The Prior Lake girls cross country team dominated the Victoria Lions Invitational Oct. 4.
The No. 3-ranked Lakers had four runners in the top 10, running away with the 12-team competition with 36 points. Stillwater, ranked No. 12, was a distant third (108), followed by Chaska (111), Bloomington Jefferson (132) and Waconia (138).
The race was on the same course as the upcoming Section 2AAA competition, Gale Woods in Minnetrista, which will be held Oct. 25.
Ninth graders Isabelle Reinders and Sara Gastony led Prior Lake at the invite, taking third and fourth with times of 19:40.99 and 19:45.21, respectively on the 5,000-meter course.
Sophomore Layla Vennink finished sixth (20:06.16) for the Lakers, while sophomore Sophia Basile was 10th (20:20.03).
Five runners count in the team standings. The Lakers’ fifth runner was sophomore Maggie Hoen, who ended up 13th (20:29.69). Ninth grader Keeley Mohling ended up 16th (20:38.25), while ninth grader Talia Bushman was 21st (20:55.40).
Tight pack running is key to success in cross county, especially in bigger meets with more teams. The Lakers’ top time and seventh-best finisher at the invite were only 1:15.59 apart.
That’s why the Lakers are considered a state title contender. The team was third at the Class 3A competition last year with all seven of its state runners back from a year ago.
Prior Lake will have to get through Section 2AAA first and that won’t be easy with No. 2 Minnetonka and No. 4 Edina in the field, along with Eden Prairie, Shakopee, Waconia, Chaska and Chanhassen.
Edina is the defending state champs and won the section last year, while the Lakers were second. The top two teams make state, along with the top six individuals not on the advancing squads.
Meanwhile, the Prior Lake boys also competed in the Victoria Lions invite and ended up eighth with 265 points. Eighth-ranked Stillwater won the title (50), followed by No. 10 Jefferson (64), No. 6 Minneapolis Washburn (70), Osseo (127) and Chaska (177).
Junior Hootie Hage led the Laker boys, taking sixth overall with a time of 15:46.33. Hage is ranked No. 9 in the individual state rankings.
Ninth grader Joseph Gannon was the boys team’s next-best finisher in 52nd (18:14.92). Sophomore Ledger Sears was 60th (18:31.10), followed by eighth grader Dylan Tuschen in 72nd (19:00.32), senior James Piper in 75th (19:04.74), ninth grader Luke Schwandt in 79th (19:13.16) and sophomore Zach Postle in 95th (19:42.92).
The South Suburban Conference Championships are next for both Prior Lake teams. They are set for Oct. 14 at Eagan High School.
The Lakers will be the favorite in the girls’ race, while Farmington and Eastview will also be teams to watch ranked No. 5 and 7, respectively.
On the boys side, top-ranked Lakeville North is the favorite with No. 3 Rosemount a top challenger.
This year’s Class 3A state competition will be Nov. 5 at St. Olaf College in Northfield. The Prior Lake girls will be seeking its 16th state appearance since 1989. The team’s best finish was 2009 when it took second.
The girls were also fourth in both 2005 and 2007 and fifth in 2006. Other finishes include seventh in 1989; eighth in 2020, ninth in 2010; 10th in 1993, 2001, 2004 and 2008; 13th in 2011; 15th in 2003 and 16th in 2018.