Aug. 26—The boys and girls cross country season begins this week, and if the state coaches association is correct, the Section 2AA boys meet, which will be held at North Mankato's Benson Park, will be a doozy.
Mankato East is rated No. 1 in Class AA, with Belle Plaine at No. 4, Mankato West at No. 5 and Marshall at No. 10.
East's Isaiah Anderson is ranked third, with West's Ephraim Staley at No. 9.
The section meet is scheduled for Oct. 24.
The Cougars are the defending section and state champions, with six of the top seven runners returning.
Senior Isaiah Anderson, who finished ninth at the state meet last season, is coming off a hip injury that prevented him from running in the track and field section and state meets last spring. Coach Chris Ward said Anderson, a two-time Big Nine Conference champion, looks good in practice.
"If anyone is going to come back from an injury like that, it's going to be Isaiah," Ward said. "He listens to his trainers, his coaches and his body, and he does what needs to be done."
Seniors Luke Scholtes, Evan McLean and Domanic Wolle, junior Joseph Foley and sophomore Dayton Clobes also ran in the state meet.
Ward said he has several other runners who have put in the work and made improvements, possibly cracking the varsity lineup at some point.
"We have so many guys who are hungry for so few spots on our varsity team," Ward said. "It's a cohesive, positive group that really works together to make the team better.
"There's no question (that winning a state championship) is validation, and you can't argue with success. The kids work hard every day because they know it works."
East opens the season Saturday at Benilde-St. Margaret's.
The Scarlets return their top 10 runners from last season, with others interested in also cracking the varsity lineup.
Staley placed eighth in the 3,200-meter run at the track and field state meet last spring.
Ethan Cox, Luke Lumsden, Ian Risto and Owen Risto all have varsity experience.
West's first meet is Thursday at St. Olaf.
Mankato Loyola/Cleveland/St. Clair boys
The Crusaders qualified for the state meet last season, finishing 15th in Class A.
Senior Nathan Strobel is the top returning runner, having placed 56th at the state meet. Sophomore Soren Kelly finished 66th.
The Crusaders open the season on Thursday with a home meet against Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop.
The Scarlets have a strong group of returning runners, led by Landree Quint, who finished 10th at the section meet.
Chloe Aanenson (21st), Hannah James (28th), Nyewal Dojiok (49th) and Ryleigh Quint (50th) back from the team that finished third in the section meet, just four points from a state berth. New Prague, section runner-up, is no longer in the section.
The Scarlets open the season Sept. 1 at Sioux Falls, S.D.
Sophomore Lauren Henkels is the top returning runner for the Cougars, who placed fifth at the Big Nine meet and fourth at the section meet.
Henkels finished 11th at the Big Nine meet to earn all-conference honors and was 14th at the section meet.
Senior Madison Wolle, juniors Autumn Seiwert, Sydney Wang and Kala Austin also return, as does sophomore Nora Javens.
The Cougars' first meet is Saturday at Benilde-St. Margaret's.
Loyola/Cleveland/St. Clair girls
With the addition of St. Clair to the co-op, the Crusaders will have a full girls team this season.
Sophomore Molly Koester is the top returning runner, and eighth-grader Charlotte Kirschner also got varsity experience. Both runners were selected to the All-Valley Conference team.
The Crusaders host Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop of Thursday to begin the season.
Follow Chad Courrier on Twitter @ChadCourrier.