TEAMS TO WATCH: Worthington (81), Mankato East (88), Buffalo (100), Chanhassen (149)
INDIVIDUALS TO WATCH: Nick Scheller (Chanhassen, 15:42.7), Jett Oachs (Mankato East, 15:45), Adam Koller (Worthington, 15:56.4), Zach Matzner (Marshall, 16:05), Christian Lietz (Worthington, 16:06.8), Nick Oak (16:09.5), Angelo Fiataruolo (Orono, 16:13.1), Andrew Johnson (Mankato East, 16:22.2), Zach Long (Chanhassen, 16:22.7), Jordan Melendez (Worthington, 16:29.3)
THE SKINNY: Section 2AA looks to be a three team race for the two state meet qualifying spots. Worthington has an edge based on season bests and beat Mankato East in their only meeting of the season. Mankato East has a better split and could have a 20 point advantage in the fifth spot. Buffalo also has the depth and a quality frontrunner to finish in the top two. Over the course of the season Buffalo has produced better average results than both Mankato East and Worthington but may need a season best performance at the second slot to get their state meet ticket. Chanhassen has a pair of state meet quality top runners and raced against many of the top class AA teams in the state all season so they will be prepared for racing in a championship environment.
Chanhassen senior Nick Scheller will be the individual favorite in section 2AA after finishing as runner-up and going on to a fifth place state meet finish in 2018. Mankato East senior Jett Oachs has a season best only three seconds slower than Scheller but has never beat him 15 in head to head meetings in XC/T&F. Worthington no. 1 man, senior Adam Koller has also gone under 16 minutes this season, defeated Oachs in their only meeting this season, and will be motivated by the team score battle. Buffalo senior Nick Oak is another name to watch with a PR of 16:09. He was ninth at sections last year but finished just eight seconds behind Oachs at state before bettering him at NXR.
TEAMS TO WATCH: Marshall (37), Waconia (117), Jordan (147), Chanhassen (151)
INDIVIDUALS TO WATCH: Isabelle Schmitz (Hutchinson, 17:57.5), Kate Bucher (Marshall, 18:40.5), Grace Jostock (Delano, 18:57.5), Bellamy Sukalski (Marshall, 19:03.6), Laura Sunnarborg (Mound-Westonka, 19:08), Addy Kaeding (Waconia, 19:09.6), Natalee Sample (Marshall, 19:11.2), Basia Babcock (Jordan, 19:16.3), Kendra Krueger (Jordan, 19:19), Jersey Leyson (Marshall, 19:23.5)
THE SKINNY: Based on strong performances in winning the Big South title last week, Marshall appears the strong favorite in section 2AA. They had seven runners go under 20 minutes in that win giving them seven of the top 20 fastest performances in the section data, something no other team is likely to challenge if they race that way on Thursday. Second place could be a tighter race with Waconia, Jordan and Chanhassen. Based on average performances this season Waconia and Chanhassen have produced a regular team average under 21 minutes but Waconia has done so with a consistently more narrow split giving them the edge in our virtual meet. The Wildcats were third last year but may have a deeper team this season.
The top returner from a year ago is Shakopee junior Jayda Becker who was runner-up but she has yet to produce the same form that saw her run in the mid 18-minute range in 2018. The fastest result this year comes from Hutchinson eighth grader Isabelle Schmitz on the fast, paved track at Litchfield where she ran under 18 minutes and was fourth at sections a year ago. It should be noted Schmitz has not gone under 19 minutes in any other races this season and should get plenty of competition from last year's third place finisher, Chanhassen junior Megan Pierson who averaged a 19:52 this season. Other challengers who have been close to Schmitz in the past include Marshall senior Kate Bucher and sophomore Bellamy Sukalski and Delano junior Grace Jostock. Both Bucher and Jostock have gone under 19 minutes this season. It certainly appears Schmitz is the favorite but a lot of young talent looks ready to battle for those precious individual qualifying spots. An additional name to consider is Marshall freshman Jersey Leyson who is the tenth best in the section this year but was fifth in the section a year ago before running 32nd at state.