1. Girls going greater distance
The two girls who leave St. Olaf College in Northfield as Class 1A and 2A state cross-country champions this year will do so having raced farther than any females in state history.
The coaches association bumped up all varsity girls' races from 4 kilometers (2½ miles) to 5K (3.1 miles), equal to the distance run by the boys. Minnesota had been one of a few remaining states with shorter girls' races.
While most coaches believe girls are physically able to race 5,000 meters, their views were conflicted on whether to make the move. Proponents believe Minnesota should be in step with the majority of the country and that top runners should be better prepared for national and collegiate success. Others fear a reduction in participation numbers, especially among Class 1A schools.
Pete Janiszeski, coaches' association president and Luverne coach, said, "There is both excitement for the opportunity and still a little concern. There is concern that the numbers will go down, but the high school league research showed no decline" in other states.
2. New No. 1 for boys, girls
In Class 2A, coaches voted the Edina boys and Minnetonka girls as the No. 1 teams. Interesting selections considering neither program qualified for the team competition at state last November. Both the Hornets and Skippers return three individuals who ran at state, however. Veteran Minnetonka coach Jane Reimer-Morgan, no fan of rankings, believes in her team. The Skippers last won a team title in 2004 and Reimer-Morgan said her current group possesses the requisite desire and work ethic. "I call them my little peanuts but I admire their tenacity," she said. Step one for both teams? Surviving sections. The Minnetonka girls must topple No. 2-ranked Edina and three-time defending state champion Wayzata. Edina's boys must overcome second-ranked Hopkins and Wayzata. The Trojans won the past two state titles.
3. City speed
If a trio of talented runners can make good on their preseason potential, the Class 2A boys' state meet will feature solid city representation. Seniors Andrew Sell (Minneapolis Washburn), Micah Mather (St. Paul Highland Park) and Hamza Ali (Washburn) all ranked in the coaches' poll top 12. Not since 2008 have three male runners from public schools in St. Paul and Minneapolis all placed in the top 10 at state. Sell was rated third, followed by Mather (fifth) and Ali (12th).
David La Vaque