Nike Cross Nationals are a bit less than three weeks away and Minnesota is sending three individuals and one team to Portland as automatic qualifiers via their performances at NXR Heartland on November 10. While there is so much that goes into the development of each athlete and team that reaches NXN it is fun to look at their year to year progress. Take a look at the data for each runner headed to Glendoveer Golf Course on December 7.
MINNESOTA'S INDIVIDUAL NXN QUALIFIERS
Nick Scheller, Chanhassen- 2019 NXR Heartland Champion
This season Nick Scheller was consistently one of the top racers in the state. Some mid-season illness and a tough racing schedule may have kept Scheller out of the spotlight but those who follow Minnesota cross country closely were not surprised by his Heartland regional victory. He finished no lower than third at any race this season and won four races including NXRHL. The list of athletes who bettered him head to head includes just three names and he defeated all of them in his Heartland win a week after finishing as Minnesota class AA runner up. As a freshman Scheller was runner-up in the rising Heartland Rising stars race. Four years later, he is the NXR Heartland champ having just run fastest race of his
Over the course of 2019 Oliver Paleen was undefeated, defeating the best in both Minnesota classes head to head and also ran away from an impressive field of athletes in the Griak Gold competition before coming in three strides behind Scheller at NXR Heartland. For most of the year his times were the best in Class AA and very few runners in the state were as confident and driven to succeed on a day in and day out basis as Paleen. His assent to the top of Minnesota, and the Heartland, is impressive considering the best result of his eighth grade season was slightly under 18 minutes. After winning the AA title in his final state meet and leading his team to impressive finishes, his story is representative of what is possible for every young runner willing to push their boundaries in pursuit of excellence.
Few runners outside the state of Minnesota will truly understand the demands of being the top runner for a program like Wayzata. But last season, Shuayb was not among the top seven for the Trojans so his emergence to the top of the state and region is especially impressive for a runner clearly on the ascent heading to Portland. If Paleen's five year growth chart as a runner is impressive, then considering Shuyab moving from only having gone sub-17 one time last season, all the way to dipping under 15:20 at 2019 NXR is sensational. Considering he was seventh in Class AA at 15:47.5 the week before NXR, and he bettered four of the six that finished head of him in that race when he earned his NXN qualifier in Sioux Falls, even the proud tradition of Wayzata cross country can be impressed with the confidence Shuayb is expressing in the post-season in 2019. It will interesting to see what that momentum provides at NXN.