Grains Of Thought - Breakouts Galore

An action-packed week of racing saw strong performances across the board, including several breakout runs. Now that we've all survived the heat wave, here are ten things that stood out to us this week. Have more to add? Let us know in the discussion boards!

  • Andrew Brandt of Wayzata is not only in phenomenal shape, he's also a brilliant second half racer. At the Metro Invitational, he hunted down Acer Iverson from a massive deficit (about 15 seconds, roughly 75 meters) after Iverson gapped the field on the first of two laps. Though chances of a comeback looked improbable midway through the race, perhaps Brandt's surge shouldn't be so surprising. The week before, he ran a 9:17 3200m time trial on the track, hitting 4:43 through the halfway point and negative splitting the second mile, including a 65 second final lap. Brandt's ability to pick it up in the latter stages of races will be a force to be reckoned with throughout the rest of this season.
  • Mitch Johnstone (Mankato Loyola/Cleveland) and Hugo Ruiz (Tri-City United) make up one of the most entertaining matchups around. Johnstone and Ruiz have already faced off four times this season, and though Ruiz has finished in front of Johnstone in 3 out of the 4 races, they've been extremely close to each other all season. In three of those races, Ruiz and Johnstone have finished within 5 seconds of one another. They're guaranteed at least one more face off in Section 2A, but with both being juniors, fans can expect another year full of face-offs between the two All-State runners.
  • The Edina boys are currently ranked 3rd in the state, but have they been underrated all along? That's exactly what their performance at the Heartland Classic indicated. They took down a huge field with ease in 57 points, well ahead of Dowling Catholic's 111 points in 2nd. Even more impressive was the gap between them and 2nd-ranked Stillwater, as the Ponies finished 4th with 194 points (though without Lars Dewall, their 3rd runner). In their first race of the year, Stillwater and Wayzata tied through five runners at the Columbus Catholic Invitational, demonstrating how close they are to each other. As those two programs are the two currently ranked ahead of Edina, the Hornet's dominating win gave them a case for being the top boys squad in Minnesota.
  • After missing most of last season with injury, Oliver Paleen stormed back in track to qualify for State in the 3200m. Despite that, Paleen flew a bit under the radar entering this season. However, a commanding start to the year has shown that he might deserve a spot in the rankings. On a day when nobody was running exceptional times, Paleen set a lifetime best at the Metro Invitational in 16:11, finishing 4th in an extremely talented field. Paleen finished within 10 seconds of Acer Iverson and Nick Scheller, and as just a junior, it seems that St. Paul Highland Park has found another star to follow in Micah Mather's footsteps.
  • In our first Grains of Thought, we wondered if Morgan Gehl should be in the same conversation as Tierney Wolfgram and the Pings. In our second, we noted that maybe Tenley Nelson also deserved a mention with those four names. This week, we'd like to take notice of two other exceptional performances that demonstrate the depth of Class A girls this year. Katherine Geist took a solo win in 18:45, over 1:30 faster than 2nd place at the Ada-Borup Booster Invitational. She's undefeated on the season and probably deserves a higher spot in the rankings than her current spot in 9th, as we noted last week. Grace Drietz took 2nd at the Marshall Invite, 21 seconds behind Morgan Gehl. However, she also finished in front of some top tier competition, including Kaleesa Houston and all of the Marshall girls. Drietz ran a 5:06 1600m (earning All-State) last season, but has yet to appear in the rankings this year. After Marshall, it seems Drietz deserves a spot in the polls.
  • Another race, another win for the Stillwater girls. After opening the season with two impressive victories at the Rosemount Irish Invitational and the Faribault Invitational, the Ponies earned perhaps their strongest performance yet at the Rochester Mayo Invite. Analee Weaver has become a star this year, and she took 3rd behind the Pings at Rochester. But what has really set them apart this year is the addition of two 8th graders, Morgan Peterman and Brooke Elfert. Alongside Avery Braunshausen (also an 8th grader), Stillwater placed four in the top ten en route to their dominating win. Now ranked 4th in the state, Stillwater is a legitimate threat for the podium this season. And with their core four consisting of a sophomore and three 8th graders, expect the Ponies to be competitive for years to come. Side note: Section 4AA has historically been represented by White Bear Lake and Roseville (especially after East Ridge switched sections) at State, but with the undefeated Stillwater girls and a very strong start for 11th-ranked Highland Park, the standings in this section could look very different this season. It has been so long since neither Roseville or White Bear Lake qualified for State out of this section, that we don't even have those results in our database!
  • The Class AA Boys Class of 2019 is one of the most star-studded classes we've seen in recent memory. At State last year, 8 of the top 14 finishers were juniors. Returners like Acer Iverson, Luke LaBatte, Max Manley, Addison Stansbury, and Isaac Basten are just a few of the many names that headline this year's group of seniors. So far this season, the seniors have lived up to expectations, and currently take up 10 of the 12 spots in the coach's polls. However, one of those names had never finished better than 60th at State before, and has added even more star power to the class of 2019. That runner is Eli Hoeft, who just cruised to the 3rd fastest time in the state so far in a victory at the Little Falls Lucky Lindy CC Invitational. His time of 15:43 is impressive enough, but so too is his win over Geno Uhrbom. An already outstanding senior class looks even stronger with the improvement of Hoeft.
  • After finishing 3rd and dropping a blistering 15:56 at last year's State meet, it almost seemed like a given that Geno Uhrbom would earn the State title as a sophomore this season. Uhrbom has ran extremely well this year, and is still the top ranked boy in Class A. However, State will be much closer than many expected it would be prior to this season. Harris Anderson has had a strong year, and Emmet Anderson just dropped a 15:51 at the New London-Spicer Little Crow Invitational. He also finished over 20 seconds in front of some top tier competition. As it has been in recent years, State could be an exceptionally tight affair.
  • We've already taken notice of some younger siblings of top runners, particularly Farmington's trio of Mariah Fenske, Lily Peterson, and Marianah Scott. However, they're not the only ones, as Acer Iverson's younger sister Tilia is also making an impact as just a 7th grader. She opened up her season with a 21:43 at the St. Olaf Showcase, finishing as Roseville's 8th runner across the line. At the Metro Invitational, Iverson did even better, moving up to be the 6th best Raider finisher. Already in the top seven, keep an eye out for Tilia Iverson to keep improving. She'll be a key piece of Roseville's chances at qualifying for State.
  • Madeline Kelly's return to cross country was something of interest we took note of last week. One of the biggest results of that comeback is turning the Providence Academy girls into State podium contenders. At the Mora Invite on Tuesday, the Providence girls beat the 6th-ranked Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted squad for their most impressive team performance yet. It appears that Kelly was the missing piece to a formidable team that should not be slept on come November.