* The 2018 race was won by Minneapolis Washburn graduate Emily Covert
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The Roy Griak Invitational often marks a pivotal turning point for teams searching for rhythm as they hit the halfway point of the season.
While the early rust of a new season can't be used as an excuse anymore, success can also mean a wave of confidence as teams look to build on strides made here on Les Bolstad.
The end of September always presents a shift for teams looking for championship form, and it always gives pause to those who aren't quite ready just yet.
The 2019 girls gold race is about as loaded as its ever been, with five nationally ranked teams vying for supremacy and a spot on the podium. Last year's NXN runner-up, Naperville North, is looking for a bit of redemption after finishing second a year ago. Many others, meanwhile, are still making statements.
Sure enough, Roy Griak will present all the evidence an athlete or team will need looking forward. Below, we've given you a few road maps on how to review this year's race:
Emily Covert, Minneapolis Washburn (MN), 17:28.00
Previous Team Placements:
- 2018: 1. Yorkville (IL); 2. Naperville North (IL); 3. Downers Grove South (IL);
- 2017: 1. Naperville North (IL); 2. Great Oak (CA); 3. Wayzata (MN);
- 2016: 1. Edina (MN); 2. Mountain View (ID); 3. Naperville North (IL)
- 2015: 1. Naperville North (IL); 2. Edina (MN); 3. Lake Braddock (VA)
- 2014: 1. Saugus (CA); 2. Wayzata (MN); 3. Naperville North (IL)
Previous Winners/Top 3:
- 2018: 1. Emily Covert, Minneapolis Washburn (MN), 17:28.00; 2. Tierney Wolfgram, Math & Science Academy (MN), 17:50.70; 3. Lauren Peterson, Farmington (MN), 18:04.40
- 2017: 1. Emily Covert, Minneapolis Washburn (MN), 18:13.00; 2. Grace Ping, Winona Cotter (MN), 18:20.80; 3. Anna Fenske, Farmington (MN), 18:31.40
- 2016: 1. Lexy Halladay, Mountain View (ID), 18:37.90; 2. Karly Ackley, Grand Forks (ND), 18:57.10; Hanna Johnston, Hammarskjold (CAN)
- 2015: 1. Grace Ping, Winona Cotter (MN), 18:12.47; 2. Judy Pendergast, Naperville North (IL), 18:16.44; 3. Mattie Shirley-Fairbairn, Bismarck (ND), 18:19.87
- 2014: 1. Samantha Ortega, Saugus (CA), 18:13.80; 2. Jenna Truedson, Bemidji (MN), 18:39.00; 3. Emily Covert, Minneapolis Washburn (MN), 18:44.80
Teams To Pay Attention To:
- No. 3 Naperville North (IL): The Huskies already have two solid wins on their resume, with victories over ranked Edina at the Spartan Challenge on Sept. 7 and ranked Yorkville at the First to the Finish Invitational on Sept. 14. But this would arguably be the cherry on top for a brilliant start to the season -- especially considering the team finished second to Yorkville in this very meet a year ago. The Huskies will go in with high aspirations.
- No. 4 Wayzata (MN): Will we finally see a full Trojans squad? If that does in fact happen, we could start to see the shape of a very talented team. But they'll need to adjust following a fourth-place finish in 2018. While the team ran well as a pack in that meet, they got swept up early and couldn't recover. A faster, more urgent start could do this team better on Saturday.
- No. 14 Edina (MN): The Hornets secured a quality victory at the Lakeville AppleJack Invitational on Sept. 14, beating fellow divisional foe Farmington by nearly 30 points. The squad ran with a 54-second spread and averaged 19:21.
- No. 16 Greenwood Village Cherry Creek (CO):
- No. 21 Saint Michael-Albertville (MN): The defending Class AA champs have yet to make a statement race just yet. This could be it.
- Farmington (MN): With strong talent returning in 2019, a podium at Roy Griak would give the Tigers a ton of confidence looking toward the back-end of its season.
- Lee's Summit West (MO): The top ranked team in Missouri could be an upset-special in the making. The squad is averaging 19:03.31 and is led by senior Madison Hulsey, who's run a PR of 18:29.16 so far this season.
- Anna Fenske (above), Farmington (MN): This will mark Fenske's fourth appearance at Les Bolstad. And while she had a tough outing a year ago, finishing 20th, she was third in 2017 and has already looked strong to start out her junior campaign, winning three of five meets. Fenske should be among the leaders in a race that could be wide open.
- Abbey Nechanicky/Emma Atkinson, Wayzata (MN): Will this be the race where Wayzata finally shows their top five? With Atkinson and Nechanicky, the Trojans will be hard to beat. While Atkinson has been away, Nechanicky has been cruising to good performances at the Milaca Mega Meet and St. Olaf Showcase. She was 28th in this race in 2018. This could be Atkinson's first race of 2019.
- Riley Stewart, Cherry Creek (CO): Stewart has shown she's capable of running with the best of the best. The sophomore finished second at Liberty Bell with a career best of 17:12.60. But will she be the race favorite? Her speed rating of 144 stands up as the best in this field. But she'll have to adapt quickly to the course and adjust to the conditions.
- Ali Weimer, STMA (MN): Weimer is the No. 1 stick for a program looking to capitalize on a strong team in 2019. She's won her past three races and was third at St. Olaf. A year ago she was 12th in this race and will look to improve on her time of 18:27.50.
- Meghan Ford, Jamestown (ND): A strong preseason has led to a very big race at Roy Griak. Ford has won all three of her early races in North Dakota, but she'll have to calm the nerves to race well here. This will be her first appearance at Griak. She owns a PR of 17:20.51.
- Genevieve Nashold, Madison West (WI): The sophomore has been pretty unstoppable so far, but she'll find a stark challenge here. She's scored three wins over three straight weeks. While she's raced three straight weeks, it looks as though she's found tempo efforts in her last two and potentially is more capable of the 17:39.50 she put down on Sept. 7 at the Verona Invitational.
- Audrey Mendrys, Naperville North (IL): The Huskies have found, early on, that Mendrys has stepped up and claimed the position as No. 1. With two big wins at First to the Finish and the Spartan Challenge, there's no reason that should change at Roy Griak. She's posted a 5K best of 18:57.00 thus far.