Top finishes at the 37th annual Roy Griak Invitational cross-country race held Sept. 22 were not the explicit goals of Minnesota's best prep runners but byproducts of their commitment to taking each stride with purpose.
For Minneapolis Southwest senior Sam Scott and Roseville junior Robert Mechura, this meant placing second and third, respectively, among Minnesota runners in the boys championship race. Mechura was coming off a victory in the Metro Invite, a race Scott missed because he was out of town.
Battling eventual Griak winner Clay Shively of Wichita Trinity Academy in Kansas all the way to the final dozen meters, Scott took solace in a complete effort.
"I wanted to be in the fight for the win," Scott said. "Last year, I'd get to that point and just die. I'd mentally shut off and fall back a few places. I was proud to fight to the finish line."
Both Scott (15 minutes, 25.7 seconds) and Mechura (15:28.1) broke the previous 5,000-meter course record at the Les Bolstad Golf Course in Falcon Heights.
In the girls championship race, Forest Lake junior Norah Hushagen placed third (18:10.1) to lead the Minnesota contingent. She compared notes afterward with seventh-place Sydney Drevlow of Hopkins and 10th-place Marissa Long of Chanhassen. The three ran together during the summer, traveling to each others' recommended training sites. Hushagen chose William O'Brien State Park.
Hushagen reminded younger teammates before the Griak meet to keep an open mind, be positive and remember, "All it takes is all you've got."
Luna Scorzelli, a senior at St. Paul Highland Park, personified this approach. Last week marked her first race after a long recovery from a sacral fracture. The 2022 Class 2A state champion cried after her Griak performance, a modest 37th place.
The tears were a mix of relief and appreciation.
"My coach told me the first goal I should have is gratitude that I am here," Scorzelli said. "The second one was just to finish. I didn't feel the soreness from my injury at all today. But my legs definitely felt it. But it will come back."
Top runners will come back as well. The Les Bolstad Golf Course is also the site of the Minnesota State High School League cross-country state meet in November.