With no clear frontrunner on the boys side at the Roy Griak Invitational on Saturday, this race is about as open as it's been for a long time.
This will make for a very exciting race at Les Bolstad for the individual title and could potentially provide a lot of confidence for a number of athletes heading into the postseason.
While Edina (MN) High School's Max Manley is the top returner in the field, he certainly isn't the only qualified athlete with a chance to win. Check out 12 athletes who could make a run for the title.
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Max Manley, Edina (MN)
Max Manley headlines this field after a great start to his season and is the presumptive pick to go after a Griak title. He was sixth in this race last year. After a track season in which he finished as the runner-up in both the 1600m and 3200m--with two personal bests--the Edina senior has rolled to begin cross country, earning two wins and a runner-up at the Heartland Classic earlier this season. Manley is coming off a win at the Milaca Mega Meet this past weekend.
Luke Labatte, Rosemount (MN)
Labatte was third at last year's Minnesota Class AA Cross Country Championships and continued on to run personal bests in the 1600m and 3200m during the track season. Considering he's had two weeks to prepare after a win at the Rochester Mayo Invitational two weeks ago, he should be ready to put it all on the line at Griak. He was 13th in this race last year.
Braden Peters, West Central (SD)
Name sound familiar? He's the younger brother of Derick Peters, who won the individual Griak title last year on this same course. Can Braden follow suit? Well, he's fresh off a big win at the Pre-Regional at Heartland and he ran a season best of 15:35.71 at the Augie Twilight on August 31. We believe Peters will certainly try after finishing 28th last year. If Braden is anything like his brother, he'll get stronger on this tough course and could make his way to the front in the late stages.
Andrew Brandt, Wayzata (MN)
With Wayzata reloading following a banner year, Brandt is doing what he can to make sure the Trojans continue to have success in 2018. And that includes guiding the perennially talented squad at Griak. His experience in large meets and his performances a year ago will serve him well, so watch out for Brandt to either pull along the Trojans pack or try his hand at winning the title.
Acer Iverson, Roseville Area (MN)
Iverson has only raced twice this season and only once at the 5K distance, his last effort coming two weeks ago in a race he faded down the stretch--a race that Brandt won. However, Iverson's resume should be enough to keep him in contention. He was the runner-up at the Class AA State Championships last year and followed with an individual qualification to NXN, so he cannot be taken lightly. He's been preparing specifically for Griak, too.
Caleb Easton, Middleton (WI)
While Easton has all the talent to win Griak, he probably has more important things to worry about, such as pulling his Middleton squad to a team title. This race has often been an indicator of success at the national level, so Easton's duties might pull him in another direction on Saturday. What helps is that Easton has the potential to turn it on down the stretch and has major closing speed, as evidenced by his 4:12 effort in the 1600m at last spring's Wisconsin track and field championships. He's run 16:34 for 5K this fall and was 58th at the Woodbridge Cross Country Classic, a somewhat disappointing finish considering the special nature of the event. Based on those performances, it wouldn't be surprising to see him go for the win, either. He was eighth at Griak last year.
Caleb Haugland, Minneapolis Washburn (MN)
Haugland's biggest win this season came at the St. Olaf Showcase, which was impressive on its own. But it also means he's a sleeper to make a run at the Griak title. In consecutive years at at Les Bolstad Golf Course, he's gone from 97th to 23rd place, so the natural progression would be a top 10 finish here.
Isaac Basten, Buffalo (MN)
Last year, Basten fell victim to the heat at Griak and was not able to finish the race. However, he bounced back strong and had a great track season. He's off to a fast start this fall, too, with a 5K best of 15:36. Basten has had a very consistent stream of races this season, with three runner-up finishes and one victory. He's lost to Max Manley and Caleb Haugland at various points this season.
Ethan Marshall, St. Thomas Aquinas (KS)
As one of Kansas' best runners last year, he won a state championship in Kansas after improving upon a 41st-place finish the year before. In the spring he continued to improve, with personal bests in the 800m, 1600m, and 3200m. He is one of the most consistent runners in the field, always tending to finish with respectable efforts regardless of field size.
Reece Jones, St. Thomas Aquinas High School (KS)
Jones' performances have led him to finish behind Marshall in each of their races this year, so wherever Marshall finishes, expect Jones to follow. He's proficient in the 800m and 1600m during the track season, but will look to keep toe-to-toe with Marshall as St. Thomas Aquinas tries to make a run for a podium finish at Griak.
Isaac Huber, Edgely-Kuhm (ND)
Huber was third at the North Dakota state championships and didn't race a whole lot. This fall, he hasn't been challenged much, either, beyond his second place finish at the Deb Christopher Invite where he was only beat by 0.2 seconds. It will be interesting to see what his potential is against competitors at Griak. He's run 1:56.77 for the 800m, which was good enough for state title last spring and he already owned titles in the 1600m and 3200m in 2017. His speed in the shorter distances should come in handy on a hilly course at Les Bolstad.
Brady Yoder, Sophomore, Dickinson (ND)
Yoder was fourth at North Dakota's state championships last year behind Huber. And he's just a sophomore, which means he's playing on house money here. He's already produced a 30 second personal best this year against very little competition and is proving he's trying to move his way up the leaderboard in his state. While he's undefeated in North Dakota, Griak will be his first true test. Where does he stand against some major players?