Saturday will feature a pair of notable Minnesota cross country invites that are a traditional gathering of some of the state's best teams. The Alexandria Lions Meet of Champions and the Swain Meet hosted by Duluth East will feature great teams and great competitions as teams measure up before championship season begins. Check out our previews of the weekend's top meets.
**Virtual meets use 2019 season best data, not career PR's
Location: Arrowwood Resort
Weather: 50°, rain/clouds
Individuals to watch: Nick Scheller (Chanhassen, 15:42.7), Oliver Paleen (Saint Paul Highland Park, 15:46.3), Peter Lynch (Benilde-Saint Margaret, 15:57.9), Max Nelson (White Bear Lake, 16:01.2), Isaac Maruyama (White Bear Lake, 16:03.8), Chase Lather (Sioux Falls Washington (SD), 16:05.5), Max Lauerman (Minnetonka, 16:08.0), Finn Sokolowski (Mounds View, 16:19.3), Nick Oak (Buffalo, 16:20.5), Zach Matzner (Marshall, 16:23.0)
The Skinny: This meet has potential to feature a stacked field of the best class AA individuals and several MNXCCA ranked teams just about two weeks ahead of conference meets and around 20 days out from sections. The individual race up front is a rematch between current class AA no. 1 St Paul Highland Park senior Oliver Paleen and no. 2 Nick Scheller. Paleen is fresh off winning the prestigious Griak Gold race and edged Scheller at the Metro Invite a few weeks back. Fresh off his Griak Maroon race win, Peter Lynch will also be in the field along with MNXCCA class AA no. 3 White Bear Lake's 1-2 punch of seniors Maxwell Nelson and Isaac Maruyama who have both gone near 16-flat this season and led their team to the Griak Gold team title last week.
Our team score projections like White Bear Lake over Mounds View but the Mustangs have not run their top group since Milaca nearly two weeks ago so expect the coaches no. 2 ranked team to be strong if their top group competes at Arrowwood on Saturday. Minnetonka has been moving up the coaches ranks from unranked two weeks ago to the ninth spot on Monday and is third in our virtual meet. St Paul Highland Park, led by Paleen and newly no. 10 ranked senior teammate Calvin Boone will also play a big factor in team score.
Individuals to Watch: Eleanor Abraham (Brookings (SD), 18:14.6), Analee Weaver (Stillwater, 18:15.3), Madeline Verkerke (White Bear Lake, 18:53.6), Ainsley Powers (Brookings, 18:55.1), Molly Moening (St Paul Highland Park, 18:55.1), Avery Braunshausen (Stillwater, 18:55.4), Brook Elfert (Stillwater, 18:56.6), Lexi Dehmer (Becker, 19:08.3), Kate Leblanc (Minnetonka, 19:08.5), Grace Johnson (Red Wing, 19:12.0)
The Skinny: New MNXCCA no. 1 ranked Stillwater will have a chance to follow up their Griak gold race third place finish against a quality field at Alexandria. If the Ponies put their best seven on the line they will face four other ranked teams and a host of individuals who rank in the states fastest performers this season. It appears the biggest challenge in our virtual meet will come from currently no. 4 ranked Minnetonka who will try to make up for a deficit in the front three spots with potentially much faster split under 40 seconds. No. 11 ranked White Bear Lake could play a key roll in the scoring as they project a faster top runner than the Skippers but are slightly behind in the final four spots but those same scores separate them from projected fourth place St Paul Highland Park. Host Alexandria likely lacks the single digit scoring front runners but could use a very tight team split in the 20 to 30th place range to inch forward in top five teams.
The individual race will have influence from Brookings (SD) top pairing of seniors Eleanor Abraham Ainsley Powers who project first and fourth based on season bests. Stillwater junior Analee Weaver should be in the front as she's the fastest Minnesota runner in the field having run 18:15 already thi season. White Bear Lake senior Madeline Verkerke has dipped under 19 minutes this season as have Highland Park sophomore Molley Moening and Stillwater freshmen Avery Braunshausen and Brook Elfert. Look for seniors Lexi Dehmer of Becker and Grace Johnson of Redwing and Minnetonka sophomore Kate Leblanc to also fight for top ten finishes.
Location: Enger Park Golf Course, Dululth
Weather: 46°, 50/50 rain/clouds
Individuals to Watch: Tyson Mahar (EGF, 15:48.5), Harris Anderson (Math & Science, 16:03.7), Cameron Stocke (Virginia, 16:07.3), Cole Nowacki (EGF, 16:11.9), Shef West (Blake, 16:25.0), Jonathan Krueger (EGF, 16:25.6), Luke Olson (Ely, 16:37.7), Trace Chiodo (Minnehaha Academy, 16:52.6), Hayden Reitmeier (Fisher, 16:52.8), Michael Moran (Saint Paul Academy and Summit School, 16:55.0)
The Skinny: The class A boys event will feature lots of potentially interesting match ups both in the team scoring and individually. Four MNXCCA Class A ranked teams will meet at Enger on Saturday with a lot of bragging rights on the line. If the entered teams run their top rosters it is a true measuring stick for many of the teams heading into championship season with the state meet and beyond in their sights.
Ely, who slid out of the team ranks last week, is projected at the top of our virtual meet but that is based on the services of senior Luke Olson who did not finish his last meet well. With Olson in the line up the Timberwolves would be tough with a possible 17:19 average and three in the top 20. Lake City is currently 10th in the coaches ranks and looks ready to challenge for a Swain title with a possible five in the top 55 over a 68 second split that would help them overcome projected third place East Grand Forks who has potential for the best team average in the meet. EGF is projecting to have three in the top ten, something no other team seems poised to match in our virtual meet with a 17:01 average but a split around three minutes leaves the door open for a larger score in meet likely to have 25 or more teams. Wadena-Deer Creek looks solid with the ability to post a 17:35 average over a 77 second split while coaches ranked no. 8 Minnehaha Academy also figures to be strong team to watch but probably needs their projected fifth man currently sitting in the 90's to move up inside the top 60 to help the team score get inside the top three.
Individually, EGF junior Tyson Mahar has been ranked by the coaches as one of the top athletes in the state and comes in with the fastest season best in the possible field. Math & Science Academy senior and no.. 4 ranked Harris Anderson has plenty of big meet experience and wins in his career and should figure among the top class on Saturday. Virginia freshman Cameron Stocke is having a great season and ranks sixth by the coaches is one of three in the field with a season best under 16:10. EGF senior Cole Nowacki is also a name to watch as he has been in the coaches ranks this season and has run well in many races this season. Blake sophomore Shef West is another name to watch as he has run under 16:30 this year following a spring full of fast track results. EGF sophomore Jonathan Krueger could give his team three in the top ten while Minnehaha senior Trace Chiodo was third in the Milaca D4 race and riding an upswing in the middle of the year.
Individuals to Watch: Colden Longley (Bloomington Jefferson, 15:44.4), Max Charlsen (Forest Lake, 15:49.0), Daniel Vanacker (Forest Lake, 16:02.0), Connor Preston (Champlin Park, 16:17.6), Austin Sievers (Forest Lake, 16:25.0), Ryan Young (Princeton, 16:46.6), Joe Gathje (Bloomington Jefferson, 16:51.6), Jaxon Jones (Cambridge-Isanti, 16:55.0), Owen Erickson (Spring Lake Park, 16:58.1), Isaac Fink (Duluth Denfeld, 17:05.4)
The Skinny: Based on the season bests of the top runners for Forest Lake and Bloomington Jefferson, they are the strong favorites in the class AA field with the difference in our virtual meeting coming with the Rangers posting three possible runners in the top. Jefferson has individual favorite senior Colden Longley up front but will need improvement in the third spot to stay with Forest Lake. Both Jefferson and FL have the ability to post a team average under 17 mintues, something no other team appears ready to produce thus far.
Cambridge-Isanti should be among the top five with a scoring five projecting in the top 50 while Cloquet offers a team that could split a 45 second 1-5 margin, one of the best in the field and with pack running in a big meet points drop quickly making them a team to watch. Champlin Park is fifth in the virtual data but has a significant point deficit in the fifth spot that would need to improve for them to move up from that position.
Jefferson's Longley, who has a string of runner-up finishes to some of class AA's best, is no. 6 in the coaches ranks and seems due to finally produce a big meet victory in the state of Minnesota. He won the Luther (IA) College All-America Invite in a career best 15:44, the fastest SB in Saturday's field. The Forest Lake trifecta of senior Max Charlsen, Daniel Vanacker and Austin Sievers will be the best 1-3 group in the field by a good margin with all three possessing the ability to get inside the top ten or better. Champlin Park senior Connor Preston is on the rise after a second place finish in the Griak Maroon race while Princeton senior Ryan Young comes in having won his last two races at Foley and Becker. Jefferson's no. 2 man junior Joe Gathje has broke 17 minutes this season and joins C-I sophomore Jaxon Jones and Spring Lake Park junior Owen Anderson as one of nine runners in the field with those credentials.
Individuals to Watch: Ava Hill (Mesabi East, 18:57.5), Kira Sweeney (Wadena-Deer Creek, 19:01.0), Keegan Mcauliffe (Marshall School, 19:14.4), Greta Hansen (Math & Science, 19:33.0), Lydia Floden (EGF, 19:34.7), Jacey Majerus (Lake City, 19:46.1), Kailee Malone (Stewartville, 19:55.9), Hadley Stuehrenberg (Saint Peter, 19:58.2), Alaina Steele (Pine City, 20:11.8)
The Skinny: MNXCCA no. 6 Lake City projects as the team favorite over no. 11 Stewartville with a distinct edge at the final two scoring positions in the virtual meet. Yet if Stewartville can improve on their split that is over 2:10, the slight advantage they have after three runners could turn to a meet victory. East Grand Forks has a good front runner but their current season best split is too close to three minutes to rank any better than third but their 21:16 average keeps them in front of projected fourth place Blake School.
On the individual side of the class A, current MNXCCA no. 7 Mesabi East senior Ava Hill saw her stock fall after a 49th place finish in the Griak Gold race. Despite that performance Hill has won four the six races she's run this season and has the fastest season best in the field just under 19 minutes, the only one with that result thus far. Wadena-Deer Creek junior Kira Sweeney fell out of the coaches poll earlier this season but has the second fastest season best in the field, ahead of no. 8 ranked Marshall School sophomore Keegan Mcauliffe and Lake City freshman Jacey Majerus who is currently 12th in the coaches poll. Mcauliffe was third at the Milaca Mega meet D4 race that Hill won. Majerus has two 5k race victories and another 4k race win and was fifth in the Milaca D3 competition.
Stewartville senior Kailee Malone has also experienced good success recently, winning at St Charles and Chatfield after coming in second behind Majerus at Lake City. Pine City senior Alaina Steele was 15th in the Milaca D3 competition and is coming off a season best effort at Foley last week. Mountain Iron-Buhl eighth grader Liz Nelson is the tenth fastest season best athlete in our projections and is fresh off a win at Ely where she rolled to a season best under 20:15.
Individuals to Watch: Ellie Hanowski (Forest Lake, 19:09.0), Natalie Runquist (Forest Lake, 19:14.0), Katelyn Motter (Rocori, 19:14.6), Lexi Duscher (Princeton, 19:18.4), Jordan Parent (Forest Lake, 19:19.0), Megan Lee (Bloomington Jefferson, 19:21.1), Megan Narveson (Bloomington Jefferson, 19:21.6), Norah Hushagen (Forest Lake, 19:28.0), Emilie Meyer (Totino-Grace, 19:34.1), Ava Larsen (Rocori, 19:34.5)
The Skinny: In our virtual meet, Forest Lake appears to have potential for seven runners in the top 15 scorers. If they perform at or near that level it will be difficult for the field to keep up at Swain on Saturday. A 19:22 average over a 31 second split would pull away from all but a few teams in the state if the top seven Rangers all produce a PR level race on the same day. Rocori look to have an outstanding top three of their own with a quality 19:51 average over a 70 split but project 40 points behind Forest Lake with double-figure differences in the fourth and fifth spots.
Bloomington Jefferson looks to have a pair of runners with ability to run in the top ten and that gives them an edge over projected fourth place team Princeton. Cambridge-Isanti has a much tighter split than the two teams directly in front of them so if their lead or fifth runner can move forward that could give them a chance to move up in the top five.
Forest Lake freshman Ellie Hanowski and junior Natalie Runquist are 1-2 in the virtual meet followed by teammates freshman Jordan Parent and seventh grader Norah Hushagen in fifth and eighth. Rocori has eighth grader Katelyn Motter in third followed by sophomore Ava Larsen in tenth giving them a foothold in the meet with a pair of runners who have gone under 19:35 this year. Princeton senior Lexi Duscher is fourth in the virtual meet with wins at Monticello and Becker where she ran a career best 19:18 earlier this week. Bloomington Jefferson has freshman Megan Lee and senior Mega Narveson under 19:25 this season which would put them well inside the top ten season bests in the competition. Totino-Grace junior Emilie Meyer has also gone under 19:35 and was 9th in the Griak Maroon race.