Several invitationals will go down on Friday, keeping a busy week of action rolling along as the season heats up! Check out out what to look for at Cambridge-Isanti, Faribault, Moorhead and St Paul!
The Skinny: Forest Lake projects as the favorite with a possibility of four in the top ten and the individual favorite, senior Max Charlsen who was 13th at St Olaf last week in 16:44. Centennial sophomore Jonathan Pattie was two places back at St Olaf in 16:49 and these two along with another Forest Lake senior, Austin Sievers (18th at St Olaf) are the only runners who have gone sub-17 this season. Centennial should be a solid second but at this point do not have the depth to hang with Forest Lake.
The Skinny: Coaches seventh ranked Forest Lake looks to be the class of the field with a projected top five well inside the top 20. Forest Lake junior Natalie Runquist and freshman Ellie Hanowski finished 11th and 13th at St Olaf last week, just three seconds apart in 19:44 & 19:48. That alone would make them favorites on Friday but junior Amelea Hauer ran 20:30 at St Olaf which could put her inside the top ten at the Bluejacket Invite and make the Rangers too much for the chase back led by the projected second place team from Andover.
Individuals to watch: Carter Briggs (Winona, 15:53), Aaron Kruse (Farmington, 16:01), Noah Revels (Farmington, 16:04), Jett Oachs (Mankato East, 16:07), Harris Anderson (Math & Science Academy, 16:08), Sonny Ortega-roseli (Albert Lea, 16:33)
The Skinny: With Stillwater sitting out their varsity runners, the retuning State-qualifiers from Farmington will try to get a big win against some solid competition. Their 2-mile race at Rosemount could have gone better, but they looked very good in their season-opening race in Duluth. The two teams that they'll see the biggest challenge from will be Mankato East and their section rivals from Winona. Both teams have one race under their belts, and are yet to see times comparable to what they had been running last year, but they could see some solid drops on the flat and fast Faribault course. Individually, both MSA's Harris Anderson and Winona's Carter Briggs are coming off impressive runs at the St. Olaf Showcase and it could come down to a dual between the two, but Jett Oachs of Mankato East and Farmington's duo of Kruse and Revels could give them a strong challenge.
Individuals to watch: Anna Fenske (Farmington, 17:31), Analee Weaver (Stillwater, 17:52), Avery Braunshausen (Stillwater, 18:09), Jayda Becker (Shakopee, 18:28), Mariah Fenske (Farmington, 18:30), Morgan Peterman (Stillwater, 18:37)
The Skinny: Last year, the top two teams at Faribault were Stillwater and Framington. This year, that certainly looks to be the case again as each team is projected in the virtual meet to score 40 or fewer points. However, the two teams have already faced off once this year at the Rosemount Invitational 2-miler, and the Ponies finished convincingly ahead of the Tigers. That may or may not still be the case after another week of training and running a full 5K, but it will likely give us a better idea of how well the two powerhouse teams stack up with each other. Shakopee (who also ran at the Irish Invitational and finished behind both Farmington and Stillwater) looks to be a solid third, and it will be interesting to see if they can get close to either team. Individually, we'll have a marquee matchup at the front with Anna Fenske and Analee Weaver, who already have had one impressive dual this year. Fenske so far looks better in her early-season races than she ever has before, which bodes well for her future performances, while Weaver has steadily improved to the point that she is absolutely one of the State's elites and a strong contender for a State Championship. No other runner in the first has yet run times this year to indicate they can keep up with the two elites, so it may be a long wait between 2nd and 3rd.
Individuals to watch: Emmet Anderson (Staples-Motley, 15:44), Brandon O'Hara (Perham, 15:52.1), Cole Nowacki (East Grand Forks, 16:00), Jacob Bright (West Central, 16:02.6), Jacob Knodle (West Fargo Sheyenne, 16:10), Hunter Klimek (Staples-Motley, 16:12), Bailey Evenson (Perham, 16:13), Tyson Mahar (East Grand Forks, 16:15), Gage Mostad (Bemidji, 16:27)
The Skinny: The Dragon Twilight features one of the more intriguing matchups of the weekend with class A no. 1 Perham, no. 3 West Central Area, and no. 5 Staples Motley going up against class AA no. 10 Bemidji and some of the top North Dakota schools. Projections have Perham as the favorite and their star Brandon O'Hara one of the individual favorites. The Yellowjackets have a narrow head to head advantage at all five scoring positions over WCA who has a similar slight advantage over Bemidji. Staples-Motley is a bit further back with a projection of 137 points after Moorhead and some ND schools, but their 8th-place finish at St. Olaf a week ago showed they can compete with some top Class AA teams too. Individually, its so tight that individual big days from projected fourth place team Moorhead could be just as influential. Anderson has a lot of momentum after picking up a huge win at St. Olaf, where O'Hara was the third runner to cross the finish line. WCA no. 1 senior Jacob Bright has run off to a great start and will face his first challenge of the season. The same also applies to EGF's top duo of Cole Nowacki and Tyson Mahar, and SM's no. 2 runner Hunter Klimek will try to capitalize on a huge breakout race at St. Olaf.
Individuals to watch: Katherine Geist (Crookston, 18:39), Liz Birkeland (Perham, 19:14), Onnica Stansbury (West Fargo Sheyenne, 19:16), Regan Dewitt (Bemidji, 19:18), Gwen Youso (Bemidji, 19:24), Kyanna Burton (Staples-Motley, 19:27), Lexi Bright (WCA, 19:29), Emily Vanwatermulen (Perham, 19:29), Taylor Melton (Moorhead, 19:33)
The Skinny: Another matchup of a trio of highly-ranked Class A teams will be the big story of this meet, and the matchup will also feature the solid Class AA teams from Bemidji and Moorhead. Last week, Staples-Motley rode an 8th-place finish at the St. Olaf Showcase (with one of the teams finishing behind them being the 11th-place Perham squad) to a big bump up to no. 2 in the Class A poll. Perham's new rank is 4th, and WCA comes in at 10th. Not ranked, but with a chance to do so soon, is East Grand Forks, and this meet could be a great opportunity to see how they match up with some of the top Class A teams. Perham holds a big advantage in the virtual meet, though as it's very early in the season and haven't yet been fully healthy, the outcome will almost certainly be closer. Individually, Katerine Geist is a question mark to run after missing her season opening race last week in Thief River Falls, but if she runs and is healthy, she shouldn't face a big challenge. Some of the races other top runners also haven't had notable early season results (most notably, Liz Birkelid, Emily Vanwatermulen, and Lexi Bright have yet to run at full strength), but this race could be an opportunity for runners like SM's Kyanna Burton, Perham's Aspen Rohde, Moorhead's Taylor Melton, or Bemidji's duo of Gwen Youso and Regan Dewitt to really break out (especially on a fast course like this one).
Individuals to watch: Oliver Paleen (St Paul Highland Park, 15:44.0), Calvin Boone (St Paul Highland Park, 16:04.4), Conor Gregg Escalante (St Paul Highland Park, 16:07.2), Mickies Kiros (St Paul Central, 16:09.7)
The Skinny: Highland Park should roll in this one as they should have potential for six in the top ten and individual favorite senior Oliver Paleen. Central senior Mickies Kiros broke into the coaches rankings this week and will possibly be the only runner with the credentials to break up a 1-4 sweep by Highland. The course at Battle Creek tends to be on the more challenging side but it will be interesting to see how Kiros races with one of the projected top 4 quartets in the state.
Virtual Meet Projections: Highland Park (19), Central (43), St Paul Como Park (77)
Individuals to watch: Molly Moening (Highland Park, 17:52.3), Delia Johnson (Highland Park, 18:49.3), Caroline Harding (Highland Park, 19:29.1), Iris Guider (Central, 20:01), Chloe Koch (Highland Park, 20:13.1)
The Skinny: Much the same as the boys, Highland is the class here led by sophomore Molly Moening who, when in full form is among the best runners in the state. Highland could sweep the top four positions unless Central sophomore Iris Guider can break up the run.