Saint Michael-Albertville Earned Statement Win In Minnesota

The No. 25 ranked Saint Michael-Albertville girls had been on the cusp all season. 

There was the the St. Olaf High School Showcase in August, when the Knights had positioned themselves right behind Wayzata, roughly two months away from Minnesota's Championships. Then there was the Roy Griak Invitational roughly a month later, again STMA slotting right behind the Trojans in fifth, only this time it seemed the margin was closing.

Swain produced another dominant effort with 18 points. 

But the biggest sign the Knights were ready to take on the state's best on Saturday? 

It had to be their performance at the Section 5AA Championships on Oct. 25, when the girls tallied a perfect 15-point score. That moment wasn't just a flash of greatness, but was another sign of unparalleled consistency. 

So let's be frank. The Knights Class AA win on Saturday wasn't a true shock.

It was validation. 

Saint Michael-Albertville's 5-point win over Wayzata was just another example of big-time racing. The Knights scored 70 points overall, but the meat of their work was done throughout their lineup, as the team came together late with a 47-second spread on the St. Olaf College Course. 

Wayzata actually had a better average of 18:27 and its first three scorers finished before well STMA's third. But the Trojans were tied up late. The team's 3-4-and-5 came through in 42nd, 43rd and 44th place. STMA's fifth was through in 34th place. 

Depth played a critical role on Saturday. 

And the crazy part was that STMA's first two finishers were both freshman, and the team was missing another one of their top runners to injury. 

Ali Weimer, the vision of consistency for much of the season, led the squad in seventh-place in 18:01.10.

STMA's win wasn't the only big performance of the day, though. 

View: Class AA girls results

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2. A Special Day For The Hornets

Edina High School's history in sports is loaded with state championships. Every boys sport at the school, in fact, had earned at least one. 

Except cross country. 

That barrier came down on Saturday. 

After losing the last two meets to rival No. 18 ranked Wayzata, the No. 22 Hornets pounced with their best performance to date, scoring 88-points to win the Class AA race. 

Wayzata had to settle for third. Mounds View, which had been on fire for the last few weeks, was second overall with 99 points. 

But in truth, it was Edina's day. 

The team put together a 16:00-minute average through a 63-second spread. Senior Max Manley didn't win -- he settled for third -- but that didn't matter as much as the athletes behind him. 

Edina proceeded to come through in 14th, 27th, 41st and 49th in one of the deepest fields to date. Taking out individuals, the Hornets went 2-9-18-27-32 to compile 88 points. 

It was a tight race. Had Mounds View had a better fifth finisher, they could have yielded an upset, too. 

But Edina was full of ready-to-strike upperclassmen. They were a team comprised of four seniors and three juniors. 

View: Class AA boys results

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3. Iverson's Monumental Finish

Beyond some ridiculous team performances, Minnesota's state championships also produced impeccable individual finishes. 

Roseville Area's Acer Iverson became the fourth boy since 2012 to win the Class AA meet after finishing as the runner-up the year before. Last year, Iverson finished second to Wayzata's Khalid Hussein in 15:31.80.

It likely took on an even greater significance when paired with the fact that Iverson couldn't close earlier in the season in a big race. The Harvard commit had led for much of the Roy Griak Invitational in September before being stripped of a potential title in the final 400 meters by Manley. 

Iverson didn't let that happen on Saturday, winning in the last strides over Wayzata's Andrew Brandt in 15:14.80. The result went like this: Iverson-Brandt-Manley. 

View: Class AA boys results

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4. Redemption for Grace Ping

Cotter's Grace Ping had been on the rise for much of the season, too. 

While her times didn't really show what kind of effort she was really putting down on grass every week, the sophomore always believed in her ability to show up. 

Injuries had hindered much of her freshman season. She finished third at State last year just fighting through the pain, and went on to miss both the Nike Heartland Regional and Foot Locker Midwest Regional. 

But a healthy Ping is a dangerous runner. 

And she unloaded on the field in the first mile, putting down a 5:15 opener -- Math & Science Academy's Tierney Wolfgram, the 2-time defending champion, pulled out soon after this due to an injury -- and then proceeded to hammer the rest of the way. 

She ran the second fastest time of the day on the course for a girl, winning in 17:19.40. It was her season best, and a good indication of her fitness ahead of NXR Heartland, where times are assured to get even lower on a flat and track-like surface. 

Afterward, Ping gave an insightful quote to the Winona Daily News. 

"Last year was a pretty tough year for me," she told the newspaper. "But I learned so much from it and I'm really glad that I had the two injuries that I had. I learned so much from it -- I learned how to appreciate the sport again. Even at the beginning of this year was tough because I wasn't doing as well as I was hoping. And now I'm just so happy with my race today." 

View: Class A girls results

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5. Minnesota Star Is Scary Good 

Speaking of great performances, how about Emily Covert

The Minneapolis Washburn (MN) senior, ranked No. 4 on the MileSplit50, finished her Minnesota career with a course record at St. Olaf College -- the state had gone to a 5K three years prior in 2015, so times are often shuffling -- in 17:03.40, proving yet again the national-caliber level the Colorado commit is currently operating at. 

Covert was on another level. 

And that's saying a lot, because Farmington senior Lauren Peterson, the Class AA runner-up, is really good, too. Peterson finished second in 17:28.80 (which was also under the old course record), while her sophomore teammate, Anna Fenske, was third overall in 17:54.10. 

Five girls broke 18 minutes in the AA race. 

But what's most impressive about Covert is in the way she performs. The Minneapolis-native makes it look so easy, as if it's not a job, or a business-like transaction but rather a long, sustained stroll in the park. 

Covert makes pain seem comfortable. 

And that's what so scary good about her right now. She's no doubt among the top runners in the country. 

View: Class AA girls results

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For more coverage of the Minnesota state meet, go to Minnesota MileSplit