Minneapolis Washburn senior Emily Covert began this cross-country season in the same manner she ended last year, by running to victory at St. Olaf College.

Covert won the St. Olaf Showcase last Thursday in 17 minutes, 7.9 seconds, shattering her Class 2A meet-winning time of 17:30.1. Her blistering performance on the same 5,000-meter course put the state on notice — Covert remains the runner to beat.

Only 64 days separate the St. Olaf Showcase and the state championship meet and Covert's journey is one of several to watch. Talented returning runners in both classes and genders provide great intrigue.

Coaches voted Covert as the top female runner in Class 2A ahead of Lauren Peterson of Farmington, Emma Atkinson and Caroline Sassan of Wayzata, and Ali Weimer of St. Michael-Albertville. Among other notable runners are sixth-ranked Grace Dickel, also of Washburn, and 2016 state champion Anna Fenske of Farmington, ranked No. 10.

Atkinson and Sassan lead the No. 1-ranked Trojans, who won the St. Olaf Showcase team title and seek a second consecutive state title.

Class 1A remains a three-person race for the top spot. Two-time defending champion Tierney Wolfgram of Math and Science Academy in Woodbury returns with Winona Cotter sisters Grace and Lauren Ping in hot pursuit. Wolfgram trailed only Covert at the St. Olaf Showcase and her time of 17:28.3 was three seconds ahead of her state-meet pace.

That same day, about 90 minutes southeast, Grace Ping won the Stewartville Bill Glomski Invitational in 18:03.70 and Lauren Ping placed second in 18:22.80. Grace won the 2015 Class 1A title.

On the boys' side, several runners boast credentials worthy for consideration as championship contenders. Roseville's Acer Iverson placed second at the Class 2A meet last fall, one spot ahead of Rosemount's Luke Labatte.

Edina's Max Manley, No. 1 in the most recent coaches poll, took second in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter races at the Class 2A track and field meet in June. And Washburn's Caleb Haugland won the St. Olaf Showcase in 15:53.8.

Andrew Brandt and Grant Price lead two-time defending champion Wayzata.