Fast four

Meet the four St. Paul and Minneapolis public school cross-country runners poised to put four inner-city competitors in the top 10 at state for the first time in 15 years.

 

Innocent Murwanashyaka

Junior, St. Paul Como Park

Shot to No. 3 in this week’s coaches poll, pretty good for a guy in his second year of cross-country. Edged St. Paul Highland Park’s Micah Mather at the Rum River Invitational and won the Roy Griak Invitational maroon race. Born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, then moved to Rwanda. Came to St. Paul at age 16. Works at Menards and enjoys Chinese buffet after races.

 

Hamza Ali

Senior, Minneapolis Washburn

Placed 25th at last year’s Class 2A state meet and earned all-state honors. Enjoys competing against his fellow elite inner-city runners. “I love them. Innocent is hilarious. I was so happy when he won Griak. I want him to win state but not this year because I want to — that’s the plan. But next year I’m going to be all for him.”

Micah Mather

Senior, St. Paul Highland Park

Started running cross-country as a freshman but quickly absorbed the sport’s nuances. “He’s a smart, technical runner who seems to know when to make his move,” Scots coach Brad Moening said. “When he does, it’s game over.” Mather hopes to show younger teammates “that you don’t have to be part of a big school like Wayzata or Stillwater to have success.”

 

Andrew Sell

Senior, Minneapolis Washburn

Met Mather by chance at Cardboard Box City, an event at the state fairgrounds to help raise awareness about homeless families. Placed 17th at the Class 2A state meet last fall. The Millers are ranked fourth among Class 2A teams with Sell, Ali and senior Martin Donovan leading the way.

DAVID La VAQUE