Friday, January 20, 2012

Top MN Runners of All-Time

Top Minnesota Distance Runners of All Time

This is my compiled list of the top Minnesota Distance Runners of All-Time.  I admit there is a bias towards more current athletes but then again, those athletes are very good too.  Enjoy reading and make sure to leave any comments if you disagree with my order or think I forgot somebody!  Remember to click an add to support my blog!

1. Rob Finnerty (’08) Burnsville- 9th at FLN and ran a then 7th best all-time High School mile of 4:01.09 at the Midwest Distance Gala.  Rob finished 2nd, 4th and 1st in Cross Country while sitting out his sophomore year with a femoral stress fracture.  Rob was the 1600m and 3200m state champion his Freshman and Senior seasons and placed 2nd 3 times and 3rd once in between. HS PRs of 4:01.09 (mile), 8:47, 1:54.5

2. Elliott Heath (’07) Winona- Elliott’s greatest high school achievement was winning the US Junior Cross Country Championships.  He also had great success on the local stage.  Elliott placed in the top-10 three times in the state cross country meet highlighted by a win in his junior year of 2005.  During his senior year he placed a respectable third behind Hassan Mead and Jon Stublaski, Mead holds the Course record at the St. Olaf state course.  After suffering from heat exhaustion at the state qualifying meet his sophomore year, Elliott went on to great success on the track as well.  He is the AA state meet record holder in the 3200m with a time of 9:02.65 having won the event twice. HS PRs of 4:10.29, 8:46.09 (2-Mile), and 14:34 (5k track)

3. Garrett Heath (’04) Winona- Elliott’s older brother Garrett also had success on the national cross country stage with two top-ten finishes at FLN.  Garrett also had four All-State performances in Cross Country including two wins.  His time as a senior ranks second all-time on the state course.  On the track, Garrett finished 6th and 2nd in the distance events in his sophomore year at the state meet before winning them both the next two years.  He also made his range known during a conference battle in the 800, narrowly losing to the future state champion while running 1:52.4.  HS PRs of 1:52.4 800, 4:09, 9:06

4. Hassan Mead (’07) Minneapolis South- The only reason Hassan Mead is not higher on this list is that he only competed for one season of Cross Country and two seasons of track.  That cross country season may be the best one ever in the state of Minnesota.  Hassan went undefeated and his exploits include running 14:58 at the Faribault Invitational, 15:10 to win the state meet in the fastest time ever on the course, a victory at FLMW, and a 4th place finish at FLN.  Hassan never won a state title on the track, being beaten by either the first or second people on this list.  HS PRs of 4:14.2, 8:51.23 (2-Mile)

5. Nick Schneider (’01) Benilde-St. Margaret’s- Nick was in a league of his own in the early 21st century.  He breezed to victory in the 1600 and 3200 meters during his junior and senior seasons.  At the state meet his junior year he set the state meet record in the 1600m with a 4:08.51.  After his junior year he ran 8:53.18 in the 3200m to set the all-time state record that had stood for nearly thirty years.  On the Cross Country course Nick was unstoppable.  He won twice and was four-tenths of a second away from being the only individual to win three titles.  He was also 4th overall as a freshman.  HS PRs: 1:54.7, 4:06.7, 8:53.18 

6. Mike Torchia (’06) Rochester Lourdes-  Mike finished 4th his sophomore year in the class A cross country meet and proceeded to win the next two years.  His senior year victory was by almost 40 seconds.  On the track Torchia won three titles including running sub 9 minutes in the 3200m in 2006 and winning by 38 seconds in a time of 8:59.  In post season competition he lowered his PR to 8:47.  HS PRs: 4:15.6, 8:47.5.


7. Nic Matack (’97) Duluth East- Nic was well known as a cross country specialist.  He defeated the formidable opponent of Luke Watson by 37 seconds at state cross country and even more impressively ran 15:12 for 5k on the prestigious Griak course.  Later in the year Nic placed 14th at FLN.  Due to a variety of reasons Nic didn’t excel on the track.  The highlight of his track career was a 9:18.9 3200m as a sophomore.


8. Garry Bjorklund (’69) Proctor-  Broke the state 1600m record by nearly ten seconds and set a mark that stood for 39 years until Rob Finnerty broke it.  Bjorklund won one state meet in cross country and placed 6th two other times.  He also is not recorded to have run faster than 1:54.85 or 9:19.57.

9. Zach Mellon (’09) Buffalo- Zach is the honorary Middle-distance runner out of the group.  Aside from running 1:48.6 to place second at US Jr Nationals he was a solid cross country runner.  Zach was ranked among the favorites to win the state meet after his 3rd place finish at the Griak. His state performance didn’t live up to standards but who cares when you run 1:48?  He also had a 4:16 1600m to his name from one of the few times he ran the event.

10. Dennis Fee (’72) White Bear Lake- Fee, like Bjorklund, crushed a state record.  Fee’s 8:59.3 was more than 15 seconds faster than Bob Wagner’s previous state record.  Fee’s record also stood the test of time.  His record wasn’t broken until 2000 when Nick Schneider ran faster.  Fee’s 4:14.6 might not seem that fast either, but he was 5th best all-time in MN at the time.

Honorable Mention: Ben Blankenship (‘07) Stillwater, Jordan Carlson (’08) Rosemount, Jeff Taylor (’85) Mounds View, Steve Holman (’88) Richfield, Steve Leuer (‘96) Osseo, Jay Schoenfelder (’95) Duluth East, Donovan Bergstrom (’88) Elgin-Millville


Bryan said...

Luke Watson needs to at least be an HM, although he should be in top10.

Besides being a great individual runner, he was the top runner on a team that finished US#1 in the Harrier Poll in 1997. In track, he was at least a two-time champ in the 1600/3200 (raceberry only goes to 1997).

Rob said...

Dick Beardsley for the still standing record at Grandma's Marathon and the Duel in the Sun @ Boston?

Kyle Schmidt said...


This is only high school accomplishments- otherwise Rob Finnerty would be a lot lower on the list. I have been thinking about doing a list of post-HS achievements.


He should have been an HM but he is outside the top 20 in the 1600 and 3200 on the miles lists!

Alex said...

I can see my foot(green and yellow spikes) in back of the mellon photo! And the top of my head as well!

Anonymous said...

Garry Bjorklund led the country in the mile (all yards at the time) his senior year. Second was Steve Prefontaine of Coos Bay, Oregon. The state of Minnesota did not have a two mile as an official event at the time. Bjorklund also did not have post-high school meets to better his performance against stronger and deeper competition. Bjorklund was state champ in cross country his senior year. He placed high as a junior and sophomore.

Kyle Schmidt said...

Like I said, I do have a bias towards the newer guys. Their achievements have happened in the time that I paid attention to running and are better recorded. I did not know that they didn't have a two-mile back in GB's day. He would be higher on my list if I were to re-do it.

Tim said...

This is only taking into account HS accomplishments? It doesn't mention that anywhere in the post...

Kyle Schmidt said...

That should be pretty clear when all that is listed is HS PRs and achievements in the descriptions.

I Pull 400 Watts said...

Only HS accomplishments, otherwise arguably the greatest ultra marathoner of all time, Scott Jurek, would be numero uno.

Kyle Schmidt said...


Scott would get rocked at any normal distance by all these guys and more. Maybe even at his distance if more people were to even think about doing an ultra. Even though ultras are still running it's like comparing cyclists to runners or apples to oranges. I am interested in an ultra sometime soon but for now, it is just a fringe sport.


Anonymous said...

Great list. What I like is that you give reasons, so a reader can see your thinking. Clearly high school only. The top 5 pretty solid, although I would include Bjorklund for sure as a previous comment noted. Not sure about Mellon. Great 800, but doesn't compare from the 1600 on up (although he probably could've run a great mile, he didn't). Jordan Carlson lived in #1 Finnerty's shadow, which probably hurt his ranking. He placed second to Rob in the 1600, 3200, and CC. He also finished 3rd at NON to Finnerty. A 4:07 mile compares favorably to the list. Forgot how dominant Matack was that season and how handily he won the state cc meet. Again, nice list. Fun to see.

Anonymous said...

List for Minnesota girls maybe?

Kyle Schmidt said...

Working on a girls list. The history isn't as deep or well recorded though! I'm sure there will be even more controversy over that one.


Anonymous said...

Alright why isn't Jordan Carlson on this list, he was always right behind Finnerty throught his high school career. He was All-State for Cross Country in 2005, 2006, and 2007. He was All-American in the mile running 4:05.55 in 2008.
His times include 800m 1:53.44, 1600m 4:05.55, 3200m 9:09.87, and 5000m 15:37.80

Kyle Schmidt said...

Jordan is good, that's why he's honorable mention. I just couldn't take one of the other guys off and replace them with somebody who never won a state championship individually.

Anonymous said...

Of course he didn't win a state chapionship, he was always right behind the #1 guy on your list he didn't stand a chance, he should at least be #7.

Sean O'Day said...

Mr. Schmidt,

Your list is commendable, albeit slanted towards what I assume you are familiar with.

Your perception of ultra running, however...well, it's flawed. Biased. To call it a fringe sport whose top runners excel solely because others haven't felt like trying them is naive. Time after time, 2:20-type marathoners make the jump to even the 50 mile distance and find themselves getting crushed by 2:35-type guys.

That being said, while Scott Jurek has an impressive record at ultra distances, he would be hard-pressed to match some of the performances that have been occurring at the 100-mile distance over the past couple of years.

I Pull 400 Watts said...

@ Sean - While Jurek has fallen out of the elite of the elite in ultra running lately, during his day few could touch him during a race. Paula Newby-Fraser would struggle to match modern times, but there is little question she is the greatest female triathlete, ever.

Also, about no serious runners doing ultras. Michael Wardian recently posted a 2:20 at the Olympic Trials and the next day did a 2:36 at another marathon. I also know a 2:28 marathoner who did in fact get destroyed at his first and only attempt at an ultra. But, most distance runners go where the money is at, and that is the marathon.

Kyle Schmidt said...

I'm still very unconvinced that ultrarunners belong in the same discussion as these guys. Not because their achievements are any less impressive but because they are so different in nature. Every guy on this list would dominate Scott Jurek in all shorter events and will probably never run an ultra marathon. It's a whole different breed of runner. Like apples to oranges.

Sean O'Day said...

Kyle, I don't disagree with your assessment that all these guys would dominate Scott at the shorter distances. Additionally, your list clearly uses high school performances as its unit of measure. Definitely don't dispute the list.

The apples-to-oranges works two ways, though. There is no way to prove this, but my guess is that *most* of these guys would be pwned by Jurek in the 100. Totally different skill sets.

To the comment, 'most runners go where the money is at'...I ask not to argue, how much money is out there, anyway? Nike can't afford a quarter mil for the Oly Trials winner? Professional distance running is an incredibly unsexy profession. I assume a vast majority of pros have to get part-time work in shoe stores, as running mag freelancers, etc, in order to keep food on the table.

@Rob. Beardsley barely cracked 10:00 in the deuce while at Wayzata. Hard to believe.

Carlson probably shouldn't be punished for being in Finnerty's shadow. One of the nation's top milers.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I like the list. This would be a hard task even if you were up to speed on runners from the past...actually, that might make it even more challenging. My one thought...if Matack ranks in the top 7 Leuer has to be top ten.

2 state titles, 2 Foot Locker Finals, and FLMW champ his senior year. He was the first MN runner in a while that was that competitive on the national level. Granted, his track times aren't anything to brag too much about (4:14 and 9:17) but in CC he was pretty tough.

Anonymous said...

Here are some corrections for your boys' list:

Elliot Heath's 3200 at state is a AA record (9:02.65).
Torchia has the All-Time SM record at 8:59.19.

Schneider still has the All-Time SM record in the 1600 (4:08.51). Finnerty never ran faster at state.

Bjorklund ran some XC.
6th, 6th, and 1st in 1966-68.

The coach at the U spells his name "Plasencia". As noted above, he went to Robbinsdale Cooper.

cruz barrera said...

Jon stublaski should be on the honorable mention list

Kyle Schmidt said...


One race doesn't get him on my list. A great race indeed but not enough.