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 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.