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Shakopee's Maria Hauger, right, pushed forward at the end of the Class AA girls' 4000-meter race to take first place, beating Alexandria's Jamie Piepenburg by mere strides at the Minnesota State High School Cross Country Championships at St. Olaf College

1 Running toward history: A fourth consecutive Class 2A title will put Shakopee senior Maria Hauger firmly in the discussion of best state high school distance runner ever along with Dawson-Boyd's Carrie Tollefson, winner of five overall titles from 1990 to '95. Wayzata boys' coach and long-time cross-country enthusiast Bill Miles believes there is room at the top for both runners. "I appreciate their greatness rather than worrying about who is No. 1 or 2," Miles said. "Both of them are tremendous athletes who love to compete."

2 Triple crown winners: On Day 2 of the Class 2A state track and field meet in June, Hauger became the 11th girl in state history to win the cross-country title and the 3,200 and 1,600 races in the same school year. A few hours later, Blake sophomore Clare Flanagan took the Class 1A triple crown. Coaches ranked Flanagan atop their preseason cross-country poll.

3 Ponies have the horses: Defending Class 2A state champion Stillwater returns four of its top male runners, garnering the No. 1 preseason ranking and the No. 7 spot in Marc Bloom's national rating. Bloom compared these Ponies to the 1997 team ranked No. 1. Leading the pack is Wayde Hall, who was ranked first in the coaches preseason poll and ran the best 5,000-meter time (15 minutes, 26 seconds) in the history of the program's annual intrasquad meet.

4 Super sophomores: Miles is excited to see what a strong group of freshman boys do for an encore. Chaska's Joey Duerr (eighth at Class 2A state meet), Wayzata's Connor Olson (11th), Burnsville's Faysol Mamoud (27th) and Hopkins's Joe Klecker (54th) "could develop into the best group we've ever had," Miles said.

5 Vega hired at Holy Angels: Former Gophers All-America cross-country runner Antonio Vega takes over the boys' and girls' programs at Holy Angels. Vega competed in three NCAA cross-country championships and was the Midwest Regional cross-country champion in 2005.

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