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Three cross-country teams return to defend their title while four new individual champions will ascend the podium at Saturday’s state meet at St. Olaf College in Northfield.
The day begins with the Class 2A girls’ race at 10 a.m., followed by the 2A boys at 11 a.m. Class 1A girls’ start at 1 p.m., boys at 2 p.m. Here is a look at each class:
The Wayzata boys’ and girls’ teams were ranked No. 1 in the coaches’ poll all season. The girls won last year with no seniors running at state and are favorites to repeat.
The girls’ team has drawn wider interest, holding the No. 6 spot in the latest DyeStat.com national rankings.
Junior Anna French, who earned the top spot in the final coaches’ ranking, could become long-time Wayzata coach Dave Emmans’ first individual state champion.
French faces pursuit from greater Minnesota. Sisters Megan and Bethany Hasz of Alexandria hold the No. 2 and 3 spots in the rankings, just ahead of Bemidji’s Jenna Truedson.
In the boys’ race, Wayzata hopes to dethrone two-time defending champion Stillwater. The Ponies are ranked third behind Edina.
Injuries to a couple of top runners vying for the individual title diminished the amount of what Wayzata boys’ coach Bill Miles called “breathtaking talent” back in August. But the individual competition holds intrigue.
Top-ranked Obsa Ali of Richfield, who was second last fall, will be pushed by runners rated No. 2 through 5: Wayzata’s Connor Olson, Hutchinson’ Isaiah Barlow, Zack Benning of Hastings and Bemidji’s Sam Carlson.
Defending boys’ champion Perham is led by Keeghan Hurley, the top-rated runner in the final coaches’ poll. His father, Don, won two Class 2A titles for Cretin in 1977 and 1978, then ran for the Gophers. Two additional Yellowjackets runners are ranked in the top 10.
Trailing the No. 1 Yellowjackets by one spot in the team rankings is Minnehaha Academy. The Redhawks are led by Ephraim Bird, who attends Hope Academy in Minneapolis. The school formed a co-op to compete with Minnehaha this fall after missing the deadline to do so last season.
On the girls’ side, Emi Trost of Cannon Falls and McKenzie Holt of St. Cloud Christian will vie for the title. Trost took second last season, Holt third.
Missing from the race is two-time defending Class 1A champion Clare Flanagan of Blake. Her school moved to Class 2A this season, but a nagging knee injury prevented her from competing all season.