Location: Elk River Golf Club, Elk River
Weather: 44 degrees, light-but-consistent rain
Top Individuals: Nicholas Jacobson (Blaine, 16:18), Patrick Mclean (Maple Grove, 16:26), Mackinon Mokoro (Osseo, 16:28), CJ Young (Maple Grove, 16:30), Charlie Caven (Maple Grove, 16:33), Benyosh Aoki-sherwood (Armstrong, 16:36), Jeffrey Sandkuhler (Irondale, 16:46), Tyler Anderson (Blaine, 16:47), Lucas Gustafson (Elk River, 16:47), Landon Aufderhar (Andover, 16:47)
The Skinny: Despite Maple Grove owning three of the top five times in the field, it is Robbinsdale Armstrong whom the virtual meet projects to take the championship in Minnesota's largest conference. It would be the second consecutive year that they would be the NWSC champions after they won on a tiebreaker last year. Of course, both those facts point to Armstrong's greatest strength, which is their depth. They have eight runners who have all gone 18:01 or faster, while Maple Grove's fifth runner has a season best of 18:02, and they have a head-to-head win over Maple Grove already this season too. But if Maple Grove's fifth runner can cut a chunk out of the minute that separates him from their 4th, Maple Grove could eliminate that deficit quickly. The individual title is very much up for grabs, but the runner with the top time coming in is a bit of a surprise, and Nicholas Jacobson only took 23rd at this meet last year. But he's been having a very strong season which has included a run of 16:18 at the Milaca Mega Meet and an 18th-place finish in the Maroon race at Griak. Another suprise near the top is Osseo's Mackinon Mokoro, who is just a rookie but has been incredibly consistant with his times this year. Maple Grove's CJ Young it the top returner, having taken third last year, and his teammates Patrick McLean and Charlies Caven could figure in the final outcome too. And Lucas Gufstafson is another contender, having taken 5th last year.
Top Individuals: Alexa Havon (Andover, 18:35), Alyssa Gerth (Andover, 19:03), Lindsey Young (Maple Grove, 19:11), Claire Beckman (Andover, 19:13), Emilie Meyer (Totino-Grace, 19:17), Elizabeth VanLoon (Irondale, 19:20), Julia Nielsen (Andover, 19:27), Elizabeth Donner (Andover, 19:35), Lex Davis (Osseo, 19:35), Audrey Neuerburg-Chapman (Elk River, 19:43)
The Skinny: Andover has been having a remarkable season this year, probably moreso than most people realize. They are legitimate contenders for a top-five finish at State, and perhaps even a podium. For this meet in particular, Andover is in a league of their own, with five of the top eight runners in the field. Their sixth runner does sit a ways back with a sixty-five second gaps between her and their 5th, so an off race could result in a closer meet, but a lot of things would need to go wrong before Maple Grove poses a serious challenge. The individual battle is also likely to be dominated by Andover, as senior Alexa Havon (a 2:13 800m runner in track) clears the rest of the field by nearly thirty seconds, and her closest competition comes from her teammate Alyssa Gerth (who took third last year in this race). Both runners have gone sub-20 in every race this season, the only two runners in the field to accomplish that feat thus far. Maple Grove's Lindsey Young, Totino-Grace's Emilie Meyer, and Irondale's Elizabeth VanLoon are the runners most likely to break Andover's indviidual stronghold, while Osseo's Lex Davis can't be counted out as last year's runner-up. Gracie Stoks of Centennial has not been running times comparable to last season thus far, but as the defending champion for the meet, she shouldn't be counted out.
(written by Mark Rice)