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Maple Grove Name-Dropping...

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MAPLE GROVE TRIATHLON PREVIEW - It's hard to believe that the Maple Grove Triathlon will celebrate its 9th anniversary tomorrow. But its true.

Those who have done this race know that it is awesome. It is well-attended and staged beautifully at a truly world class venue....

A Superior Race....

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SUPERIOR MAN TRIATHLON - The 7th edition of this decorated (three-time "Race of the Year") event is next Sunday, and we can't wait to get there. It is truly an exciting event, and the competition, especially in the half IM, is awesome. Did you know that an amateur men's state record was set there last year--MATT CYMANSKI's 4:01:40--and a women's amateur state standard--NICOLE WALKER's 4:25:05--was set there in 2016? 

It's true, and how cool is that!

Do we expect those records to tumble on Sunday? We are reluctant to predict that, but it could happen. HANNA GRINAKER (photo) popped a 4:28 at Chisago, and was on pace to go that fast, or faster, at Liberty when weather surgerized the run course.

With her IM debut just weeks away, we suspect that Hanna will target the men, not the women, on Sunday. Her goal will be to catch and pass as many credentialed guys as possible. We're predicting a sub-4:30 for her, and a spot in the overall Top 5-7.

Grinaker's boyfriend is 2017 MInnesota Triathlete of the Year SEAN COOLEY, who has already won Superior Man FOUR times. His personal best here is 4:04:21. Can he take the CR down next weekend? Sure. In our opinion, he's the one Minnesota guy who, at this point in time, has a legit shot at cracking the 4-hour mark. 

We're hoping that the weather will cooperate on Sunday--current forecast is for temps between 60 and 72, with light winds out of the NNE--so that more Superior Man magic will happen.

Here's some of many things we hope to see: ...

Lakes Country Turns 19...

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LAKES COUNTRY TRIATHLON - The 19th edition of this sprint triathlon will happen next Sunday, and if you haven't done it yet, we suggest that you give it a try. Simply put, it's a very cool event.

Approximately 150 athetes had enrolled when the race director allowed us to look at the registration list. That was last week. So, as with race management, our hope is that the LCT gets a nice late push, and that 200-or-more athletes line the beach at Whipple Lake next weekend. Last weekend's races had encouraging attendances, and we hope that Lakes Country will continue that positive trend.

Now, who do we think will win in Baxter next Sunday? Based on the list we saw, our picks are Sauk Rapids'  WADE CRUSER and local standout JACQUELYN BACIGALUPI (photo). We're picking Cruser even though he would have raced the day before at Maple Grove. And though the Maple Grove/Lakes Country weekend marks his fifth consecutive week of racing, a period he kicked off with a PR at Chisago Lakes Half, and followed with three (maybe four?) straight victories, we are betting that his speed and fitness will triumph over the fatigue that a more mortal athlete would experience  under similar circumstances.

Cruser is definitely cruising for a Triathlete of the Year nomination, thus guys like SEAN COOLEY and PATRICK PARISH better up their games if they want to prevent Wade from taking the prize....

Branden & Becky Keep Rockin'....

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YOUNG LIFE TRIATHLON - Fargo's BRANDEN SCHEEL (photo) continues to rock socks. Of the seven triathlons he's raced in this season, he's won five of them, four on the Minnesota side of the Red River, and all in course record time. In his two non-winning efforts, he placed 2nd (amateur) at Chattanooga 70.3 in  a personal best 4:12:51, and cracked the Top 10 at USAT Sprint Nationals.

The young man's most recent win happened last Saturday at the 15th annual Young Life Sprint in Detroit Lakes. Once out of the lake and on his bike, the race for first was over. He could have jogged to the finish line, saving himself for his next race. But he didn't. Instead he threw down a 16:41 5k run split.

The result was a time of 56:54, giving him a 7:25 margin of victory over runner-up THOMAS LOEGERING of West Fargo, who, as they say, aint no slouch. Tom won this race in 2017. 

Scheel's time lowered LINCOLN MURDOCH's 2009 sprint course record by a hefty 1:51.

Third place went to accomplished junior JACK HENNEN, 18, of Cambridge.

For the second straight year a girl named LUNDQUIST won YL's women's sprint title. Last year, that Lundquist was named TAYLOR,17, who went on to win the 2017 Junior of the Year award. This time, though, Taylor's sister SIMONE, 15, took the title in her sibling's absence. (Taylor had already enrolled at Black Hills State University, and was following Simone's race progress on her "device" in her dorm room.)

In '17, Simone placed 2nd, her time was 1:13:32. She was almost three minutes faster this time. She was challenged by KEIRSTEN COOLEY, 29, of Fargo,who finished 21-seconds behind Lundquist....

Positive Signs!

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ST. PAUL TRIATHLON - Is triathlon attendance rebounding?

If last weekend's tris--St. Paul and Young Life--are any indication, the answer just might be "yes."

Young Life's attendance was record-setting, and with 398 finishers, St. Paul's was more than two and a half times larger than it was in 2016. (St. Paul was cancelled in 2017 due to park and roadway construction.)

It could be that, in part, there has been a nice influx of new participants of late. At St. Paul, newbies were asked to raise their hands before the event, and a surprising number of hands went up.

There was also a playful vibe at Lake Phalen. Most participants appeared to be committed to having fun, even those athletes who were very serious about their performances.

And there were some seriously great performances. The womens' Sprint, for instance, turned into a knock-down-drag-out affair between emerging talents, HEATHER TAYLOR and EMILY GAGE. On paper, Gage seemed to have a slight edge. In her last two races--Minneapolis Sprint and Big Lake Sprint--she had finished 2nd and 1st, respectively.

Taylor had impressed us with her efforts at Minneapolis Olympic (11th) and High Cliff Olympic (4th), two very compettive events.

On Saturday, Taylor crossed the finish line first, making her the leader in the clubhouse. Would Gage, 32, who started after the 22-year-old University of Minnesota triathlete, close the gap? ...

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