From left to right: Natneal Kifle, Clay Shively, Manny Putz, and Bjorn Anderson
The 2023 Roy Griak Invitational is nearly here and some of the best teams and runners from the Midwest and across the country will come together at the prestigious meet to come away with some hardware at the University of Minnesota's Les Bolstad Golf Course.
Here we preview the boy's Championship race which is the new top-tier race at Roy Griak with the Gold race and Maroon race now being of equal competitiveness.
2023 Roy Griak Invitational
Boys Championship Preview
Top Individuals To Watch:
Clay Shively (14:42.60), Samuel Ferguson (15:00.30), Sam Scott (15:03.09), Aloysius Franzen (15:03.50), Robert Mechura (15:04.20), Bjorn Anderson (15:10.70), Manny Putz (15:13.70), Natneal Kifle (15:15.51), Cade Sanvik (15:16.49), & Nolan Sutter (15:17.71)
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The Race Breakdown:
In the boys individual championship race, it's a who's who of names from around the country that will vie for the Roy Griak title.
Leading the way, we have Kansas star Clay Shively, who ran the fastest 5K time ever recorded for a high school boy in a cross country race at the Olathe Twilight Invite on Sept. 9; teammate Samuel Ferguson from Wichita Trinity Academy; 2021 Roy Griak Champion Sam Scott from Minneapolis Southwest; Wisconsin's No. 1 ranked runner this season in Aloysius Franzen; 2022 Wisconsin State Champion Manny Putz from Onalaska; Iowa's No. 5 ranked runner in Natneal Kifle; and a plethora of top runners from all around Minnesota.
Shively has the lowest PR this season with 14:42.60, and he looks to be the race favorite. That being said, anything can happen at Griak.
Shively does return from last year after finishing sixth and will bring back valuable experience. His teammate Ferguson had a huge PR at the Olathe Twilight, but he has sparingly raced elsewhere this season; he finished 33rd at the 2022 Roy Griak.
Scott returns after finishing fifth in 2022 and first in 2021. Scott has a lot of experience at this meet and has never finished outside the top 10 here. He has started out this season with a 15:16 performance and a new PR of 15:03.09. If Shively isn't the favorite based on time, then Scott has to be the next-best-bet.
Franzen will also be a contender with a Stevens Point team, ranked No. 14 by MileSplit nationally, that will look to win the meet.
Franzen has twice run under 15:10 this season and led his team to dominant victories over some of Wisconsin's best teams. Putz of Wisconsin could also be a contender. He is undefeated on the season and was last year's fouth-place finisher at Griak.
Finally, a large group of Minnesota boys in Robert Mechura, Bjorn Anderson, Cade Sanvik and Nolan Sutter will look to land an upset the Griak and take a HUGE victory back home. Mechura is the No. 2 ranked runner in Minnesota; Anderson is undefeated on the season and ranks No. 3 in Minnesota; Sanvik is undefeated at the 5K distance this season; and Sutter will look to go back-to-back after winning last years Maroon race.
Top Projected Teams:
Minnetonka (195.5), Stevens Point (206), Hudson (218), Dowling Catholic (230), Northville (284), Valley (288.5), Wayzata (299), Norwalk (314), Perham (356), & Minneapolis Southwest (388)
Wayzata (No. 12), Stevens Points (No. 14), and Minnetonka (HM)
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If the MileSplit50 rankings are of any indication, the boys team race should be a battle between Wayzata, Stevens Point and Minnetonka, with any number of teams looking to play spoiler.
Last year's champion Dowling Catholic returns, but their top two scorers from last year -- Jackson Heidesch and Flynn Milligan -- have both since graduated.
Minnetonka and Wayzata (MN) appear to have the upper hand here with the Minnetonka boys projected to win in our virtual meet. The Minnetonka boys are coming off a big meet win at the Nike Heartland Preview where they beat out some of the Heartland region's premier teams with a 15:55 average.
Not to be messed with, though, is the Wayzata boys, who have won the Roy Griak Gold race six times in their history but not since 2016. They came into the season ranked No. 7 in the MS50 preseason rankings and have since fallen to No. 12. They have demolished the competition in both meets they have run at this season and are coming off a big win at the Mayo Invitational where on a tough and hilly course they averaged a 16:17 5K and had all five scorers under 17 minutes.
A couple of teams from Wisconsin in Stevens Point and Hudson are projected for the other top-three finishes.
Stevens Point is the No. 14 ranked team in the MileSplit50 rankings and owns the best 5K average in the field this season at 15:52.90. They have won both their meets this season but haven't had to face any real competition yet.
Hudson is not far behind them in the projected results and are bolstered by the second best spread in the field with a 36.7-second spread (15:38-16:15). They have competed a lot this fall with five meets already and they have gone undefeated so far, with none of the meets being particularly close. Hudson might be the best dark horse candidate to win the title this year.
Some other teams that could surprise could be the Dowling Catholic boys who despite their graduates still have the third-best 5K average in the field this year at 15:58, Northville, which is Michigan's No. 3 ranked team and Valley, which is the No. 8 team in Iowa, could utilize a strong spread for a high finish. Perham with Bjorn Anderson who could lead a strong pack to new lows.
Here's where we should: Anything can happen in a team race, and very often it does in a race like Griak, which will be 500-runners strong. We will most likely see a few teams battle for top five finishes.
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