The defending champions won’t be back.
But expected to return is the course record-holder along with another large herd of gazelles.
That’s the outlook for Saturday morning’s 19th annual Water Street Mile.
Darin Lau, last year’s runaway winner, and women’s champion Aubrey Roberts, two of Eau Claire’s all-time leading runners, are missing but that does not mean a cast of All-Americans and other speedsters will not be taking part.
Most notable would be Patrick Treacy, city star who set the event’s record with a 4-minute, 14-second sprint two years ago that saw Lau finish a close second.
Treacy is expected to be one of several outstanding UW-Eau Claire runners to take up the challenge in the event, a production of the Indianhead Track Club and Dove Healthcare that benefits the L.E. Phillips Senior Center.
Lau, the Immanuel Lutheran product and Blugold All-American, won last year in 4:18.7 without being pushed. But he’s on the rebound from a foot rupture that took him out of the collegiate scene last spring.
“I’ve started some running, but I won’t be running the race,” said Lau, who retains his final college eligibility for the track season next spring. “But I know Treacy and some of my other teammates are planning to run.”
Roberts, the Memorial state champion who has gained all-Big Ten honors after being recruited by Northwestern, remains in Evanston (Ill.) this summer and will miss the race.
She won last year in 5:14.6 and her absence could open the door for high school teammate Hannah Roeske, who has had a successful season at Wheaton College. Roeske placed second to Roberts last year in a time of 5:18.6.
On the men’s side, Treacy was third last year in 4:34, finishing behind Lau and Brendon Paucek, who was one second faster in 4:33. Michael Friedman, Menomonie, and Zach Zimmerman, Rosendale, were just one second behind in 4:35.
Another former winner is Blugold All-American Aaron Easker, who won in 2013 and 2015 and could show up.
The mile starts at 8:30 a.m., on Water Street at First Avenue and heads west, finishing just around the bend on Menomonie Street.
A followup 5K will start at 9 a.m. It heads down Water Street, swings up through Carson Park and finishes back at the same place as the mile.
Defending champions in the 5K are Menomonie products Jesse Merkel and Joel Wood, who finished 1-2 last year, and young Izzy Lind, St. Peter, Minn.
There were 254 mile finishers in a field of 349 total runners.
Race-day entry is $22 for the mile and $27 for the 5-k. Race-packet pickup is from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday and Friday at the Senior Center or Saturday morning at the Menomonie Street Dental finish along with registration until 8 a.m.