Conference Tuesday - The Biggest Day Of XC Of The Year

PREVIEW

Weather: mid-30s, cloudy

BOYS

Virtual Meet Projection: Perham (48), Moorhead (52), Bemidji (79), East Grand Forks (93), Staples-Motley (98)

Top Individuals: Emmet Anderson (Staples-Motley, 15:45), Zach Johnson (Moorhead, 15:46), Brandon O'Hara (Perham, 15:52), Dawson Strom (Moorhead, 15:53), Cole Nowacki (East Grand Forks, 16:00), Clayton Anderson (Perham, 16:10), Tyson Mahar (East Grand Forks, 16:15), Hunter Klimek (Staples-Motley, 16:21), Jacob Mccleary (Perham, 16:31), Riley Berg (Bemidji, 16:31)

The Skinny: With the cancellation of the Park Rapids Invitational and the addition of several teams from that meet (most notably East Grand Forks), the Bemidji Invitational has grown into a bona-fide meet filled to the brim with star runners and great teams - just consider that according to the virtual meet, the third-ranked team in Class A is only projected to take 5th. Perham and Moorhead are the best teams present, and it will not be the first time the two teams have matched up this year, with both teams coming out on top at various times this year in head-to-head matchups. In this field, Perham projects to take the win by four points over Moorhead. Bemidji has also been present for many battles between those two teams, and while they have not been able to best either of them, they've seen some great performances this year and actually own one of the best 1-5 spreads in the whole state, as just 24 seconds separate the season bests of their first and fifth runners, all of whom have run 16:55 or better. But perhaps the most interesting and most relevant battle will be between Class A's third-ranked Staples-Motley and 10th-ranked East Grand Forks teams, as the virtual meet puts EGF ahead by just five points. The difference is mainly due to the improvement of EGF's fifth runner Dawson McDonald, who recently had a big PR to cut a large chunk of time out of the gap between EGF's 4th and 5th runner. Whether that improvement holds, or if it will be enough to best Staples, remains to be seen. Meanwhile, Staples has the top runner in the field with third-ranked Emmet Anderson,  the winner of six of his eight races this season. This field will be one of the most difficult he's faced this year, however, as four other runners have run 16:00 or better, including the duo of Zach Johnson and Dawson Strom of Moorhead and Class A's fourth-ranked runner Brandon O'Hara. However, Anderson also beat all of this meet's top runners (except those from EGF) at the Perham Invitational two weeks ago, so he still appears to hold the advantage.

GIRLS

Virtual Meet Projection: Perham (38), Moorhead (74), Staples-Motley (88), Bemidji (92), East Grand Forks (124)

Top Individuals: Katherine Geist (Crookston, 18:40), Liz Birkeland (Perham, 19:14), Regan Dewitt (Bemidji, 19:22), Kira Sweeney (Staples-Motley, 19:24), Gwen Youso (Bemidji, 19:24), Emily Vanwatermulen (Perham, 19:29), Melton Taylor (Moorhead, 19:33), Caitlin Covington (Perham, 19:38), Kyanna Burton (Staples-Motley, 19:44), Rylie Polomny (Moorhead, 19:47)

The Skinny: While the girls meet isn't quite as star-studded as the boys meet, the cancellation of Park Rapids does result in the undefeated Katherine Geist making an appearance in Bemidji, where she'll face one of the better fields she's seen this season. One of the girls she'll see is the girl who came closer to beating her this year than anyone else, Staples-Motley's Kira Sweeney. Back at the Bagley-Fosston Invitational on September 18th, just 8 seconds separated Sweeney and Geist, but Geist has been on a tear since, including beating Ava Hill by 30 seconds at Swain. Perham's Liz Birkelid and Caitlin Covington (who's been battling an illness her past few races) are also All State competitors who will provide a challenge, while the host's duo of Regan Dewitt and Gwen Youso are both coming off breakout performances at the Perham Invitational. The team competition also has a clear favorite in the form of the defending Class A champions from Perham, who are currently ranked second in the Class A polls. Their total of 38 points comes from placing five runners in the top 15 in the virtual meet, and cuts the total of projected runner up Moorhead nearly in half. Staples-Motley will be another team to watch as they continue to try to make a case to move up in the rankings from their number ten position, and East Grand Forks (projected 5th with 124 points) will be trying to make the case to get into the rankings. 

(written by Mark Rice) 
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