Location: Pincushion Mountain, Grand Marais
Weather: About 40, rainy and windy
Top Individuals: Wyatt Rauvola (Cromwell, 17:04), Sam Rengo (Esko, 17:07), Will Surbaugh (North Shore, 17:09), Isaac Swanson (North Shore, 17:14), Brenden Seipke (North Shore, 17:17), Noah Smith (North Shore, 17:18)
The Skinny: This meet will be 11th-ranked North Shore's to lose, as they return six of their top seven from their conference championship a year ago. While the graduation of Jake Paron is undoubtedly a tough loss, the depth of North Shore should again make this race not very close. In fact, they're projected to win by 29 points, 9 more than their win in 2017. Cromwell-Wright, Esko, and Moose Lake should make for a close 2nd-4th in the team standings. Individually, the conference title is up for grabs. All of the projected top six are incredibly close, all in the low 17s. Noah Smith is the top returner after a 3rd place finish last season. Wyatt Rauvola has the quickest season best in the field, and finished in front of all his top competition here at Swain. However, Isaac Swanson was just three seconds back of Rauvola. Sam Rengo ran the quickest of anyone in the field at Milaca, showing that all of these athletes are at roughly the same level. And don't sleep on fellow North Shore runners Brenden Seipke and Will Surbaugh either.
Top Individuals: Autumn Smith (North Shore, 20:51), Coriella Sheetz (Moose Lake, 20:59), Cedar Gordon (North Shore, 21:04), Kelli Granquist (Moose Lake, 21:21), Lamar Gordon (North Shore, 21:36), Taina Koivisto (South Ridge, 21:38)
The Skinny: Like on the boys side, 10th-ranked North Shore should win fairly easily. They return their entire top five from their conference championship last season. The defending champs are projected to have all their scorers finish before any team besides Moose Lake has their third runner in. Moose Lake and South Ridge should follow in pursuit. Autumn Smith returns to defend her individual title, and should again be the favorite after an impressive 20:51 time at Swain. Coriella Sheetz was 8 seconds back of Smith at Swain, so she will also be in contention for the title. And Cedar Gordon was the runner-up in 2017, and will challenge her teammate Smith. Last year, Gordon finished just two seconds behind Smith. These three should be favored to lead the field, with Kelli Granquist expected to lead the chase pack.
(written by Sam O'Donnell-Hoff)