If a runner never competes in a marathon or at a state meet, the Roy Griak Invitational is their best opportunity to learn what it is like to run in a massive crowd of runners.

The Griak Invite was held at the Les Bolstad Golf Course at the University of Minnesota. River Falls, Hudson, New Richmond and St. Croix Central all took their teams to Saturday’s meet to give them a taste of higher level competition.

River Falls

The Wildcat boys continued their impressive season with a fourth place finish in the 50-team Maroon race at the Roy Griak Invitational.

Junior Grant Magnuson placed fourth out of 561 runners with a time of 16 minutes, 50.7 seconds and senior Mason Shea was tenth in 17:04.3 to lead the Wildcats to their best Griak finish since 2011.

“Griak is the toughest course we race all season,” River Falls coach Kari DeLuca said. “It’s 3.1 miles of rolling hills. The course can really punch you and you really have to be ready to fight back. The boys did that; we ran really tough. But we do have a little work to do with racing strategy.”

Senior Joey Madsen gave River Falls three of the top 25 finishers with a 24th place time of 17:28.5.

“This is a race with 561 runners and 50 teams and we have three River Falls guys in the top 25 of the race?” DeLuca noted. “That’s huge!”

Senior Jason Franzwa finished 63rd overall in 18:01.4 and junior Brandon Nelson placed 109th to give the Cats a fourth place team score of 209. Notre Dame Academy (Minn.) won the team title with 149 and Nova Classical Academy (Minn.) was second with 181 while Minneapolis Southwest was third with 206.

“This was a good test and now we are ready to fine tune some things before championship season,” DeLuca said.

In the girls’ Maroon race, junior Allison Weissinger was the top Wildcat finisher with a 51st place time of 21:12.3 as the Cats finished 41st in the team standings. Sophomore Morgan Prigge was 177th in 22:44.7 and senior Megdaline Weideman finished 241st in 23:24.8 while junior Ellen Rayne placed 251st in 23:34.3 and senior Casey Schlatter was 288th in 24:05.7. Shorewood took the girls’ team title with a score of 161.

Hudson

Hudson’s girls finished 39th out of 57 teams and the boys were 51st out of 62 teams in the Gold Division races at the Roy Griak Invitational on Saturday.

“This was a tough meet, not only because of the caliber of the runners but because of the 570 runners in the race,” Hudson coach Don Krupa noted. “The Gold race is considered the stronger of the two races.”

Senior Rachel Ball paced the Raider girls with a 41st place time of 19:39.1 while junior Alicia Belany finished 134th in 20:40.0. Freshman Ryleigh White was 277th in 22:10.3 and senior Ella Young was 292nd in 22:18.7 while senior Anna Czupryna rounded out Hudson’s top five in 313th place in 22:43.3.

“The girls performed well even though they were missing some key team members for the race,” Krupa said. “They are on their way to a strong team finish in the last half of the season.”

Cherry Creek (Colo.) took the girls’ Gold Division team title while White Bear Lake won the boys’ championship.

Senior Noah Lundeen was the top boys’ finisher for Hudson in 37th place with a time of 16:43.2. Junior Anthony Weeks placed 92nd in 17:13.9 and junior Jack Lewis was 355th in 18:40 while sophomore Henry Czupryna finished 415th in 19:01.6 and freshman Connor Faust was 459th in 19:23.9.

“The boys must work together as a team to get their times down as we enter the last half of the season,” Krupa said. “This becomes a critical part of the season as I watch each individual runner as they work out in practice and perform in the meets before conference.”

New Richmond, SCC

New Richmond and St. Croix Central both competed in the Maroon high school race, as part of fields of 60 or more teams.

Both boys teams performed favorably, with Central 14th and New Richmond 15th among 62 teams. New Richmond’s girls placed 21st and Central 33rd among 60 teams in their race.

The top local finisher in either race was New Richmond’s Cale Bishop, who placed 12th among 561 runners in the Maroon race. Tyler Harris ran 49th for the Tigers, with Max Blader placing 75th. Landon Carney placed 230th, Chase Chiarle 257th and Eddie Noyes 271.

The top runner for the Central boys was junior Jakob Eggen, who placed 38th. Erik Collins ran 106th, Cougar Holder 117th, Josh Burgess 153rd and Colin Hackbarth 189th.

The top local girl was Central freshman Kaitlyn Carlson, who placed 18th. The Panther girls put together an impressive 1-2 tandem. Carlson finished in 20 minutes and 24 seconds, with junior Mya Kizer nine seconds behind her in 22nd place. The other varsity five for the Panthers were Sydney Carlson in 131st, Kolbi Juen in 406th and Liberty Grant in 410th.

Freshman Anna Fitzgerald led New Richmond’s runners by placing 68th. Senior Erika Emerson was the second Tiger finisher, in 104th, running the best time of her four seasons running at Griak. Kayla Harris also made a strong bounce back after missing most of the past two weeks due to illness. She was the team’s third runner, placing 134th. Colette Harrold at 193 and Barb Kling at 251 rounded out the Tiger top five.

Tiger coach Beth Kelly said she was more concerned with the individual Tigers running to the strategy that was set for each of them in last week’s races, more than their times or finishes.

The Tigers and Panthers will run against each other twice this week. Both teams will be competing at the Somerset Invitational on Tuesday. New Richmond will host its annual invitational on Saturday. This will be a chance for the Tigers to test their course before they host the WIAA Division 1 sectional meet.

Hudson Invite

New Richmond also ran at the Hudson Invitational last Tuesday. It was a momentous race for the Tiger boys, who earned the victory in the nine-team race. The Tiger girls placed fourth in their half of the meet.

Kelly said she thought this was the first time the Tiger boys beat Hudson since 2014, when the Tigers finished in front of Hudson at the WIAA Division 1 sectional meet to qualify for the state championship race.

The Tiger boys had excellent team-wide results, with six runners finishing in under 20 minutes. Two of them, Bishop and Harris, both finished in under 18 minutes. Bishop placed third at 17:48 and Harris was fourth, nine seconds later. Blader took sixth in 18:30. Landon Carney, Chase Chiarle and Jacob Doehrmann also finished in under 20 minutes. Noah Herron, who ran in the freshman race, also got in under 20 minutes. He was among the top seven times in both boys races this week.

The Tiger girls were led by Fitzgerald, who placed eighth. Barb Kling placed 19th, Emerson 21st, Colette Harrold 24th and Sophie Ballard 25th.

Kelly said the Tiger girls have big potential, but haven’t been able to show. Due to injuries and other issues, the Tigers haven’t had their full female lineup for any race this season. Freshman Ceanna Dietz, who has been among the leading girls all season, missed both races last week due to injury.