The 2012 XC seasons looms prominently on the horizon and the young ladies’ version promises to be yet another banner year. There is no state including the much larger states of California and New York, which can boast as many national level athletes, for the state is simply bursting with talent. For years Spokane has been a mini-Mecca for distance running but there is a preponderance of talent emanating from both sides of the Cascades lately. Somewhat surprisingly most of the big guns are back save Maddie Meyers of the Northwest School in Seattle, who in 2011 became the first Washington runner ever to win four straight titles in Cross Country, and Meyers was also a two-time Foot Locker National finalist. Maddie also topped a formidable field in the Danner.
We’ll begin by taking a brief look at the 4A, large school division, where Jordan McPhee is the defending champion. Last fall’s sophomore campaign was Jordan’s first season of cross country and Jordan made it one to remember. I first was able to see her at Richland, where both she & I assumed that she would face Katie Knight. The most impressive thing about Jordan was that she stormed through the first mile &, realizing Knight, was not in the race, McPhee simply put her head down and charged up the hill. At State she left a solid field in the dust & zipped to a course record of 17:24. If anyone had doubts in her ability to handle hills, Jordan put that idea to rest by qualifying for the Foot Locker National Championship on the demanding Mt. SAC course, where the West Regional was held. The Mt. Rainier runner should be even more formidable with a full season of XC under her belt.
Alexis Fuller of Union was one of a number of precocious freshmen last fall & she earned second at State with her time of 18:07. Alexis won the Run-A-Ree plus a division at the Jim Danner and backed up her fall campaign with a very solid track season. Chandler Olson of Woodinville placed third at State and claimed invitational races at Bellevue and Tomahawk. Chandler had a break-out track season as she broke the five minute barrier in the 1600 Meters. Chandler has had the temerity to challenge the West’s best runners at the Foot Locker West regional and has been one of the best the past few years. Here is hoping that the third time is the charm and Chandler earns a trip to San Diego to face the nation’s premier runners. Anastasia Kosykh placed second at the Tomahawk and fourth at Tracey Walters but was unable to compete the second half of the season. Still, if healthy, the junior, who placed second in 4A as a freshman in 2010 in 17:50, should be solidly in the mix as can be expected Brenna Peloquin of Gig Harbor. Brenna did not have her best day at the State meet yet had a very solid track season and was the Narrows League Champion last fall. Megan LeGresley of Redmond garnered fifth as a freshman last fall and a solid summer base could allow her to move up the ladder.
Chandler Olson & Maddie Meyers
Last year’s team race saw Tahoma improve late in the season and the team, which had placed second to Bellarmine at the Westside Classic, stood atop the awards stand after the State race. Tahoma should be led by Abby Atchison, who placed eighth at State last fall and they return their top five runners save for Julianna Mock, their fourth runner. Matt Ellis of Bellarmine has taken his team to state every year for over a decade and this fall he returns the entire team including Hannah Derby (18th at State) & Daryl Phill (23rd) and they also will have some additions from last spring’s track squad.
The 3A division may be only the second largest school grouping on paper but, if you want to get a head start on a national talent hunt, this is the place to start. Amy-Eloise Neale won the 3A State title as a freshman and a sophomore but on a chilly day in Pasco last November Katie blazed the trail to a convincing victory in 17:10, which was way under Neale’s former record. Neale for her part was also under her old record but on this day Katie had stormed into the lead after two and a half miles and looked like a Foot Locker champion at Balboa Park. Katie also won the Walters & Firman titles as well as Border Clash. Amy-Eloise won at Wesco and at Sunfair and cruised to victory at South Whidbey by running 17:48. The pair are normally very closely matched both at track & at XC as evidenced by Amy winning the NXN NW Regional and then placing fifth to Katie’s third in the Mud Bowl in Portland. Their duels in their senior campaign should be something to savor. Alexa Efraimson, a freshman from Camas last fall, got started slowly by placing second behind Fuller at the Run-A-Ree but finished with a flourish by taking third in 3A in 17:55 and in so doing led her team to a State championship. This year the team should be strong, although they lose two runners including Austin Reiter, who placed ninth at State. The initial plans call for an attempt at Foot Locker Nationals, which we expect she will easily handle. Her track season was of such quality that one really looks forward to what is in store this fall. Be forewarned that as good as Neale & Knight are, they had best not forget they will also have Efraimson to contend with this year. Not to be overlooked is Kendra Weitz, who encountered some physical problems last fall but, when she was right, she was quite formidable as evidenced by her triumph at the Sundodger. Kendra ran 17:21 on the 4.922 mile course and surprised even Maddie Meyers. Katie Knight will gladly attest to her friend’s ability and it should be noted that Kendra qualified for Foot Locker as a sophomore, where she joined her brother Nathan as the only brother-sister combination to qualify in the same year for Foot Locker in the series’ over three decades of competition. Kendra was battling both Knight & Neale until late in the race last fall until problems occurred. Kamiakin’s Stephanie Rexus, who placed fourth last fall, moves on to a collegiate career but could be replaced by Megan Beauchene, who had a stellar track campaign. Not to be over-looked is Katie Bianchini from Glacier Peak, who placed fifth in 3A last November. Bianchini won her division at Sunfair. Katia Matora of Mercer Island (6th), Megan Napier of Camas (7th) Mackenzie Bachmeier ( 8th) of Yelm, Andrea Masterson (10th) of Lakeside & Michelle Fletcher (11th) of Kamiakin should also be near the front. Team-wise Glacier Peak returns everyone except Marren Haneberg, who usually was the third or fourth runner on the team, so they will be tough to beat.
Camas w/ Alexa Efraimson on rt.
Most of the top runners in the 2A division also return but the race should be quite different for Marina Roberts of Kingston has graduated. Marina was always willing to push the pace and win or lose Roberts put her personal stamp on a race. One has to respect that in a runner & she will be missed. However, Emily Pettis the State champion from Sehome, who came on late to win the title, should be on hand as should Reagan Colyer of North Kitsap, whose time of 18:19 was only two seconds behind the leader. Cheney’s Sanne Holland placed fourth last year & had an excellent spring campaign to follow up her XC work. Brittany Gappa of Squalicum also had a fine track season and placed fifth at State last November. Sehome has been a state power regardless of level for over a decade and, although they lose Jaden Duffy, they have a solid core returning that includes Kate Hannah, who finished 14th last fall. Cheney, also led by Kelsey Schwendiman (18th) and Amie Zachman (19th) should also contend.
Maddie Meyers moves on to the University of Washington but she leaves her freshman team-mate Hazel Carr to don her mantle. It is of course a hard act to follow but Hazel edged Riverside’s Jess Mildes to earn second place in 1A last fall. Mildes also graduated, so the second top returnee in the division is Kacey Kemper of King’s, who ran 18:41 to take fourth. Sally Larson of Cedar Park Christian was fifth last season and should also be in the mix. Lindy Jacobson of Lakeside garnered sixth at State and was the only other runner in the division to break nineteen minutes.
Hazel Carr w/ Meyers
The past few years there have so many excellent runners, that it has been difficult just picking the race to see from week to week. This year only add luster that is the tradition of Washington running. The Oregon – Washington Border Clash will be a daunting task for a group of Oregon young ladies, who are very solid in their own right. It will not be a surprise to see as many as five runners near the top of the national individual rankings at the end of the season. We hope to see numerous runners romping on Imperial Beach in San Diego this December. One thing seems certain: this will be a great year to see the action in Washington.