The End Is Near: Lake Conference Championships Highlight Day


Park Rapids Invite

Location: Headwaters Golf Course, Park Rapids

Weather: Partly cloudy, around 40 degrees


Virtual Meet Projection: West Central Area (51), East Grand Forks (63), Detroit Lakes (74), Frazee (143)

Top Individuals: Cole Nowacki (EGF, 16:00), Jacob Bright (WCA, 16:15), Zach Haire (Breckenridge/Wahpeton, 16:15), Tyson Mahar (EGF, 16:15), Sakariye Ismail (EGF, 16:36), Tanner Olson (Detroit Lakes, 16:40), Christian Sterton (Ada-Borup/NCW, 16:46), Kade Runge (WCA, 16:48)

The Skinny: The boys individual battle in Park Rapids will be the most interesting thing to watch today. Both Zach Haire and Jacob Bright have spent several weeks this year in the Class A polls, while EGF's Cole Nowacki and Tyson Mahar have proven they can run with just about anyone in Class A. In addition, Christian Sterton looks like he's just about back in the same shape that saw him take 14th at last year's State Championships, and Hunter Gowin is nearing that same territory too (both runners missed time with injury this year). And Tanner Olson can't be counted out either. As for the teams, West Central Area came closer to stealing the Heart of Lakes Conference Championship from Perham than anyone has in the past 17 years, but the number-two-ranked team in Class A fell just a bit short in the end. Nevertheless, WCA looks very difficult to beat for everyone else. Their closest competition will be the fascinating team from East Grand Forks, who were ranked tenth in Class A in last week's polls. Last week's Conference Championships saw a little breakthrough for EGF from freshman Dawson McDonald, who PRed by 32 seconds (which was especially needed as Sakariye Ismail and Seth Hootie did not end up running), so the gap of 1:30-plus between their #4 and #5 runners that has haunted them this year could be closing and EGF could seriously challenge WCA if it closes any more. Detroit Lakes is the only Class AA team competing, and they should be in the battle for a top-three spot, as their last few meets have been their best of the season.


Virtual Meet Projection: West Central Area (49), East Grand Forks (63), Pequot Lakes (64), Pelican Rapids (120)

Top Individuals: Katherine Geist (Crookston, 18:40), Jade Rypkema (Nevis, 19:52), Abby Syverson (Pelican Rapids, 19:55), Lexi Bright (WCA, 19:56), Teagen Nelson (19:56), Calia Chaney (Pequot Lakes, 19:58), Rian Zutter (Pequot Lakes, 20:08), Lydia Floden (EGF, 20:08)

The Skinny: Katherine Geist has been having a remarkable season this year in winning all nine of her races so far, made even more remarkable by the fact that she finished just 51st at last year's State Championships. Today's meet will probably result in yet another win as no one in this field owns a PR within a minute of Geist, but after her, the field gets a lot more murky. Five runners come in with season bests within six seconds of each other, and a plethora of other runners are just a bit behind that group. Interestingly, the runner at the top of that heap at the moment is 8th-grader Jade Rypkema of Nevis, who has seen a lot of sucess in middle school races both this year and last year, but rarely run the 5K in that time (the only 5k's she ran last year were Sections and State, as she qualified as an individual). Assuming she does run the varsity race, however, she's just coming off her career-best run and first time under 20 minutes at the Perham Invitational. Meanwhile Abby Syverson is fresh off a runner-up finish at the HOL Conference Meet and Pequot Lake's seventh graders Calia Chaney and Rian Zutter could mix it up near the front as well. Also expected to be near the front are West Central Area's Lexi Bright and Teagen Nelson, though they might be more concerned with making sure their team comes away with the win. They'll face a good challenge from East Grand Forks, whom they have yet to face this year anc match up very well with them, and possibly the young team from Pequot Lakes, though they have already beaten them in their lone matchup this year (and EGF has as well).

(written by Mark Rice)