Cross country runners from across the state will get a final shot at competing at the high school level this week with a state meet — of sorts — being held in Atwater.
The boys and girls meets for both Class A and AA schools are not sanctioned by the Minnesota State High School League and is being put on by a running club. The meet is called the TCRC 2020 Showcase.
High school coaches could no longer have contact with their student-athletes for practices or events starting on Oct. 24. That means the runners have been basically working out on their own and will have alternate coaches at this weekend's state meet.
"I'm not coaching and we're not going as Cotter, per State High School League," Winona Cotter girls coach Mike Costello said.
Winona Cotter was the Section 1A girls champion and will run in the state meet. The Ramblers will run in a four-team pod at 2:45 p.m. Saturday. A maximum of four teams will run at a time in the team competition.
"It gives them a little more time for training," Costello said of the meet. "It's not the same, obviously, as a state tournament because I think a lot of the fun there is the social aspect of getting to hang out with kids from other teams in a different way. But they're excited to have a chance to run one more week."
Cotter's top five finishers at the Section 1A meet were Sonja Semling (fifth overall in 20:23), Claire Ebertowski (sixth, 20:29), Aubrey Williams (16th, 21:19), Ellie Glodowski (20th, 21:37) and Hazel Freyre (24th, 22:03).
"We have some kids who were improving quite a bit at the end of the year and they've got some goals in terms of individual times and things like that," Costello said. "And we have a couple of kids who were coming off injuries and hoping to get back to 100 percent."
Plainview-Elgin-Millville was the Section 1A girls runner-up and would have qualified for the state meet in a normal season. The Bulldogs are not running in this revamped event, however.
A maximum of 25 boys and girls in both Class A and AA will also run as individuals at the meet.
It appears the top two girls from the Section 1A girls meet — sophomore Natasha Sortland of Zumbrota-Mazeppa/Kenyon-Wanamingo and sophomore Haylie Strum of Stewartville — are not running in the meet.
"She's not able to do it because she's actually in quarantine due to a COVID exposure," Stewartville coach Mickie Tuseth said of Strum.
There was a second-wave list and Stewartville sophomore Alison Graff also received an invite, but she also had to decline.
"Her mom doesn't feel well enough to take her," Tuseth said.
Lake City has a pair of individuals running in sophomore Jacey Majerus and eighth-grader Peyton Meincke, the No. 3 and 4 finishers at the section meet.
"It's really great to know that they have some alternative," Majerus said. "I know it's not state and not everybody will be there that's usually there, but there will be some good competition so it should be fun."
Majerus is looking forward to running on the relatively flat course.
"I hope get a pretty good time," she said. Majerus finished in 20:00.4 at the Section 1A meet in Byron while her teammate Meincke was nine seconds back.
"She's been improving all year," Majerus said of Meincke. "She's going to be really good."
Anna Peikert of Lourdes and Kirsten Koopal of Austin Pacelli, both eighth-graders, will also run as individuals. Peikert placed eighth at the section meet while Koopal was 14th. Both runners got at-large berths to the upcoming meet.
"It's a great opportunity for her to run in one more quality race," Lourdes coach Pete Gilman said of Peikert. "Not even necessarily for the on-the-course stuff, more for just the experience and processing the nerves and all that stuff. From my perspective that will be so helpful to her."
Gilman is unable to coach, but he plans to attend the meet.
"They really pulled the pin on us coaches," he said.
Spectators are being allowed, but will be limited at the meet.
Section 1AA champion Farmington and runner-up Lakeville South will both compete in the team portion of the Class AA girls meet on Friday.
Century's Caitlin McWilliams placed 12th at the Section 1AA meet and was an individual state qualifier, but she did not get signed up for the upcoming race.
"She would have had to go up there on here own and run on her own," Century coach Joey Keillor said. Keillor also got late word of the event.
"It was just last-minute organized by people who wanted to do something," he said, "and I guess not everybody got the memo."
Lake City and Rochester Lourdes are registered in the small-school boys team competition, while Luke Bothun of Schaeffer Academy is registered as an individual.