Saint Thomas And Century Were Up To The Challenge

It was glorious weather for a race at the Jefferson Jaguar Challenge, and the athletes took advantage of it. While a soft and sometimes-soggy course was responsible for times somewhat slower than expected, there was great competition all around, plus a couple of potentially-breakout team performances that the rest of the state should pay attention to...

The top three names to watch coming into the meet were Saint Thomas Academy's Ryan Tracy, Burnsville's Matsola Bein, and Bloomington Kennedy's Lloyd Young. Sure enough those were the athletes that finished in the top three. The race started out fairly conservative, with no athlete eager to really move out until around the first mile when Tracy and Young began to seperate, with Owatonna's Caedon Mccartney attempting pursuit. At the halfway mark Bein had made his way into the top three, with Saint Thomas' Luke Kolar challenging him, while his teammate Tracy began separating from Young in 2nd, as he would continue to do the rest of the race on his way to winning in 16:33, a season-best time for the ex-wide receiver.

Kolar made a strong late charge for second in the last kilometer, but ultimately the senior Bein and junior Young held onto their podium finishes (Bein crossing in 16:50 and Young in 16:51). Kolar finished fourth behind them in 16:56. 

Nevertheless, Kolar and teammate Thomas Thurlow (who finished sixth in 17:03) were part of a strong team effort that saw them not only come away with the victory, but outscore second-place Century by 37 points. It was a dramatic improvement for the squad after having finished 8th at this same meet in 2016. Consisting of three seniors, three juniors and 8th-grader Padon Kinzley (who finished in 23rd with a season-best time of 17:49), Saint Thomas Academy not only has a chance to make it far as a team this year, but they also have a strong core to build on for future seasons.

The girls race, on the other hand, did not start out nearly as Conservative at the boys, with Owatonna's 8th-grader Delilah Baedke electing to push the pace from the get-go. She was followed in her efforts by several athletes from Class A powerhouses Belle Plaine and Minnehaha Academy, while the pre-race favorites Aly Welch, Helen Li, and Elena Hayday held back in the main pack. Baedke held her lead until halfway through the race when each of those three runners moved past her and into the front three positions, where they would stay for the remainder of the race and those three continued to pull further and further away from the rest if the field.

In keeping with the recent Minnesota trend of exciting finishes, the final outcome wasn't decided until the runners crossed the finish line. Welch, the returning 19th-place finisher at State from 2016, had to come from behind to outlean Bloomington Jefferson's excellent 800m runner Hayday. Both had final times of 19:17, but Welch's was a mere 0.1 seconds quicker. Li came in a close third of 19:23

Welch's and Li's efforts were part of a very impressive showing from Rochester Century in their 47-point effort to take a 21-point win over the hosts from Jefferson. Not only did Century claim first and third, but they also had Kaitlin Miller finish in 5th to put three runners in the top five. Under direction after a long and hot week to take the race out in a reserved fashion, the runners responded by constantly picking off runners 0ne-by-one thought the whole race in a smart, technical dismantling of the field. And in defiance of what was written in our article previewing this meet, a gap after Miller was no hindrance to this team, in coming away with the win. They will certainly be a force to watch the remainder of the season.