An Explosive Roy Griak Invitational Ready To Provide Answers

A total of six nationally ranked girls programs and three ranked individuals from the Midwest will step to the line at the Roy Griak Invitational on Saturday at Les Bolstad Golf Course. 

Talk about explosiveness. 

But something will have to give, as state powers and national contenders will battle on one of the country's most unrelenting courses. 

And yet, unlike a year ago, when temperatures were into the high 80s, Saturday is expected to be noticeably cooler. The University of Minnesota course won't be slowed by rain and it won't force runners to exit the race early due to heat. 

WATCH LIVE: The Roy Griak Invitational 

Perhaps the only question mark facing ranked teams entering the elite race at Griak will be how well they can tame the famed rolling hills at Les Bolstad. Three ranked teams arrive from Illinois, while another three will compete from Minnesota. 

A few more program's to keep in mind: Sun Prairie (WI), Dowling Catholic (IA), St. Thomas Aquinas KS) and Olathe North (KS).

On the national front, there are two storylines. 

Two top five teams will be looking to see if they're as good as advertised, while four others are making cases toward moving up in the rankings. 

Fortunately enough, everyone is well aware of each other.  

Both No. 2 Wayzata and No. 5 Naperville North faced each other in this same race a year ago, along with Great Oak (CA), and it was the Huskies who scraped by with a championship level effort, earning a narrow 2-point win over the Wolfpack, while the Trojans followed in third.

It was a result that proved to be important. A few months later, Naperville North almost won a Nike Cross Nationals title in Portland, Oregon, finishing six points shy of beating Fayetteville-Manlius. 

Not to be overlooked was that result from Griak. It had to inspire the Huskies. 

While Wayzata is talented, the season is still young and the Trojans are trying to figure out how to compete at an elite level. Led by a trio of juniors in Emma Atkinson, Caroline Sassan and Rhynn Paulsen, the team has cruised to wins in its first three meets of the season at St. Olaf, Metro and the Milaca Mega Meet. 

Naperville North, on the other hand, is reloading after losing its No. 1 from a year ago, Sarah Schmitt. But this team is as good as ever. Two additions have been crucial in Campbell Petersen, a transfer from Dunlap, and freshman Lucy Westlake. Both have found themselves in the top five and contributed to a 39-second spread as the Huskies, led by returned Alex Morris, claimed a big opening season win at First to Finish. 

Each team, naturally, has in-staters (nationally ranked in-staters) chasing them.

In Wayzata's case, No. 7 Edina and No. 24 Saint Michael Albertville are talented enough to beat the Trojans on a good day, while in Illinois, the same can be said with No. 12 Yorkville and No. 16 Downers Grove South. 

The team race no doubt will be thrilling to watch.

But on an individual front, however, the race is expected to be full of major moves, too. 

Between Washburn's Emily Covert, Math & Science's Tierney Wolfgram and Cotter's Grace Ping and Lauren Ping, it could be anyone's race to win. 

Wolfgram, however, has a history of coming up big in huge moments. 

The sophomore has won two straight Class A titles in Minnesota, and beat Covert at NXR Heartland, NXN and Foot Locker Nationals. 

Wolfgram's and Covert's season best times are also just 1-second apart. 

We shouldn't forget about these runners either: Farmington's Anna Fenske and Lauren Peterson, Wayzata's Atkinson, Naperville North's Morris and Yorkville's Emily Eberhart. 

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Girls Team To Watch: Yorkville (IL), Wayzata (MN), Downers Grove South (IL), Naperville North (IL), Olathe North (KS), St. Thomas Aquinas (KS), Sun Prairie (WI), Dowling Catholic (IA), Saint Michael Albertville (MN), Farmington (MN), Minneapolis Washburn (MN), Winona Cotter (MN), Edina (MN)


While the girls race will feature six ranked teams and three individuals inside the top 25 of the MileSplit50, the boys gold race isn't too bad either. 

Three teams are ranked inside the top 25 nationally, including No. 13 Edina, No. 14 Dowling Catholic and No. 22 Middleton (WI). 

But in some ways, there are a lot more questions and answers we'll need to glean from the performances.

On the team front, that question mostly comes down to the potential efforts of Dowling Catholic (IA) and No. 22 Middleton (WI).  

Teams to also keep in mind include Wayzata (MN), St. Thomas Aquinas (KS) and Waukee (IA). 

Two weeks ago at the Heartland Classic, Edina thrashed the Iowan squad with relative ease, scoring 57 points as the Hornets averaged 16:28 and put together a 53-second spread. 

Coverage: Roy Griak Invitational

Edina looked every bit the traditional power it has become. Griak race favorite Max Manley scored a second-place effort while his team all finished within the top 21 places. 

But Dowling Catholic didn't exactly look like a nationally ranked team. 

The team's fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh runners got swallowed up by the field, which led to second-place team effort of 111 points. 

Middleton, on the other hand, put together a good performance at the Arrowhead Invitational on Sept. 6, taking the varsity race with 68 points, though the squad hasn't exactly flexed its muscles just yet.

That could come at Griak. 

There's also the motivation factor driving the Wisconsin team. The squad's No. 1, Caleb Easton, won his first race of the season, though got swept up at the Woodbridge Cross Country Classic, finishing 48th on Sept. 15. He hasn't raced since. 

Which brings us to the individual race.

Almost anything can happen. 

Manley seems like a good bet to control this race, though Roseville's Acer Iverson has a good track record, as does Wayzata's Andrew Brandt and Easton. 

There could also be a major sleeper who comes out of nowhere, such as was the case in 2017 when Dowling Catholic (IA) High School's Matthew Carmody came out nowhere to lead the race before West Central's Derick Peters closed hard in the final moments. 

So in reality, a lot could go down. 

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Boys Teams To Watch: Edina (MN), Wayzata (MN), Middleton (WI), Stillwater (MN), Dowling CatholiC (IA), St. Thomas Aquinas (KS), Waukee (IA)