This Thursday, the Little Falls High School will be hosting one of the most uniquely-named races in the state, the Lucky Lindy Invitational. Named after famed aviator Charles Lindbergh (who grew up in the town), this meet always features high flying talent. This year should be no different, though with an extremely gifted Class of 2017 moving on in the spring, it will be intriguing to see who will fill the voids left this season. There's undoubtedly opportunity for fast times here, as the course at Little Falls Golf Course has historically experienced stellar ones. And this meet has quite a history: the 2017 Lucky Lindy Invite will be the 52nd annual edition of this event. The mini Minnesota heat wave will continue tomorrow, with the temperature predicted to be around 80ºF, but be on the lookout for dark clouds, as there's a chance for thunderstorms later in the day. With such conditions, it'll be the toughest runners that emerge victorious.
3:50 Coaches Meeting
4:00 Apple Run (Grades 5 & under)
4:15 Boys JV 5000 meters
4:45 Girls JV 5000 meters
5:10 Boys Varsity 5000 meters
5:35 Girls Varsity 5000 meters
6:00 Boys JR High 3200 meters
6:15 Girls JR High 3200 meters
In the boys race, the graduation of last year's Lucky Lindy winner, NXN qualifier and 1600m State champion Seth Eliason, leaves the individual battle up for grabs. On paper, Sartell-St. Stephen's foreboding fivesome of Alex Nemeth, Ryan Fernholz, Patrick Hesse, Nick Juntunen, and Zack Nemeth look really difficult to beat. Alex, Ryan, and Nick are the top 3 returners to this meet in that order, and were within 10 seconds of each other last year. Zach Nemeth, the younger brother to Alex, has made a huge jump this year, including breaking 17 minutes for the first time at the Monticello Invitational. However, the status of "The Favorite" resides with a 9th grader. Currently ranked 4th in Class A, Geno Uhrbom of Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin blazed a 15:48 at last week's GNK Titan Invitational, currently sits as the fastest freshman 5k in the nation, and would've been the fastest ran in all of Class A a season ago. And he ran it in early September! Watch out for Alexandria teammates Keaton Gruber and Jackson Wichtendahl, as both have broken 16:30. Eli Hoeft of Hopkins and Linaes Whiting of Bemidji should also impress, as should Reid Pierzinski of Pequot Lakes. 10th-ranked Sartell-St. Stephen's impressive depth (their entire top 5 has broken 17:00) should result in them cruising to the title with 52 points in the virtual meet, over Hopkins' 114 and Bemidji's 126. That being said, never count out a powerhouse program like Hopkins. Bemidji won the 4x800 last track season, so maybe they have another upset up their sleeve. Class A schools Perham and Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin are 1st and 4th respectively in the coaches rankings, so they could also contend.
In 2016, the girls field at the Lucky Lindy Invitational was absolutely stacked. Each of the top five athletes graduated in the spring, but not before all of them had earned All-State honors in their cross country careers, so it appears that there will be even more spots up for grabs than in the boys race. Leading the charge will likely be Ingrid Buiceag-Arama of Sartell-St. Stephen, who's currently ranked 12th in the State. She's had an impressive season so far, including a win at the Apollo Early Bird Invitational. Sadie Hamrin of Bemidji and Bethany Miller of Alexandria have both broken 19 minutes, so they'll be right with Buiceag-Arama. Hamrin in particular has an extremely strong resume, having earned All-State honors twice, in 2014 and 2015. Though she had an off race at State last year, she's opened up 2017 with two wins, so it would be unsurprising if she took the W. Becker's trio of Lexi Dehmer, Allison Hendrickson, and Victoria Kolbinger have also impressed, with all of them placing in the top 10 at the Monticello Invitational. Aleah Miller, Colette Jemming, Caitlin Covington, and Emma Stertz have all cracked 19:30, so watch out for them as well. Despite not having an athlete in the top 10 in the virtual meet, Monticello is projected to win with 94 points by the slimmest of margins over Becker's 95. Monticello's overall depth pushes them to the victory, as there's a decent gap between Becker's 3 and 4 runners, so the victory will likely come down to those last two scorers. It's way too close to call, especially with the 2nd-ranked in Class A Perham girls squad in the mix. Either way, on paper, this battle looks to be the most exciting one of the day.