Minnehaha, who has only had one runner under 18:16 so far this year. But both Minnehaha's history cannot be ignored, and with a team average of 17:33 and spread of 22 seconds from 2016, they are due for a breakout race.
While it is hard to image in a meet this size to have a bigger favorite than Dahlberg, the girls side has one. Math & Science Academy's Teirney Wolfgram is one of the nation's best freshman, and the defending Class A State Champion. Her personal best of 17:45 a whopping 71 seconds faster than the field next-best PR, and she is already in top form after opening her season with performances of 18:04 at St. Olaf and 17:58 at Faribault, defeating defending Class AA champion and NXN-qualifier (and fellow freshman) Anna Fenske in the latter. But while Wolfgram will in all liklihood be by herself out front, the battle for second could get very interesting. Visitation has yet to run a 5k in 2017, but their athlete's times from last season rank second, third, sixth, and seventh in the field. Freshman Margaret Dalseth leads the pack with a PR of 18:56, and her early returns this year have been promising in two short races so far. Teammate MaryKate Schoonover follows her with a time of 19:12. Those two athletes are the only other ones with times under 19:30. The rest of the chase pack will probably include Blake's Olivia Ohrt, Minnehaha's Ava Perez Erickson, and the other two Visitation girls Lauren Kern and Nina Reamer. Of however, not included in that mix is XC rookie Sadie Grunau, who has been Visitations' third runner so far. Naturally, with such power up front, Visitation is expected to take the team win, but perhaps not by as much as one might think. Class A's sixth-ranked Minnehaha squad sits only thirteen points behind Vistiation in the virtual meet, 36-49 (although that point total does not include a time from Grunau). Like their boys, the Minnehaha girls have a strong history and a tight spread, and are off to a solid start. And sitting comfortably in third is Blake with 86 points.