The biggest week of the season in Minnesota cross country is finally here, and kicking it off is the Pierz Pioneer Stampede this afternoon. Pierz High School will be hosting a slew of Class A squads, with a few Class AA teams also expected to be in attendance. After a brutal week of weather, it's projected to be a pleasant 60ºF at the first gun, much to the relief of racers. The course, located at Pierz Golf Course, has witnessed some decently fast times. And with plenty of ranked teams attending, it should be a quick day. Though last year's boys race was decided in a landslide, with so many good teams in 2017, it appears as though both competitions will be more like the 2016 girls race, which came down to a tiebreaker. Look for the results from today to shake up the coaches rankings next week.
In the boys race, the individual battle is wide open with the graduation of Mora's Alec Sanbeck, Michael Schwinghamer, and John Schwinghamer. Leading the charge will be Christopher Groth of Annandale, who has the fastest PR in the field (16:38) and is the top returner to this meet after placing 3rd in 2016. Expect Matthew Trutna of Big Lake to be right with him, as Trutna has the fastest season best of all racers, a 16:51.96 effort at the Monticello Invitational. Maple Lake's Michael Miller ran 17:00, a new PR by over a minute in his first race of the year, but hasn't run near that since then, so he'll look to get back on track at Pierz. Christopher Borash of Royalton has run 17:09 this year, so he should be in contention. Lucas Ryan of Holdingford and David Kelm of Brainerd have run in the low 17:30s this season, so they too could be towards the front. And then finally there is the top gun from the hosts in Pierz's Jake Andres, who is the victor of two races he's run thus far in 2017, and finished third in a third. In the team race, based on 5k results from 2017, Brainerd is projected to take the win with an impressive 62 points. With a stellar 34 second 1-5 spread, and a 17:48 average, they enter as clear favorites. St. Cloud Cathedral is projected to take 2nd with 130 points, followed by Holdingford and Mora, each with 133, and then by Annandale's 172. Mora is currently ranked 7th in Class A, while Annandale is ranked 9th, so their results should alter the rankings.
The girls race is set to be just as up for grabs as the guys race, after the graduation of Anna Donnay, an 18:03 5k runner, in the spring. Only one girl in the field has broken 20 minutes this season, and that's Emily Ruglowksi of Brainerd. However, a strong field behind her means a win is anything but guaranteed. Jessica Sheer of Annandale is the top returner from last year's race, and she's fresh off a win at the Annandale Invite. Augustus Demarais has run 20:05 this season, the second fastest time of all expected competitors. Not far behind is Cheresa Bouley of Zimmerman, who has run 20:10 and took 5th here last year. And while Kristine Kalthoff of Albany hasn't run notably fast times yet this season, her strong history should make her a contender, if not the favorite. An All-State runner in 2016, Kalthoff will look to have a big performance at Pierz. And right on her heals each race this year has been her teammate Grace Rieland. On the team side, Brainerd is projected to take the win with 43 points over Mora's 84, Maple Lake's 85, and Annandale's 102. Annandale is currently ranked 3rd in the State, so they'll likely perform significantly better than they do on paper. Maple Lake's ranked 7th, while Mora is predicted to take 2nd largely on their projected 34 second 1-5 split, which will be essential in such a large race. Each of these three will need good days all around to beat Brainerd, whose entire top 5 is projected to place in the top 20.