There is a lot that happens in a cross country season, and so much that goes unnoticed or unappreciated. I and my staff do our best to give everyone their due, but that only goes so far. We see and notice so little that actually goes on in a given season. In fact, most everyone who reads this site know more about the inner workings and goings-on in Minnesota than we do (in particular, me). That's because most everyone who reads this site is either a runner, a coach, or a parent closely affiliated with a team whom I and my staff probably know almost nothing about other than the times run by the athletes on said team. Certainly, there is value in that, but one of the joys of athletics, and indeed of life in general, is being able to share observations, factoids, opinions.
As such, we present a new weekly series that consists of observations, factoids, and opinions throughout the past week from me and my staff. Part of the drive behind this series is to share some news, but mostly, it is an effort to interact with you all by sharing things that stood out to us. In return, we would love for you to share with us things that stood out to you. You can do this through our forum (yes, we have a forum, we've always had a forum, though it has only seen a total of 37 posts in 8 years - you can visit said forum by clicking the "Discuss" tab up at the very top of this page... or you can click here). I have created a topic in the forum which contains each of these observations below. Please let us know what stood out to you!
- Two notable athletes return to cross country after a conspicuous absence. For the Minnetonka girls, Kylie Melz (a three-time top-35 finisher at State with a PR of 18:43 in the 5K) went out for soccer last year instead of cross country, but she has returned to cross country again for her junior season. In her first race back for Minnetonka, she ran 12:51 at the Irish Invitational for 45th place. Then for the Eastview boys, AJ Green ran cross country for a year in middle school before opting out of the sport. Of course, three years later he became the State 800m champion as just a sophomore, and after that success, elected to run back to cross country. His first race back was an impressive 13th-place finish at the St. Olaf Showcase in 16:31. It isn't an unlikely scenario that Green could compete for at least an All-State spot, or even a top-ten finish in November.
- Emily Covert's time of 17:07.9 is the second-fastest 5k time ever recorded by a Minnesota girl which was not run at the Nike Heartland Region. The only faster time was run by four-time state champion Maria Hauger at the 2012 Footlocker Midwest Regional, which took place almost three months later in the year on November 24th. Her time? 17:07.0. In addition, the speed rating for Emily Covert was 153, which is the second-best in the nation this season so far (what is a speed rating, you ask? See here).
- Eli Hoeft's time in his third-place finish at the St. Olaf Showcase was 14 seconds faster than the winner of the 2015 edition of the meet, which is notable because the runner who won that race is current Gopher and 2016 grad of Hopkins, Owen Hoeft, his brother.
- Saint Paul Highland Park was dealt a blow in 2017 when Oliver Paleen was lost for the season after only three races. As a result, an extremely potential-filled team was unable to seriously compete for a shot at State in Section 4AA (where eight of the past ten years have seen Stillwater and White Bear Lake both represent the section at State). But Paleen is back and healthy now, and Highland Park made a huge statement at the Rosemount Invitational, beating three ranked teams and taking second overall behind Eden Prairie (who is also ranked, though they would say they are under-ranked). Of course, competing with White Bear Lake and Stillwater will be a huge challenge (not to mention Roseville and Saint Paul Central, two excellent teams whom they just beat).
- At the Irish Invitational, three of #8-ranked Farmington's seven fastest runners for the girls were seventh graders. Their names were Mariah Fenske, Lily Peterson, and Marianah Scott. Each of those girls also has an older sister in Farmington's top seven (namely, Anna Fenske, Lauren Peterson, and Maleah Scott). Another one of Farmington's seventh-grade runners was Mackenzy Lippold, the daughter of head coaches Adam and Lisa Lippold. Clearly, Farmington cross country is a family affair. (BONUS FACT - Meleah and Marianah Scott are younger siblings of All-State hurdler Myiah Scott, and Lauren and Lily's brother Brennen is a top runner for Farmington's boys team).
- Morgan Gehl currently owns the fourth-fastest time in the state among girls with 18:17. Last year, she was fourth in Class A in all three events of the distance triple crown (XC, 1600m, and 3200m), naturally being beaten each time by Grace Ping, Lauren Ping, and Tierney Wolfgram (in some order). Opening the season with such a strong PR, and nearly a minute faster than what she ran last year at the same meet, allows one to speculate... could she actually close the gap between herself and her Class A rivals and become a fellow national elite? Unfortunately, Gehl is (at the moment) not scheduled to run against any of those girls until State, which means that question will likely remain a question until that day.
- Stillwater graduated nine of their 14 fastest runners from 2017, a season in which they were State runners-up. But if yesterday's race is any indication, they may be even better this year. It also revealed two additions to the machine that could help immensely if they want another State title and NXN berth. Their second runner at Marshfield was senior Yonas O'Malley, who's previous PR of 17:25 came from 2015, and he bested that time by almost exactly a minute yesterday. The second athlete is junior Ethan Selph, formerly a distance star of Hebron Christian Academy in Dacula, Georgia with a 5K PR of 16:48. He moved to Minnesota over the summer.
- What do 54 seconds, 148 seconds, 89 seconds, 51 seconds, 48 seconds, 106 seconds, and 79 seconds have in common? Well, those are the respective year-over-year improvements of Hutchinson's Mitchell Grand, Ben Becker, Jacob Lipke, Jack Jaeger, Gabe Stassen, Logan Hoff, and Tom Bock from last year's running of the Orono Twilight to this year (and four of those runners ran all-time PRs). As a result, based on 2018 5K times, Hutchinson has the 5th-best boys team in the state so far. Of course, that can change quickly once Edina finally runs a meet, and once all the teams who ran the two-mile at Rosemount have recorded 5K times. Nevertheless, they now have to be included in the conversation of being potential State qualifiers in Section 2AA alongside Willmar, Chanhassen, and Buffalo.
- One of Minnesota's best seventh-graders last year on the boys side was Virginia's Cameron Stocke, who had a season-best of 17:24. He went on to have a stellar track season too, running 4:38 in the 1600m and 10:36 in the 3200m. But on Thursday, the 8th-grader opened his season with a third-place finish of 16:25 at the Virginia Invitational. For comparision's sake, there is another recent 8th-grader from northern Minnesota who's best time was 16:46. That runner is now a sophomore, and was only 16 seconds ahead of Stocke at the Virginia Invite. Of course, that runner is Geno Uhrbom.
- When Cotter was the Class A runner-up last year by one point, their downfall was having a fifth runner over a minute removed from their fourth. And with the graduation of Jennifer Lai, that flaw appeared to become much worse. But at their opening meet in Stewartville, rookie freshman Ellie Glodowski ran 22:56, which is nearly two minutes faster than what Lai opened her season with in 2017 (granted, on different courses, but Stewartville appears to be a more difficult course than St. Olaf). The gap is still big (Cotter's fourth runner Aubrey Williams ran 20:59), but Cotter certainly appears to be, so far, in a much better situation than last year. Also of note, another Cotter runner, sophomore Claire Ebertowski, ran 21:35 at Stewartville. However, she is a transfer from Winona, and cannot run varsity this year (although she will be eligible to do so in 2019).