Great Team Battles Are Expected At The Jaguar Challenge

After a crazy day of hot and humid weather braved by over 6000 Minnesota runners, what better way to follow up than with low 60s and no piercing sunlight? That will be the case for the 23 teams attending the Jefferson Jaguar Challenge (formerly the All-Terrain Challenge), who not only will have perfect weather conditions, but also a great and open competition both individually and in the team battle. Hosted by Bloomington Jefferson at the Hyland Greens Golf Course, the path consists of a spectator-friendly "U"-shaped two-lap trek around the perimeter of the golf course. While there are a few hills, the course is generally flat, which combined with the weather will almost assuredly lead to some PRs and big days. 

Race Schedule 
3:40 - C Race Boys (Middle School) 2.5K 
4:00 - C Race Girls (Middle School) 2.5K 
4:25 - Varsity Girls 5K 
4:50 - Varsity Boys 5K 
5:15 - Junior Varsity Boys 5K 
5:45 - Junior Varsity Girls 5K

Starting with the boys, there will definitely be a good battle for the win, with lots of talent and no one who stands out as a clear "favorite." Twelve runners in the field have run under 17:15 this year, and six have gone 17:00 or better. The athlete with the fastest time this season is Bloomington Kennedy's Lloyd Young, who dropped a 16:29 at the Applejack Invitational the week after winning the Faribault Invitational in 16:40. Young has been having a very good season so far this year and has the best chance of anyone to take the win, but he is also coming off the Roy Griak Invitational on Saturday (where he ran 17:05), so the quick turnaround could be a challenge. The other favorite is probably Saint Thomas Academy's Ryan Tracy, who has performances of 16:45, 16:39, and 16:51 under his belt so far this year. He's race Young twice this year already, finishing just five seconds back of him at Faribault and four seconds back at the Irish Invitational, so that could definitely be reversed. Another contender, Burnsville's Matsola Bein, has a season best of 16:43 from the Minnaert Inviational, and ran 16:50 at this meet in 2016. Another athlete with a season best of 16:43 is Eastview's Bryant Ruff, who achieved his at the Bauman/Rovn Invitational. Bryant is also coming off a win from the Eagle Invitational in Apple Valley on Saturday (which means he'll have a quick turnaround too). Yet another athlete with a quick turnaround will be Saint Louis Park's Abati Dedefo, expect his race was the heat-shortened 3200 Maroon Race at the Griak, where he finished 3rd. Dedefo has also run 16:47 so far this year, and proved in track with his 4:20 1600m and 1:59 800m that he might have the best leg speed of anyone in the field. Cahnces are that it will be one of those five athletes who take the individual win, but don't be surprised with the friendly conditions to see someone like Shakopee's Jacob Evans, Jefferson's Colden LongleyNova's Chris Norton, or Breck's Finn Salveson go out aggressively and perhaps hang on for a win. In the team battle however, it very well may not be Saint Thomas, Nova, Rochester Century, Jefferson, or Eastview who comes away with the win, even though those five teams are all seperated by fewer than 40 points in our virtual meet. But the team favorite is actually Edina's JV squad, with 124 points compared to St. Thomas' 129. Despite not having any athlete with a season best under 17:33, Edina is powered by a 13-point spread. 

 The girls battle won't be nearly as open, but there will still be good competition. One runner stands out from the rest in terms of her season best, and that is Jefferson's Elena Hayday. The 2:16 800m runner went 18:46 at the Luther All-American Invitational earlier this year, the best in the field by almost 30 seconds. But it is actually not Hayday, but Century's Aly Welch that has run the fastest time in the field once 2016 is considered, as the All-State senior went 18:39 in 2016. Welch also has the second-fastest time in the field this season with 19:24, also run at Luther. Behind those two runners the field thins out a bit, but there are still several athletes who will be in contention with a shot at the win. Welch's teammate Jiayi Li has been running right with Welch so far this year, and has a season best of 19:25. A third Century athlete who could factor into the final standings is Kaitlin Miller, who has already run a career-best time this year with 19:36. The final athlete with a real shot at an individual win is Shakopee's top runner Jayda Becker, who actually defeated Hayday at the Applejack Invitational, where she ran her season-best time of 19:29. Becker will also be looking to lead Shakopee to  team victory, and our virtual meet projection says that is the most likely outcome, as the project 60 points compared to Jefferson's 68 and Century's 90. In the case of Century, the point total is interesting in that they project to put three athletes in the top five, meaning that their 4 and 5 runners have a very big gap to close if Century hopes to be able to compete with the much deeper Jefferson and Shakopee squads, as both teams project to put seven runners before Century's fourth. Coming in a strong fourth in the projection is the B-team from Edina, but the most interesting battle may actually take place a little lower between Class A's 7th-ranked Minnehaha Academy and 6th-ranked Belle Plaine. Out virtual meet projects Minnehaha will come out better by a very slim margin, but the final result is as up-in-the-air as one could hope for.