Anna Fenske of Farmington, shown competing in a Sept. 24 race, posted the second-fastest section-winning time among Minnesota high school girls. Photo: LEILA NAVIDI • firstname.lastname@example.org
Tie those shoes, step to the line and wait for the starter’s pistol. Cross-country runners in the COVID-19 era know there are safety protocols to follow and modifications and restrictions to accept.
But the universe is indifferent. The pistol goes off and so does a cross-country runner. The 5,000 meters ahead is nonnegotiable.
Runners throughout the state stayed the course this fall, with some producing record times while others added to brilliant team performances.
Stillwater senior Analee Weaver led the charge by eviscerating the state’s previous 5K record. Weaver, the defending Class 2A individual champion, finished her Oct. 1 race in 16 minutes, 42.6 seconds. That’s almost 13 seconds better than the mark set by Emily Covert of Minneapolis Washburn in 2018. Weaver’s time ranked fourth best in the nation this year.
“She ran on a fast course but that doesn’t make what she did any less impressive,” said Ryan Kotajarvi, MileSplit Minnesota editor.
Weaver ranked third, however, in section meet performances. Wayzata sophomore Abbey Nechanicky (Section 6) produced a 17:31.5 and Farmington senior Anna Fenske (Section 1) posted a 17:35.04. Weaver’s 17:39 earned her Section 4 honors.
Another current record holder, senior Geno Uhrbom of Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin, won the Class 1A, Section 7 race. Uhrbom, who set the Class 1A state meet record last fall, was poised to win a third consecutive title this season.
Staples-Motley senior Emmet Anderson would have battled Uhrbom. The fastest time of any runner at a section meet belonged to Anderson (15:51.10).
The Class 2A boys’ field featured Prior Lake’s Gabe Smit edging fellow senior Brennen Peterson of Rosemount for the Section 3 victory by less than a second.
In team results, the St. Paul Highland Park girls won a section title for the first time since 1975. Junior Molly Moening, second overall, paced the Scots’ big day in Class 2A, Section 4.
On the boys’ side, Robbinsdale Armstrong stunned elite Class 2A, Section 6 programs Eden Prairie, Minnetonka and Wayzata by taking the program’s first section title. Sophomore Alex Omodt was the fastest of four Armstrong runners in the top 10.
“That was one of the most shocking results I’ve ever seen in a race,” Kotajarvi said. “It’s like the movie Rudy or something. I think it’s great for the running community.”
One lap remains.
Dozens of teams and about 100 individuals will compete in the TC Running Company Cross-Country Showcase this weekend at Island Pine Golf Club in Atwater, Minn. The event was organized after the Minnesota State High School League ruled out a state meet as part of cancelling all fall sports state tournaments because of COVID-19 concerns.
Borrowing the format used in Nike Cross regional and national meets, the showcase meet will have teams and individuals competing as club teams. Varsity coaches will not be allowed to instruct runners. Large schools compete for an unofficial state title on Friday, with smaller schools running Saturday.
“It’s nice to find a way to say yes to the kids instead of the opposite,” said Mark Alcorn, a retired track and cross-country coach who helped coordinate the small-school teams.