Despite there being barely more teams than you can count on one hand, the Metro Invitational features some of the top talent in the entire state. The Eagles of Eden Prairie host this meet, and the race is run just down the road from Eden Prairie High School, at Round Lake Park. The meet features Lake Conference powerhouses against other Metro Area schools, and since Wayzata and Edina usually sit their top athletes at this meet, there are many places up for grabs for both teams and individuals. The course consists of two 2.5k laps, and has essentially no hills other than a few speed bumps, so fast times are very common here. The biggest obstacle will likely be the humidity, which is set to hover right around 80% during the races, though temperatures will be in the low 70s. In a meet so small, just a few places can make a huge difference, so we can't wait to see how things play out.
In the boys race, 5th-ranked Acer Iverson of Roseville will try to continue his undefeated start to 2017. He opened with a 16:02 5k at the St. Paul Central Open, and followed that up with another W at the Rosemount Irish Invitational, using a devastating kick to edge 8th-ranked Luke Labatte. However, there's a chance he might not even be the fastest Iverson in the race, as Blake Iverson of Maple Grove has had an impressive start to his season, taking 3rd at the St. Olaf High School Showcase. His teammate CJ Young finished right on his heels in 5th, so expect that duo to be near the front on race day. At the previously mentioned Central Open, Acer Iverson was followed in hot pursuit by Chanhassen's power trio of Nicholas Scheller, Torin Christiansn, and Zach Long, who will try to chase him down this time around. They'll have a decent shot, as they have some of the best pack running in the state. The top returner to this meet is Henry Sibley's Myles Fleming, who took 2nd here a year ago. He set his 16:02.90 PR in that race, so he could be in for a big race. Wayzata doesn't run their top runners here, but you can be sure that no matter who they run, they'll also be in contention. Even with their B team, Wayzata is projected to take the team victory in 55 points, edging out Chanhassen's 64 and Eden Prairie's 79. 6th-ranked Eden Prairie has outperformed expectations this entire year, while Chanhassen's big 3 always puts them in the running, so expect a three way race for the title.
On the girls side, with so many top tier athletes being held out, there are also plenty of spots for the taking. Expected to lead the way is Malakai Holloway of the host school, who had a supremely hot start to the season. Though she had a down race at Bauman/Rovn, she took 3rd in a stacked field at the Irish Invitational, only losing to Sophie Whicher and Anna Fenske. Her teammate Liesl Paulsen has been equally impressive, including coming out of nowhere to win the Bauman/Rovn Invitational. Chanhassen teammates Miranda Gilbertson and Meghan Pierson have gone 18:32 and 19:00, so they too should be apart of the top pack. Gilbertson is the top returner to this meet after she earned the runner up spot in 2016. Another Eagle, Annie Lee, ran 19:31 last season and could also be in the mix, as could Olivia Segura of Henry Sibley, who took 5th at this race a year ago. Lastly, keep an eye out for Roseville's duo of Samantha Kurkowski and Bergen Haag, who have both have a season best of 19:33, though the All-State Nordic Skier Kurkowski has a slightly faster PR. Though the individual race is intriguing, the stage is set for an even more intense team battle. 8th-ranked Eden Prairie wins the virtual meet with 45 points, beating out Henry Sibley's 58 and Roseville's 64. With each of these teams so close, it will likely come down to just a few places, far too close to call.