Class AA Girls Championship
INDIVIDUALS TO WATCH: ALI WEIMER (St Michael-Albertville, 17:49.3), ANNA FENSKE (Farmington, 17:52.1), ELLA DUFAULT (Waseca, 17:56.2), ISABELLE SCHMITZ (Hutchinson, 17:57.5), ABBEY NECHANICKY (Wayzata, 18:00.5), SYDNEY DREVLOW (Hopkins, 18:00.5), ANALEE WEAVER (Stillwater, 18:01.7), BRIANNE BREWSTER (Lakeville South, 18:19.1), HALLE MESTERY (East Ridge, 18:21.3), CLAIRE VUKOVICS (Lakeville North, 18:23.2), KATIE SIGERUD (St Michael-Albertville, 18:24.1), MOLLY MOENING (St Paul Highland Park, 18:25), KATELYN MOTTER (Rocori, 18:34.2), MARIAH FENSKE (Farmington, 18:36.2), DAISY ISLAS (Rosemount, 18:39.6), LIESL PAULSEN (Eden Prairie, 18:39.8)
THE SKINNY: The Class AA girls race features an interesting line up of competitors ready to challenge for a state title. The most obvious pick for a race favorite would be Farmington junior no. 1 ranked Anna Fenske. Since reaching the state meet for the first time as seventh grader, she has finished no lower than ninth including a runner-up finish, a third place finish and the 2016 state title. She has head to head wins against all the top competitors in the field and ran a 17:52 in her section 1AA victory last week. Her runner-up finish in this season's Griak Gold girls race, a year after a disappointing performance in that event, while in the midst of heavy training showcased the poise and desire of an experienced runner on a mission. Stillwater junior no. 3 ranked Analee Weaver is the only Minnesota runner to better Fenske this season, in early September at the Faribault Invite, and is certainly among a short list of athletes who have the talent to win the race in 2019 after finishing eighth a year ago. St Michael-Albertville sophomore no. 4 ranked Ali Weimer is the two time 5AA champ and ran seventh at state a year ago. She currently boasts the fastest season best in class AA but despite beating Weaver in five previous meetings, she finished behind both Weaver and Fenske by nearly 30 seconds at Griak this season.
Wayzata freshman Abbey Nechanicky started to emerge as the next great Trojan distance phenom in the post season last year as an eighth grader and has done nothing but rise in her first year of high school including winning a Lakes Conference and section 6AA title. The only Minnesota athletes to better her in 2019 were Fenske in the Griak Gold race where she was an outstanding fourth place and, when Wayzata ran the Metro Invite as a workout, she ran down the entire field in the last two miles finishing behind just no 4. ranked St Paul Highland Park sophomore Molly Moening and no. 11 ranked Eden Prairie senior Liesl Paulsen. Nechanicky was 10th at state last year for the runner-up Trojans and certainly will not be intimidated by the stage. Moening also offers an intriguing case as her season average over five races this season has been under 18:40, the fifth best such mark in class AA. She is also one of just three Minnesota runners (Fenkse, Nechanicky) to better Analee Weaver this season so while her overall season best may be a bit back of the top five, she did run ninth at state last season and it should not surprise to see Moening in the mix in the final stages of the race this year. Another runner to follow is Waseca freshman Ella Dufault who was the 1AA runner-up four seconds behind Anna Fenske with a 17:56 which is one of just four sub-18 minute performances in class AA and third fastest in the field this season. An intriguing prospect, the only runners to better Dufault this season were Fenske and then a quartet of state ranked runners in her fifth place season debut at the St Olaf Showcase.
In the team competition several teams could be considered among the favorites for a state title. Coaches no. 1 Stillwater has multiple wins over no. 2 Edina and no. 3 Wayzata and feature one of the favorites in the individual race. Yet they may lack the fifth runner to put them over the top in a field of teams with tight splits. Both in the season best and season average virtual meets their split is around 90 seconds which would likely need to be tightened up if the Ponies want to earn a state title. No. 2 Edina may be the other side of the coin, a team with potential for a team split under 45 seconds but a pack that may be just a few seconds off the lead group which could be the difference in the final scores. If the front of the Hornets pack can push inside the top ten giving them a pair or more of single digit scorers they will have a shot as their season averages are the best in class AA this season. If Edina wins a title in 2019 it would truly be a team effort. Wayzata remains a team win immense potential as their no. 3 coach ranking shows but after finishing behind Edina in both the Lakes Conference and Section 6AA meets, they clearly have an elite front runner but may lack a second runner that can score inside the top 20. If their roster is not at full health it may the first time in three years Wayzata finishes out side the top two or even top five.
No. 4 ranked St Michael Albertville shows as the top team in our season best virtual meet with three of the top 13 fastest times in the team scoring and the fastest fifth runner time among all top level teams. The Knights top running duo is excellent and they were a surprise state champ last season. They can reach that height again this season if they can get a fifth runner in the top 30 but will still need every one of the top five to be in full form to be a true challenger for a second straight title. St Paul Highland Park is in the state meet as a team for the first time in school history and seems destined for a top five finish if they live up to the potential shown for most of the season. Their average results have them among the best two teams but season bests in their fifth position are not yet on par with many of the teams in competition for the team title. If the Scots can improve that number and their top runners continue to race among the best in class AA, they will have a real shot at finishing in the top five in the schools first state meet.