A pair of juniors, Sydney Drevlow of Hopkins and Robert Mechura of Roseville, were running with the night Saturday at the 58th annual Metro Invite Cross-Country Meet.
The tradition-rich meet stands apart as a rare cross-country race under the lights. A dozen rented, generator-powered lighting units illuminated the 5,000-meter varsity course and, as Hopkins track and field coach Nick Lovas said, "gave a Friday Night Lights atmosphere to the running community."
Lovas, who also coaches the Hopkins North/West middle school cross-country program, enjoyed seeing a range of runners ages 8 to 18 taking part in the seven races offered by co-hosts Eden Prairie High School and TC Running Company.
Saturday's meet, held at Flying Cloud Fields, marked a departure after years at Round Lake Park in Eden Prairie. Drevlow and Mechura agreed the meet's best attributes were the cool of the evening, a lack of wind and an abundance of cheering spectators. The varsity race format meant runners made two or three laps past supportive parents, siblings on blankets and various food trucks. A few planes at nearby Flying Cloud Airport took off into the night sky.
Drevlow won the girls race with a time of 17 minutes, 39.1 seconds. Mechura, running his first 5K race of the season, finished in 15:04.02 to win the boys race.
"It's a good benchmark," said Mechura, ranked second in the Class 3A boys cross-country coaches poll last week. "It was close to my goal, but I also know this was a flat course."
Drevlow used the event to tinker with her race distribution.
"I wanted to see in this race if I could be on pace through the first mile because usually I'm about 10 to 15 seconds faster than what I should be," said Drevlow, ranked first in the Class 3A girls cross-country coaches poll last week. "I was able to hold back this time."
Drevlow outran second-place Marissa Long of Chanhassen, Minnetonka's Evie Malec (third), St. Paul Highland Park's Grace Lewis-Mosher (fourth) and Minnetonka's Avery Marasco-Johnson (fifth).
Mechura finished ahead of Landon Hering (Hopkins), Elijah Donaldson (Eden Prairie), Nate Meyer (Minneapolis Southwest) and Gabe Hallen (Orono).
Lovas, who cheered Drevlow at the finish line, said, "The kids will analyze their results, but for them and their families, the experience is what they will remember."