The Weekend: Our 1st NXN Qualifiers, Plus Major State Action

* Jamestown's Meghan Ford won her first NXR Heartland title on Sunday

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Sunday marked the start of Nike Cross Nationals qualifying in South Dakota, and it sure didn't disappoint. 

With temperatures hovering in the low 30s in Sioux Falls, NXR Heartland was a meet that offered extreme weather conditions, but it was no matter, as familiar faces and teams came through in the clutch.

Auto-Qualifying out of the championship boys race was defending champion Saint Paul Mounds View (MN), which put together its second straight elite effort to score 125 points. The Mustangs, Minnesota's Class AA winners for the first time in their school's history last week, put two runners in the top 20 and had its fifth athlete across the finish before second-place Stevens Point's third scorer. 

And that told a larger story. While Mounds View was in control for much of the race, it made for a tight battle for second.

Stevens Point -- which was second at its Wisconsin Division I State Championship race last week -- managed to outscore Eden Prairie (MN) by 11 points to solidify an NXN bid. While Eden Prairie had its third runner into the finish before Stevens Point's middle scorer, the Wisconsin program's 3-4-and-5 were separated by just six places in 44th, 45th and 50th, which was just enough to get it done. 

Meanwhile, the individual race led to one of the best finishes in NXR Heartland's history. Less than a second separated the second through six-placers.

It was a literal dash to the finish line. 

Chanhassen's Nicholas Scheller, who was runner-up at his Class AA state championship in Minnesota, won the overall race in 15:17.8, beating Saint Paul Highlands athlete Oliver Paleen, who beat Scheller last week and whom finished second here in 15:19.1. 

From there, three more automatic qualifiers were on the line. 

Andover's Ryan Kinnane was third (15:19.5), Pleasant Valley's Max Murphy was fourth (15:19.5) and Wayzata's Shuayb Hussein (15:19.7) was fifth. Eastview's AJ Green was sixth (15:19.9). 

The girls team race saw Edina's girls once again secure the auto-qualification for the fifth straight year and grab its first win since 2016, scoring 97 points. All five of its runners finished inside the top 25 on the Yankton Trail course. 

Muskego, meanwhile was second overall with 125 points, using a impressive outing from junior Kate Sperka, who was second overall in 17:26.9. That low-stick could have reasonably held off Wayzata's third-place effort, as the Trojans scored 145 points. 

Individually, Jamestown (ND) High School junior Meghan Ford had the breakthrough race of her career,  working within the lead pack through the first and second miles before making her move late -- with about 1K to go -- ultimately distancing herself from the rest and scoring the win in 17:19.1. 

She was well ahead of Sperka, who was seven seconds back, and the rest of the auto-qualifers, which included third-place Marie Hostetler (17:27.4), Stillwater's Analee Weaver (17:27.7) and Farmington's Anna Fenske (17:29.6). Seventh-place Ali Weimer, of STMA, will have wait, along with Green, to see if she picks up an at-large bid following all nine regionals -- a year ago, NXN began offering five golden tickets to athletes who did not auto-qualify for the meet. 

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1. In Texas, Ryan Schoppe ran the second fastest 5K time in high school boys cross country history, winning the Class 6A race in 14:14.02. He was one of six runners under 15 minutes in the race and part of 11 under that mark on the day. Class 5A winner Graydon Morris, of Aledo, won his third straight title, out-kicking El Paso Hanks' Michael Abeyta in the final stretch for a time of 14:33.43 -- which was also under the previous course record at Old Settler's Park in Round Rock. Melissa's Judson Greer won 4A in 14:34.66. Sophomore Aubrey O'Connell, of Prosper, won her first state title in Class 6A. 

* The 6A girls race

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It was a big day overall for Southlake Carroll, which earned wins in both the boys and girls Class 6A race -- the boys scored 80 points across a 26-second spread and 15:22 average, while the girls rolled with 45 points and a dominating 18:07 average. El Paso 

2. In Oregon, some major performances went down. On the boys side, Ashland's Evan Holland shattered the previous course record at Lane Community College in Eugene, winning the Class 5A race in in 14:30.40, which was rated among the highest speed ratings this season with a 199. More than that, though, his Ashland team posted the kind of performance that could translate to the national level, as the team laid a 40-point win on Crater, 41-81, and saw four athletes over 180. An upset took place in Class 6A, with Franklin beating No. 12 ranked Jesuit, 62-101, behind a 15:26 average. 

In the blue-chip girls Class 6A race, two ranked and one honorable mention teams all went toe-to-toe. But defending NXN champion and No. 1 squad Bend Summit won its second straight title, scoring 41 points to dispatch No. 12 Portland Jesuit (80) and Portland Lincoln (85). Summit's Fiona Max won the Class 6A title, her second straight, in 16:51.8 and was the only girls runner under 17 minutes. Lincoln freshman Kate Peters was second in 17:01.00.

3. In Illinois, Hersey's Josh Methner had a remarkable race, breaking Craig Virgin's 47-year-old course record at Detweiller Park with a time of 13:49.90 -- shattering his own personal record on the course by nearly 22 seconds. St. Charles East, which had been rolling all season long, continued in that display, edging Wheaton Warrenville South by four points, 64-68. Glenbard West senior Katelynne Hart won her fourth straight Illinois title in 16:05.80. In 2A, Richland County freshman Tatum David ran incredibly well, winning in 16:04.00. Naperville North's girls won the Class 3A field again, scoring 90 points, while Yorkville -- which had senior Kailey Fox in the lineup -- was second overall with 142 points. 

4. In North Carolina, two of the state's best girls runners, Pinecrest's Carmen Alder and North Iredell's Jonna Strange, secured individual championships. Alder won her second straight Class 4A title (17:58.84), while Strange, a Furman recruit, won her first (17:57.85). Panther Creek's Ian Harrison won the Class 4A boys race in 15:25.58, while Raleigh Broughton -- a team that has potential at NXR Southeast -- won the team title with 68 points. 

5. In Florida, Alyssa Hendrix won an intense head-to-head with Parker Valby a week after it was the other way around at regionals, winning the FHSAA Class 4A race in 17:19.40. The Riverview senior and NC State commit earned her second straight state title. Nease's Rheinhardt Harrison, a sophomore, won the Class 4A boys title in 15:24.57. The Belen Jesuit boys won the Class 3A team title with 48 points across a 16:07 average, though perhaps the best team boys performance came in Class 2A, where Satellite set a 15:58 average and 63-second spread, scoring just 30 points -- and beating perennial contender Bolles.

In the Class 3A girls race, Mater Academy's Valerie Lastra produced her second straight title in the girls race, winning in 17:29.44. The best team performance on the girls side also came in Class 2A, where Pine Crest had three scorers inside the top 5 -- including champion Tsion Yared (17:43.98), picking up the fourth win of her career -- to post an impressive win over Bolles by 21 points, 33-54. 

6. In Maryland, Walter Johnson (MD) senior Jenna Goldberg was just a few seconds off the state 3-mile record, winning her first Class 4A crown in 17:50.47. In the boys race, South River senior Sam Keeny posted a state record in 15:34, breaking the former mark by seven seconds. 

7. In Missouri, Rockhurst senior Wesley Porter set the fastest time of the day at the MHSAA State Class 4 Championships, winning in 15:07.40. Rock Bridge's Carolyn Ford did the same on the girls side, though she made a bit of history, becoming the first freshman to win a Class 4A title in 18:08.60 -- a new meet record on a new course. 

8. In Arkansas, Bentonville's Luke Pabst ran the fastest time of the day at the Arkansas State Cross Country Championships, posting a winning time of 15:21.90 in the Class 6A race.

9. Saint James (AL) junior Presley Miles was the only girls athlete under 18 minutes on the Oakville Indian Mounds Park state course, winning her second straight title in 17:48.56. It was also her first effort under 18 minutes on the season. It was the sixth fastest effort on the course all-time during the state championships. 

10. Virginia Episcopal School's Daniel O'Brien pulled off history on Thursday, setting a new meet record at the VISAA State Cross Country Championships at Pole Green Park, posting a time of 15:11.70. That mark broke a 5-year-old record previously held in 2014 by Luis Colson, who ran 15:21.00.

11. In Washington, the promising showing of North Central's girls team, now ranked No. 9 in the MileSplit50 rankings, showed what the Washington might be capable of this postseason. The squad, with three girls under 18 minutes, dominated its Class 3A race with 20 points on a 17:55 average, watching as three of its athletes were over 130 speed ratings and its top five were all over 125. Kamiakin's boys won the Class 3A boys title with 34 points on a 15:39 average, while Camas won 4A with a 15:36 average. Issaquah's Julia-David Smith ran the fastest time of the day in the girls field in 17:26.2.

12. In the Northeast region, a battle between three of the region's best teams saw La Salle Academy score 89 points, beating Bishop Hendricken (138), third-place Tolland (139) and fourth-place Coe Brown Academy (167) at the New England Championships. 

Conard's Gavin Sherry won yet another race and beat Xavier's Robbie Cozean, posting a winning time of 15:30.00. The sophomore is undefeated on the season. La Salle Academy's Jack Mcloughlin, a junior, was third in 15:35.00.

Sectional/League News: 

Fayetteville-Manlius was back at it in New York, winning both its girls and boys Section 3 Championships. ...The girls outscored Liverpool 21-55, while the boys did the same, scoring a 28-point win, 30-58. ...Claire Walters posted a time of 17:29.6 and a 161 speed rating. ...the boys went 1-2-3 behind Petyon Geehrer's win in 15:59.1. ...Class D girls star Brooke Rauber led her Tully squad to a win with 44 points and she landed a thoroughly dominating individual win, running 17:44.8, a 156 speed rating. ...In Section 1, North Rockland's Katelyn Tuohy posted a 166 speed rating behind an effort of 17:13.7 for 5K, which local reporter Nancy Haggerty said was an easy performance from the senior. North Rockland won its Section 1 title with 40 points. ...In Section 9, Cornwall freshman Karrie Baloga ran 17:03.7 for 5K, earning a 152 speed rating. the Marmonte League finals in Newbury Park, the nation's No. 2 team was back to its old self, scoring a win over Thousand Oaks. ...All five of its boys were over 177 and senior Nico Young ran 14:04.17 for 3-miles, scoring a 197 speed rating. Senior Jace Aschbrenner went 14:22.52 and posted a 190.