* Roseville's Robert Mechura claimed a Minnesota state title at the beginning
Photo Credit: Minnesota MileSplit
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The stakes are simply higher in 2023.
How else could you look at things after four athletes went under the former 5K meet record that was broken by Jackson Heidesch just last year at the NXR Heartland Regional.
To qualify for Nike Cross Nationals nowadays, you just have to bring something different.
On Sunday in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, a group of five certainly did.
Juan Gonzalez, a state champion from Fremont, was third in 14:33.80. Sam Scott -- who was second to Mechura at Minnesota's AAA Championships on Nov. 4 -- was fourth in 14:36.40. Wichita Trinity Academy's Clay Shively was next in 14:39.80, locking down the fifth-and-final automatic qualifier to the national championship race in Portland, Oregon.
The first four athletes all broke Heidesch's record of 14:39.00 from last year. A year ago, that race was also a barn-burnner, with Heidesch holding off Simeon Birnbaum's late charge.
All four results were the fastest 5K performances in their state's history -- Mechura's 14:32.00 was tops in Minnesota by 19 seconds; Gonzalez surpassed Seth Hirsch's top time of 14:39 from 2016; and Putz put down Wisconsin's top 5K by seven seconds, passing Finn Gessner's 14:39 from 2016. Even Shively's performance of 14:39 was the best effort in Kansas history.
In total, eight performances on Sunday are now among the top 20 performances on the Yankton Trail course in Sioux Falls. That's by no mistake.
Qualifying for NXN in today's landscape requires not just precision but speed.
On the team front, however, it was a mirror of last year, only flipped.
Both Stevens Point (WI) and Wayzata (MN) qualified for the second straight year, though the Wisconsin state champion took the regional title this year following the Trojans' win in 2022.
Dowling Catholic (IA) and Minnetonka (MN) were third and fourth and both are now placed in at-large candidacy.
After all the automatic qualifiers have been decided on Nov. 25, the NXN committee deliberates on the final four boys teams to receive at-large bids.
Top Boys Results From The NXR Heartland Region
Check below for the top 10 boys teams and top 15 individuals from the championship section on Sunday in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Boys Championship Team Results:
1. Stevens Point, WI (Stevens Point Distance Crew), 105 points
2. Wayzata, MN (Wayzata XC), 132 points
3. Dowling Catholic, IA (Buffalo Road), 188 points
4. Minnetonka, MN (Minnetonka Running Club), 244 points
5. Hudson, WI (Hudson Stars), 251 points, 251 points
6. Creighton Prep (NE), 265 points
7. Wichita Trinity, KS (Wichita Trinity Running Club), 283 points
8. Cedar Falls, IA (Cedar Falls XC), 286 points
9. Edina, MN (Edina XC), 310 points
10. Bismarck, ND (Demon XC), 361 points
Boys Championship Individual Results:
1. Robert Mechura, Roseville (MN), 14:32.0
2. Manny Putz, Onalaska (WI), 14:32.1
3. Juan Gonzalez, Fremont (NE), 14:33.8
4. Sam Scott, Minneapolis Southwest, 14:36.4
5. Clay Shively, Wichita Trinity (KS), 14:39.8
6. Jack Witte, Center Point-Urbana (IA), 14:48.8
7. Nolan Sutter, Chaska (MN), 14:53.8
8. Aloysius Franzen, Stevens Point (WI), 14:56.2
9. Grady Lenn, De Pere (WI), 15:01.1
10. Jaden Merrick, Cedar Falls (IA), 15:01.9
11. William Weber, Wayzata (MN), 15:05.6
12. Braden Lofquest, Gretna (NE), 15:07.9
13. Max Larson, Shawnee Mission South (KS), 15:09.4
14. Brock Olsen, Overland Park Blue Valley West (KS), 15:15.0
15. Salvador Wirth, Annandale (MN), 15:15.3
Which NXR Heartland Boys Teams And Athletes Qualified For Nike Cross Nationals?
Nearly every year, Stevens Point and Wayzata enter the NXR Heartland Regional as the top contenders in the boys championship field. There's a reason for it: Both programs are powerhouses among their state. Last year, Wayzata took down Stevens Point by 42 points.
This year, however, it was Stevens Point's turn. The Wisconsin squad loaded up for a 27-point victory, qualifying for NXN, while Wayzata followed with the second automatic qualifier.
On the individual side, it was a blitzing run over the final 800 meters to even get inside the top five placements. The top five runners all ran under 14:40 at the Yankton Trail course in Sioux Falls to lock in their tickets to NXN.
1. Stevens Point (WI)
2. Wayzata (MN)
1. Robert Mechura, Roseville (MN)
2. Manny Putz, Onalaska (WI)
3. Juan Gonzalez, Fremont (NE)
4. Sam Scott, Minneapolis Southwest (MN)
5. Clay Shively, Wichita Trinity (KS)
* Anjali Hocker-Singh qualified for NXN on Sunday in South Dakota
Photo Credit: Maxx Bradley/Milesplit
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Sunday's girls championship race was about the unexpected.
There was no out-and-out favorite.
So when the final deciding moments came, in a sprint off between state champions from Minnesota and Kansas, it was less of a surprise because the final verdict was already undecided.
Forest Park's Norah Hushagen ultimately won the race in 17:07.30, claiming her eighth race of the season. She held off Salina Central's Katelyn Rupe, who followed just three-tenths of a second later.
The next three girls -- all automatic qualifiers to NXN -- came just eight seconds later, and they were all separated by six seconds.
Wayzata, meanwhile, qualified for another Nike Cross Nationals, scoring 107 points to take the Heartland Regional title. The Trojans, ninth-place finishers last year, have been one of the most consistent girls teams at NXN over its tenure.
Olathe West was second, qualifying for its second straight NXN.
Top Girls From The NXR Heartland Region
Check below for the top 10 girls teams and the top 15 individuals from the championship section on Sunday in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Girls Championship Team Results:
1. Wayzata, MN (Wayzata XC), 107 points
2. Olathe West, KS (West Olathe), 127 points
3. Johnston, IA (Dragoons), 193 points
4. Des Moines Valley, IA (Running Orange), 261 points
5. Minnetonka, MN (Minnetonka Running Club), 278 points
6. Edina, MN (Edina XC), 319 points
7. Papillion La Vista, NE (Titan Running Club), 331 points
8. Dallas Center-Grimes, IA (Mustangs), 324 points
9. Saint Paul Highland Park, MN (Highland Park Run Club), 331 points
10. Brandon Valley, SD (Corson Running Club), 333 points
Girls Championship Individual Results:
1. Norah Hushagen, Forest Lake (MN), 17:07.3
2. Katelyn Rupe, Salina Central (KS), 17:07.6
3. Nora Gremban, Northland Pines (WI), 17:15.6
4. Libby Castelli, Sioux Falls O'Gorman (SD), 17:20.8
5. Anjali Hocker Singh, Olathe Norht (KS), 17:21.9
6. Isabelle Schmitz, Hutchinson (MN), 17:29.0
7. Addison Dorenkamp, Valley (IA), 17:32.7
8. Peyton Vandeest, Spearfish (SD), 17:36.2
9. Evie Malec, Minnetonka (MN), 17:38.2
10. Olivia Verde, Johnston (IA), 17:44.0
11. Caitlyn Osanai, Robbinsdale Armstrong (MN), 17:45.0
12. Jazleen Malherek-Osorio, Wayzata (MN), 17:50.0
13. Olivia Chellevold, Middleton (WI), 17:50.3
14. Payton Fink, Washburn Rural (MN), 17:50.6
15. Mia Hoffman, Bemidji (MN), 17:50.9
Which Heartland Girls Teams And Athletes Qualified For Nike Cross Nationals?
It was a bit of deja vu from the Heartland Regional as Wayzata (MN) and Olathe West (KS), qualifiers in 2022, continued their form in 2023, both qualifying for the second straight year on Sunday.
The Wayzata girls went on to finish ninth at NXN in 2022, while the Olathe West girls were 16th overall. The top five individuals in the girls championship on Sunday all moved on to NXN and will feature in the race for the first time.
1. Wayzata (MN)
2. Olathe West (KS)
1. Norah Hushagen, Forest Lake (MN)
2. Katelyn Rupe, Salina Central (KS)
3. Nora Gremban, Northland Pines (WI)
4. Libby Castelli, Sioux Falls O'Gorman (SD)
5. Anjali Hocker-Singh, Olathe North (KS)