Not every great competition in today is a few hours south, west, or north of the Twin Cities. This afternoon, teams will travel to the northwestern suburb of Anoka for the Rum River Invitational. 21 schools will be sending their squads here today, including some of the very best in the state. Run on the property adjacent to Anoka High School, this course is traditionally very fast with few hills and firm footing. There's a lot of turns, with and a small area with sand, but that doesn't impact times too much. However, the weather might; the forecast is projecting temps in the upper 80s with 11 MPH winds, so that could certainly make for an interesting competition, and maybe a few surprises.
In the boys race, the individual race is as open as it could possibly be, with any one of a dozen athletes capable of winning this race. Mounds View's David Dahl has the fastest overall PR with 16:09, but was a disappointing 3rd on his team at the Irish Invitational, and 5th at their alumni race. However, his teammate Austin Streit has been running excellent, and finished 5th overall at Irish. The fastest 5k PR's of 2017 so far have been ran by St. Michael Albertville's duo of Jonah Breuer and Carter Knaus, who have ran 16:34 and 16:42, respectively. Another notable duo competing are the Highland Park boys Sidney Gross and Oliver Paleen, who have identical personal records of 16:26. Also, watch out for Burnsville's Matsola Bein, who ran 16:43 last week, along with Armstrong's Ben Aoki-Sherwood, who has improved massively from last year, running 16:45 at the challenging Gale Woods Meet last week. Despite the weather, these many contending individuals will provide spectators with a great, competitive race to watch.
As for the team competition, Mounds View is the clear favorite. They haven't ran a 5k yet this season, but that shouldn't matter. In a virtual meet using last season's 5k PR's, their returners win the race with just 25 points, 59 more than the next closest team, St. Paul Highland Park. St. Michael Albertville is the main team that could challenge Mounds View at all, as they have already have had 5 runners under 17:40, but they'll need to all run a lot faster than that if they want to take down the Mustangs. Mounds View tends to run in a vicious, demoralizing pack, that eats runners up in the 2nd half of the race, and that'll be tough to stop on Thursday.
In the girls race, the teams are a little different, as Minnetonka and White Bear Lake will have their girls running (both schools are sending their boys teams to the Lakeville Applejack Invitational on Saturday). Therefore, the Skipper's Sophie Whicher will be the clear favorite, especially after her 17:39 performance in Sioux Falls this past weekend. Her biggest challenger will be STMA's Annalise Davis, who is currently ranked 7th in the state. Her teammate, 8th grader Ali Weimer, is not far behind Davis in terms of season PR's, as she ran 19:03 last week in her first high school 5k. The STMA girls will almost surely be joined by Minnetonka's other top runners, including Libby Halbemeier, Marla Bailey, and Kylie Melz. The other big name with a big PR to watch is Mounds View's sophomore Morgan Dahl the owner of a 18:46 5k PR. There will be a solid handful of other runners in the mix of the front pack as well, including Benilde-St. Margaret's Tracy Reiner (who has run 19:11 already this year), Highland Park's 8th-grader Molly Moening, and fellow 8th-grader Elizabeth Vanloon of Irondale.
The team competition will surely be dominated by Minnetonka, if healthy, and running their whole varsity squad. But St. Michael Albertville may be closer to them then people expect. Jumping up to 6th in the state, the Knights have shown that they are able to run up with the state's best. White Bear Lake is also a team to keep an eye out for, as they made the honorable mention list on the state's rankings, but they don't quite have the lowsticks to keep up with Minnetonka and STMA as of right now. but if they cam make up for that lacking by making their tight spread even tighter, they could switch those fortunes around.