Lakeside of Nine Mile Falls ended the decade of success for the Northeast 1A League with another state championship, making this league one of the most dominant ones in the entire state for cross country.
Even if the NEA League has been the best from a team perspective, the westside of Washington has been able to produce the most individual champions, but things could change this year.
Time to look at the top individuals and teams for 1A boys to watch for this season.
Joseph Blanshan, La Center
La Center has a star in the making with Joseph Blanshan and this is only the beginning of what is to come for this young runner. Blanshan was 11th at the 1A state meet running a personal best time of 16:22.3 and was the top freshman in this race. Took first place at the Mark Lyle Memorial Invite running 16:59 and the District 4 Championships running 16:28, and was the runner-up at the 1A Trico League Championships running 16:45.6. Although this will be a challenging season to win an individual state title for Blanshan because of the veteran talent coming back this year, he is a for sure top five finisher.
Landon Davies, Cascade (Leavenworth)
One of the top returners from the state meet with a chance to win this year's individual title, Landon Davies has been waiting for his time to come in cross country and this could be the year. The 2019 1A 3,200-meter state champion was fifth last fall at the state cross country meet running a 5,000-meter personal best time of 16:10.8. Finished as the runner-up at numerous invites including the South Whidbey Invite (16:42.2), the Okanogan Invite (16:24), and the District 6 Championships (16:36.3). If Davies wants to give himself a chance to win the individual title this season, he will need to be able to beat Cashmere's Rob McManus in an early season meet to give him confidence going into the state meet.
Jamar Distel, Riverside
Jamar Distel is the best overall talent and is ready for a bounce back race at the state meet this year. Last fall, Distel finished in 13th place at the 1A state cross country meet running 16:27, but hadn't competed in over a month prior to this race. Ran a 5,000-meter personal best time of 15:32.6, the fastest returning time this season, and was the runner-up at the Nike Battle for the 509 Invite. Won the District 7 Championship race in 16:17.9. If Distel can stay healthy, and not miss an entire month of racing, he is the definite favorite to win the individual title when the state meet comes.
Cameron Hatler, Eatonville
Last season, Cameron Hatler got a good taste of success at the state meet and will build upon that this year. Hatler finished 13th last fall at the 2A state cross country meet running a time of 16:02.6, six seconds off his 5,000-meter personal best time of 15:56 from the Bill Kehoe South Sound Invite. Won the Westside Classic District Championship race in a time of 16:08.9. Other top performances for Hatler came at the Brooks Fort Steilacoom Invite winning the bronze varsity race in 16:39.8 and the South Puget Sound League Championships in 16:23. With Eatonville moving down to the 1A level this season, Hatler will be in the hunt for a top five finish at the state meet.
Nick LeBar, King's
In just two seasons, Nick LeBar has become one of the best runners at the 1A level with his early success at state meets in both cross country and track. LeBar was eighth last fall at the 1A state cross country meet running 16:21.4 and ran a 5,000-meter personal best time of 16:13 at the Nike Twilight Invite placing sixth. Took first at the King's Invite running a personal best 3-mile time of 16:35.9, second at the North Sound Conference Championships running 16:32.7, and third at the District 1/2 Championships running 16:57.2. My dark horse pick for this season, LeBar is a for sure top four finisher at the state meet because of his combination of great speed and strength.
Rob McManus, Cashmere
No matter who he runs against, Rob McManus is most the competitive runner of this bunch and is ready to add another state championship title to his impressive running resume. The 2019 1A 1,600-meter champion was the runner-up at the 1A state cross country meet running 16:00.2, 20 seconds off his 5,000-meter personal best time of 15:40.9 from the Nike Hole in the Wall Invite. Won a total of four races last fall including the Manson Invite (16:35.6), the Wenatchee Invite (16:18), the Okanogan Invite (16:12), and the District 6 Championships (16:08.4). McManus was 10 seconds short of winning last years state race so you know he is primed and ready to come back stronger than ever to win this year.
Dallin Price, Connell
After qualifying for state track in three events his sophomore season, Dallin Price used that momentum in the cross country season with a sixth place finish at the 1A state meet running a time of 16:19.5. Ran his 5,000-meter personal best time of 16:18.5 at the Moses Lake Invite and finished as the runner-up. Took first at both the Apple Ridge Invite and the South Central Athletic Conference/District Championships running 15:44.3 and 16:09.9 for 3-miles. It could be a tough year to place in the top eight this season, but Price has had plenty of experience at the state meet and will use that to his advantage.
Medical Lake returns five runners from their third place state team and will be the top team out of the NEA League this season led by Quintin Collins and Reid Headrick, two guys who can place on the state podium. It's been three years since the Cardinals have won the state team title, but they are the NEA's best bet at keeping their state title streak going for an eighth consecutive year. Along with Collins and Headrick, Benjamin Henry and Angel Mendez are also potential podium finishers as well making that four for Medical Lake.
Lakeside (Nine Mile Falls)
The defending state champs will look to complete the three-peat this season, but will have to do it without the leadership of Brayden Merrill and Gideon Swanson. Hayden Blank was one place away from getting on the state podium his freshman season and will get another shot at it this year, and could possibly be a top 10 finisher. Overall this is another quality team Steve Olsen has put together with a five man spread of 52 seconds, but will have to battle with Medical Lake and Riverside in the NEA.
Five seniors and one junior return this season for Klahowya for what should be their best team yet in school history. Finishing in second place last season behind Lakeside, the Eagles have the best chance to end the NEA's streak of state champions. Jaeden Ellis and Kelton Gagnon were both state podium finishers and could easily be top 10 finishers this season. Klahowya has a solid four, but if they can get their fifth under 17 minutes, this is will be a very good team.
With the best trio at the 1A level in Landon Davies, Derek Richardson, and Owen Bard, Cascade makes a strong case as trophy team at state. For the last few years, the Kodiaks have put together quality teams who have performed well at the state meet. But if they want to go above and beyond fourth place, their fourth and fifth runners will need to be pulled along and make their way down to the sub-17 minute range.
Editor's Note: The 2020 1A boy's cross country preview was compiled by track and field and cross country analyst Keenan Gray.