Saturday’s FL Midwest Boys Top Ten Picks
(last “ranking” in parentheses)
1. Evan Jager, IL (1)
2. Kevin Havel IL (2)
3. Hassan Mead MN (4)
4. Emil Heineking OH (5)
5. Adam Lenz CO (3)
6. De’Sean Turner, IN (6)
7. Richard Medina CO (7)
8. Bobby Aprill MI (8)
9. Joseph Mahilafasha CO (9)
10. Dan Jackson MI (10)
Five darkhorses most likely to sneak in: Elliott Heath MN, Josh Mathis MO, Jonathan Stublaski MN, Josh Thebeau MO, Steve Weeks CO
Contenders reportedly not running: Stephen Dak IA
The race: Many of the races predicted here describe titanic battles between foes that haven’t met before or upsets or key runners who will just be running to qualify. There will probably be none of that here.
No one is favored more decisively in his or her region than Evan Jager IL. Arguably the country’s best male runner, he has rolled through state competition, but knows that it all begins now as he attempts to go from being the top returnee from last year to being the FL Finals champ.
A hard even pace is likely that probably few will want to try and go with, but one of those few might be fellow Illinois star Kevin Havel. After all, Havel went with him at state and wound up just five seconds back. The junior is the #3 returnee as well, so don’t be surprised if he hangs on pretty well.
The #2 returnee is De’Sean Turner IN, but after taking his 2nd loss of the year in last weekend’s Mideast Meet of Champs (3rd place), it seems like he’s not quite at the level he was last year, or at least hasn’t progressed.
So unbeaten OH state champ Emil Heineking, who beat Turner at ME MOC and won, moves up. So does unbeaten MN champ Hassan Mead, who knows how to get it done with a kick or by taking over midway, and may give the best chase to the leaders. Another who is sure to chase the top two is Adam Lenz CO. But closing the deal at the end is what Lenz hasn’t yet been able to do against top competition, despite strong improvement from last year.
It gets tougher after that, with tough-to-call Colorado and Michigan mixing it up. Richard Medina proved to be the best in CO by season’s end, but none of the top contenders emerged unscathed. Perhaps the most talented is Joseph Mahilafasha, who won his division in a slower time, but has some fine invitational wins, so look for him to get in.
Also look for both of Dexter MI’s top two to make it. Prevented from their state association from participating in NTN, the region’s #2 team’s top two, Bobby Aprill and Dan Jackson, are hell-bent on making it to San Diego. Aprill, also a junior, is as tough as they come and has been impossible to beat in the last mile. He’s never faced a field like this, but teammate Jackson has and they should work together to make it.
The depth here in this region is very strong at this point, epitomized by what seems like an incredulous omission of Potosi MO’s 1-2 combo of Josh Mathis and Josh Thebeau. They are getting in to NTN, but they’ve also had some racing time off. If they push it and run well, they could certainly knock out some others.
Saturday’s FL Midwest Girls Top Ten Picks
(last “ranking” in parentheses)
1. Katie Vanatta, CO (2)
2. Allison Eckert, SD (1)
3. Betsy Bies, SD (3)
4. Kristen McGlynn CO (8)
5. Lindsay Anderson ND (6)
6. Emily Infeld OH (10)
7. Emily Sisson NE (5)
8. Katelyn Bastert IL (7)
9. Amanda Burger OH (9)
10. Alex Banfich IN (12)
Five darkhorses most likely to sneak in: Ashley Beutler WI, Alex Gits MN, Cassandra Schenck OH, Nikki Swenson MN, Marissa Treece MI
Contenders reportedly not running: Katie Flood IA
The race: One of the country’s more disappointing defections from Foot Locker has been Iowa super freshman Katie Flood, who was as much a mystery as a talent. She had blazed sub-14 4k times in her state but hadn’t faced anyone outside. With solid summer track times behind her, though, she was almost certainly the real deal – but no one nationally or regionally will get to see her this fall, it turns out.
Still, there’s plenty of top stars in the Midwest. Two of them, South Dakota senior stars Allison Eckert and Betsy Bies, are on NTN teams and will have that “How hard do I push it” decision ahead of them. Bies went all out in all three races (FL MW-NTN-FL Finals) last year … but last year’s FL Midwest race didn’t have Katie Vanatta.
The CO sophomore will take on her first national-level CC meet here, with only her fairly easy Golden West 3200 win last spring to compare. She thoroughly dominated CO this fall, but hasn’t run in a race this big before.
If she takes it out pretty fast, though, her talent should carry her through – especially since Eckert and Bies might decide that pace is too rich with their racing schedule ahead to think of. But don’t expect either Bies or Eckert to give in to each other. In that case, a repeat of their state meet finish, with Eckert’s winning kick the difference, is likely to unfold.
After that, you get into that Heartland vs. Midwest thing. This year, the edge appears to be going to the former – although the pick for 4th here is another Colorado runner, the determined Kristen McGlynn. Her post-season resume has already been graced by the Rocky Mountain title 3 weeks ago and she could have the extra edge to beat the best of the rest.
Then look for 2005 qualifier Lindsay Anderson ND to get in there ahead of gritty Ohio runner Emily Infeld, who will dig down deep here and exceed her ranking.
Another super freshman, Nebraska’s Emily Sisson, should also make it to San Diego. She has beaten Bies and finished 2nd to Eckert at Griak, gaining lots of valuable experience.
Wrapping it up should be three from the Great Lakes area, with Mideast Meet of Champs winner and last-minute entry Katelyn Bastert and Ohio champ Amanda Burger repeating their order from last week. Alex Banfich IN, another 2005 qualifier, will nab the final spot.