RECAP: Irish Invitational

On Friday, some of the best teams and individuals ran at the Irish Invitational in Rosemount. As has become tradition, and similar to many early season meets, it is only two miles while athletes-in-training transition into 5ks starting consistently next week. With very fast conditions, the top runners ran some times that would have been fast on a track, let alone a cross country course with grass, and dirt.

In the guys race, we saw a race that went right down to the finish. Roseville's Acer Iverson and Rosemount's Luke Labatte put on a show for the fans in the final race of the day. Iverson and Labette, ranked 3rd and 7th in the state preseason coaches poll respectively, put up blazing fast times of 9:42.4, and 9:42.8. Iverson was just able to come from behind in the finishing stretch to outlast Labette.

Also breaking 10 in this race were Minnetonka's Adam Wilkinson, and Eagan's Trenton Allen, the latter of which was also ranked in the preseason polls at 9th. Wilkinson was in the mix with Labette and Allen the whole race, but just fell of the pace slightly near the end. Still, his final time of 9:50.5 was just a mere two seconds off of his personal record of 9:48.40 in the 3200m on the track. Rounding out the top 5 was Mounds View's Austin Streit just a hair over 10 minutes at 10:01.

As for the team competition, we had a big surprise. Unranked and mostly unheralded Eden Prairie took home the title, just edging out 3rd-ranked Mounds View by a mere 4 points, and also beating 7th-ranked Minnetonka and 9th-ranked Rosemount. There were several factors that helped lead to this upset, primarily being EP's fantastic spread. Although Dave DeJong was 13th as the Eagle's top finisher, their 5th finisher was only 21 seconds behind in 36th place. That 1-5 spread of 21 seconds was by far the best in the entire race on the boys side. What hurt Mounds View was a down performance from David Dahl, who finished 31st in 10:30. But Dahl has a strong history including a 5k PR of 16:09, so he will certainly have better races in front of him. Not far behind Eden Prairie and Mounds view were the two other ranked teams, Minnetonka with 129 points and Rosemount with 132.

In the girls race, we witnessed a clear showdown between some of the best that the state has to offer. The three top-ranked Class AA runners, Farmington's Anna Fenske, Lauren Peterson, and Minnetonka's Sophie Whicher all were expected to provide the crowd with pure entertainment and an excellent display of running, and they sure did. Whicher came out very strong, trading places with Fenske at the front race until she dropped her halfway through to finish with a blazing time (and meet record) of 11:06, and holding off a surging Fenske who ran 11:13. Coming off a difficult XC season last year, this could signify that Whicher is ready to take over the State for her senior season.

But it was Eden Prairie's Malakai Holloway who surprised a lot of people with her 3rd place finish, taking over Lauren Peterson in the last mile. Peterson finished in 4th place. Rounding out the top 5 in the girls race was Libby Halbmaier of Minnetonka.

The team competition in the girls race was quite a bit different than the guys race in that it was anything but close. We witnessed sheer dominance from Minnetonka, who scored 53 points while the runners-up from Eden Prairie scored 90. Ranked 2nd in the state, the Skippers showed clearly that they belong at the top. With the way they performed today, it'll be interesting to see how they match up against Edina later in the season, the top-ranked team in the state. A huge gap followed these Section 6AA powerhouses, as Farmington followed in 3rd place with 170 points. In 4th place, we saw an impressive display of pack running from Rosemount, who had a spread of just 17 seconds.