Top Individuals: Charlie Babcock (Forest Lake, 16:08), Meti Omod (Austin, 16:16), Carter Knaus (STMA, 16:19), Max Carlson (Forest Lake, 16:25), Henry Hinchcliffe (Austin, 16:27), Blaine Bong (Cloquet, 16:49), Jonah Breuer (STMA, 16:49), Jordan Allen (Cloquet, 16:51), Raymond Lucero (Austin, 16:59)
The Skinny: With Austin High School projected to score just 53 points tomorrow, one of the teams making the biggest journey to Duluth looks like they will be the team to beat. Of course, that team is also coming off another race at the Ev Berg Invitational on Thursday, meaning they will be facing the tough (but doable) task of running two big meets in three days. If their run in Owatonna is any indication (where five of their top seven boys produced season bests), Austin looks like they are in great shape, and a big win at Swain would be a great motivational boost for a team that will be clawing for a team qualification to State in a few weeks. But they aren't the only potential State-qualifying team making the trip, as STMA, Forest Lake, and Cloquet all are in the midst of great seasons themselves. STMA in particular will have something a bit more to fight for as they are the defending AA team champions at Swain, scoring just 38 points last year. But perhaps the most interesting matchup on the team side is the one between fellow Section 7AA squads Forest Lake and Cloquet. Cloquet had a huge breakout race in Milaca two weeks ago as they were the second-best Minnesota team in the Division 2 race, while Forest Lake dominated the section with 19 points last year, but lost several top runners to graduation and injury since then. The winner of this matchup will give a much clearer idea of who is holding the reins in Section 7AA.
Forest Lake also has the individual favorite with Charlie Babcock. Owning the best time in the field, as well as two individual wins so far, Babcock will however be making his first-ever trip to Swain, while some of this top competitors like Carter Knaus, Jonah Breuer, and Henry Hinchecliffe already have experience with the course (which, like last year, will likely again be wet and muddy). Another individual favorite, Meti Omod, is also making his Swain debut. Many of Cloquet's top runners, including defending meet champion Aiden Ripp and his teammates Blaine Bong (a State qualifier in the 400m dash) and Jordan Allen who are both having breakout seasons, will be factors up near the front of the race too. Those runners will have some of the most experience with the course as Cloquet makes the short trip to Swain every year.
(written by Mark Rice)
Top Individuals: Ali Weimer (STMA, 18:27), Margaret Dalseth (Visitation, 18:43), Abigail Lewis (Austin, 18:53), Katie Sigerud (STMA, 19:03), Mia Salas (STMA, 19:11), Natalie Runquist (Forest Lake, 19:13), Regan Duffy (Forest Lake, 19:14), Emilie Meyer (Totino-Grace, 19:17), Jessica Immer (STMA, 19:24), Annalise Davis (STMA, 19:28)
The Skinny: The clear headliner of the field is the powerhouse St. Michael-Albertville girls squad. Ranked 2nd in Class AA, the Knights are projected to put their entire scoring five in the top ten. After a somewhat disappointing 5th place finish finish at Griak, the STMA girls should get a confidence boost at Swain. Projected to score just 29 points, the Knights should run away from 9th-ranked Forest Lake fairly easily. That speaks more to the strength of STMA than it does to the level of competition, as Forest Lake has a very formidable lineup this season. Their biggest advantage is the tightness of their pack, as they own a 32 second 1-5 split on paper after finishing with a 40 second split at Griak last weekend. That was good for an 11th place finish, in front of top schools like Cotter, Marshall, and Minneapolis Washburn. The Rangers will be the heavy favorite for 2nd place, as no other team is projected to finish with points in the double digits. In the virtual meet, Rocori wins a tiebreaker for 3rd over Visitation, signalling it will be very tight behind the top two. Rocori's biggest strength is its pack, as their entire top seven is projected to finish within the top 44. But keep an eye out for the Visitation girls, who have a solid team behind Margaret Dalseth, who will likely score three or less points.
Dalseth should be one of the individual favorites as well, with her most impressive performance of the year coming at the Milaca Mega Meet. She won the Division 2 race in a PR of 18:43 there. However, she'll have to contend with 6th-ranked Ali Weimer, who just set a season best of 18:27 at Griak. Weimer was the 9th Minnesotan (and 6th Class AA runner) across the line, her best performance of 2018. She finished over a minute in front of Dalseth, so Weimer could take the win fairly comfortably. The only other runner under 19:00 this year is Abigail Lewis, who ran that time at the Lake City Invite. The rest of STMA's pack will surely be in the mix, with Katie Sigerud, Mia Salas, acting as a great 2-3 in support of Weimer. And Forest Lake's duo of Regan Duffy and Natalie Runquist has also been effective, so they should also be part of the chasers.