Preview: GNK Titan Invitational

On Thursday, Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin will be hosting its 6th Annual Titan Invitational. The race will go down at Eagle River Golf Course in Coleraine, just north of Grand Rapids. Weather projects to be mostly cloudy with temperatures in the low 60s, which should be perfect for running. The forecast, along with tight competition, could possibly lead to fairly fast times, although if past year's results are any indication this meet historically hasn't produced many significantly fast times. The meet expects to feature a few top individuals, at least one of which who may be in the running for the State title.

3:30 - Coaches Meeting at the Clubhouse
3:45 - Grades K-5 "Apple Run"
3:55 - Sportsmanship Song & National Anthem
4:00 - Jr. High Girls 2500M Race
4:25 - Jr. High Boys 2500M Race
4:50 - JV & Varsity Girls 5000M Race
5:30 - JV & Varsity Boys 5000M Race

In the boys race, spectators will get to witness two ranked runners duking it out. 7th-ranked Ethan Olson of Moose Lake/Willow River broke 16 minutes at NXN Heartland in 2016, beating State champ Declan Dahlberg in the race (the only time Dahlberg lost to a Class A runner last fall). He also is the two-time defending champion in this race and the only athlete in the past three years to break 17 minutes on the course, so he enters as the favorite. However, the host team's Geno Uhrbom, just a freshman, currently sits one spot higher in the rankings than Olson, so he'll provide ample competition. Uhrbom's teammate Noah Axley-Cuellar has also broken 17 minutes, so don't sleep on him. A young trio of Ely athletes should also impress, as Joey Pierce, Luke Olson, and James Schwinghammer all sit with PRs under 17:10, and they all are sophomores or younger. Despite such strength up front, Ely finishes as the runner up to Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin in the virtual meet, 60 points to 53 points. Right behind is Moose Lake/Willow River with 85, so expect a tight three way battle.

The boys race is undoubtedly stacked, but the girls race also has plenty of talent. 12th-ranked Ava Hill of Mesabi East stands as the favorite after she won the North Shore Challenge earlier this season in 19:18. She's also the 2017 800m State champ, so she can finish like no other. Only one other runner has broken 20 minutes in the 5k, and that's Emma Stertz of Grand Rapids. In fact, Stertz is the defending champion of this meet, so she needs to have an eye kept on her. Ashlee Siegle of Marshall School Duluth, Natalie Fultz of Eveleth-Gilbert, and Moose Lake's Savannah Gamst have all run in the low 20s so they could also prove to be a factor in the race. Also be sure to watch out for Ryne Prigge and Hannah Bettendorf, who were All-State Nordic skiers this year for Ely and Proctor respectively. Bettendorf and her teammate Annika Voss will look to lead Proctor to the team victory, and they're projected to win easily in the virtual meet. Proctor projects to earn 48 points, well in front of South Ridge's 130, Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin's 140, and Grand Rapids' 141. It should be a very tight battle for second.