NXR HEARTLAND GIRLS TEAM PREVIEWS:
Edina (MN) - Fresh off the third Minnesota Class AA state title in team history where they defeated the reigning NXRHL champ Wayzata by over 50 points, the Hornets appear ready to add a region title to their resume. Edina has been runner-up the last four years at NXR and after an outstanding state meet it appears this could be the year they break through for the win. The 18:40 average over an incredible 18 second split proved the power of a team dialed in and on a mission. While the Hornets may not have a runner in the projected top 15 individuals, they could have five (or more) in the top 40, the same formula Wayzata used in winning the title last season. Most of the 2018 the runner up team is back, hungry, and all are running as well as they have in their career. NXR can be a bit chaotic but this is an experienced group that has their sights set on Portland.
Average Time: 18:40.42 Total Time: 1:33:22.10 1-5 Split: 18.50
7) Heidi Engman
Wayzata (MN)- Few programs in the Heartland region will finish as state-runner up and project as a favorite to advance to NXN and yet feel like they have more to prove. When you have won five NXR titles and stand as one of just five programs to have won a NXN title the standard is always high. The Trojans have been undercut from their potential by injury and sickness but have been raising their performances throughout the second half of the year with their eyes set on the regional and finding a way to the national meet. They ran a 18:49 average at state, led by freshman talent Abbey Nechanicky who broke out at NXR last season with a 19th place finish and has gone under 18 minute this season. If the Trojans can get a fifth runner moved up in the pack it's likely they run their streak of NXN trips to three straight years.
Average Time: 18:45.88 Total Time: 1:33:49.40 1-5 Split: 1:07.80
Muskego (WI) - Fresh off their WIAA Division 1 state championship Muskego heads into NXRHL as a dark horse candidate. They were fourth a year ago but less than 60 points out of second. This year's state meet result was not far behind what several other contenders posted at their respective state finals. With three runners capable of top 50 races and a split that could be under 55 seconds, Muskego is just the type of team that sneaks up the team standings. If front runner Katie Sperka shaves time off her sub 18:30 PR and the top five improves along with her, this is a top five capable squad that has several NXR experienced runners already faster than they were a year ago on the fast track at Yankton.
Average Time: 18:56.22 Total Time: 1:34:41.09 1-5 Split: 52.49
Stillwater (MN) - Stillwater is a team with all the parts to advance out of NXRHL. An elite front runner and the confidence they have beaten the two biggest names in the region head to head this season. The Ponies finished ahead of both Edina, Wayzata and St Michael Albertville at Griak this season and won a very difficult section 4AA before finishing fifth in the Class AA state meet in what some may have considered a disappointing result. However, the size and chaos of the Griak may be more similar to the NXR experience and having junior Analee Weaver fresh off her first state title win in the front may be more important in a field nearly twice the size of the MSHSL 16- team state meet. Their season best average of 18:45 is among the top five in the field and it's very likely this is a team hungry to avenge their loses last weekend. If the runners who had an off day last week return to their regular form, Stillwater will be dangerous on Sunday.
Average Time: 18:45.48 Total Time: 1:33:47.40 1-5 Split: 1:39.20
Saint Michael-Albertville (MN) - Last season STMA beat both Wayzata and Edina to win the class AA title a week before NXRHL but could not find their way past them a week later in the craziness of the regional meet. This season they were third at state and may not have the notoriety nationally that the other two teams may bring but the Knights are one of just two teams in the field with five runners who have gone under 19 minutes this season and those numbers produce the fastest season best team average of the year at under 18:40. Their front pair of sophomore stars Ali Weimer and Katie Sigerud have consistently run ahead of the Edina pack and both went in the top ten last week at state (4th and 9th) with it being a possibility they are the best 1-2 punch in the Heartland this season. The talent and experience is there for STMA to challenge for one of the NXN auto berths this season.
Average Time: 18:33.70 Total Time: 1:32:48.50 1-5 Split: 1:10.20
Lincoln East (NE) - Nebraska's best team may have few opportunities to race the consistently high level of competition they will face on Sunday but they are a team that has the ability to get inside the top ten at NXRHL. When on their best form they have the ability to produce an average under 19 minutes with a split under 50 seconds. They won the NSAA D1 title with a 43 second 1-5 split two weeks ago and some speed rating data says they may have been running better results than what their season best times show. It's probably a long shot for a top five but Lincoln East should be in the competition for a top ten spot and the best result from their home state.
Average Time: 18:59.12 Total Time: 1:34:55.60 1-5 Split: 43.70
Sioux Falls Lincoln (SD) - The winner of four of the last five South Dakota Class AA titles is talented enough to earn at top five finish at NXRHL. With potential to average well under 19 minutes and the needed split under 60 seconds, its foreseeable that the Patriots better last year's 17th place results at Yankton. Lincoln ran a very competitive seventh in the Griak gold race this season with a better split and just 19 seconds slower in average time than Stillwater (10 seconds behind Wayzata). Though it appears they lack a top 20 level runner in such a deep field, this is a team that's run in big meets and is very familiar with the Heartland experience. A top ten performance from this group is within reach if they perform up to their potential.
|1) Lila Batcheller||18:26.3|
|2) Leah Derenge||18:31.0|
|3) Caroline Sudbeck||18:37.1|
|4) Addalai Dekam||19:08.3|
|5) Hannah Dumansky||19:17.7|
|Average Time: 18:48.08 Total Time: 1:34:00.39 1-5 Split: 51.44|
|6) Ana Simeonova||19:46.6|
|7) Emma Boyens||20:46.5|
Johnston (IA) - Johnston captured the IHSAA 4A state title last week with a very impressive 18:55 average over a 53 second split and their top three under 18:50. They look to be the best team from Iowa in the field at NXRHL this year and will be a team to watch in the top five. 13th a year ago, this is a team who should improve on that standard with a top five good enough to challenge the best in the field. If top runner Bella Heikes can improve into a top 25 level runner from a current projection outside the top 30 and a fifth runner closes the gap up to the fourth athlete, the Dragons go from a top five team to a dark horse, shocking the field and earning an NXN berth.
|1) Bella Heikes||18:22.0|
|2) Aleah Tenpas||18:37.0|
|3) Brooklyn Mckee||18:38.3|
|4) Samantha Strauss||18:48.1|
|5) Clara Toot||19:13.8|
|Average Time: 18:43.84 Total Time: 1:33:39.20 1-5 Split: 51.80|
|6) Faith Nead||19:51.0|
|7) Kaya Young||20:13.9|
OTHER TEAMS TO WATCH:
Alexandria (MN)- A fourth place Class AA finisher a week ago in Minnesota, the Cardinals are seemingly built to surprise at a big meet with a consistently low split under 30 seconds most of the season with an average around 19 minutes.
Saint Paul Highland Park (MN)- Highland Park reached the Class AA state meet for the first time in school history this year, finishing sixth. Averages and splits say this is a top ten capable team.
Farmington (MN)- Seventh behind Highland Park in Class AA, they have a potential individual winner at the front but may need several athletes to step up big if they want to match last year's fifth place NXR effort.
Onalaska (WI)- Similar to Farmington, they have one of the most talented individuals in the field but need their fourth and fifth athlete to improve if they hope to be a top ten team.
Mill Valley (KS)- The best team entry from Kansas is the 6A champ with an average and split that could keep them in the top ten.
West Fargo (ND)- West Fargo is the best from their state this year winning the class A title and should figure in the top 20 teams on Sunday.