Updated: Aug 19, 2020
If you thought there were big surprises this last season at the 1A level for girl's cross country, just you wait till the state meet in May rolls around as the field will be wide open for a bunch of teams chasing after the team title.
Life Christian's Gabby Martin has established herself as a top three runner in the entire state, but how far ahead is she with regards to her other 1A competitors? Currently, over a minute faster than the second fastest returning runner.
Here are the top 1A girls and teams to watch for this season.
Kayla Aalpoel, Meridian
It might have not been the year she had wanted, but Kayla Aalpoel continues to show she is one of the best in 1A and could potentially have a big year. Last fall, Aalpoel was 12th at the 1A state cross country meet running a time of 19:19.7. Ran a 5,000-meter season best time of 19:02.5 at the Northwest Conference Championships placing fifth, and was third at the District 1/2 Championships running 19:45.6. Aalpoel is a very competitive and strong runner that most people don't know a lot about, making her my dark horse pick for this season. Watch for her being in the top six at state.
Campbell Baker, King's
Despite a double fracture in her foot that kept her out competition for the last few weeks of the season, Campbell Baker has one of the best returning times in cross country and will be a front-runner for the individual state title. Baker ran a personal best time of 18:41.4 at the Nike Hole in the Wall Invite where she placed 38th in the varsity elite race. Finished as the runner-up at both the King's Invite and Nike Twilight Invite. Expect a major bounce back year from Baker, and potentially a runner-up at the state meet.
Alyssa Becker, Klahowya
Alyssa Becker's much improved junior year of cross country is a just a preview what is to come in her senior season. Becker made her first state cross country meet appearance last season with a fourth place finish running a time of 18:59.5 and leading Klahowya to a fourth place team finish. Ran a 5,000-meter personal best time of 18:52.4 at the Nike Hole in the Wall Invite playing 43rd. Becker was the first at Nike Portland XC and the Westside District Championships running 19:57.3 and 19:31.3. This spring, Becker competed in the NSAF Athletic.Net Virtual National Championships and was seventh in the 1,600-meter and 2nd in the 3,200-meter running personal best times of 5:12.7 and 11:06.2. No question Becker is a top three finisher at the state meet, but it will be a big challenge for her.
Lara Carrion, Seton Catholic
Lara Carrion is possibly the most underrated runner in our state and deserves so much more credit for her successes in just two years of high school running. Carrion finished in third at the 1A state cross country meet running a time of 18:50.5. Ran a 5,000-meter personal best time of 18:36.8 at the Bill Kehoe South Sound Invite to place third overall, and was the Trico League and District 4 champion running 18:41.5 and 18:58. Right now, Carrion sits right behind Life Christian's Gabby Martin for the runner-up spot, although anything can happen in Pasco.
Gabby Martin, Life Christian
In the entire state last season, Gabby Martin was possibly the most dominant runner, regardless the classification level. Martin won her first state title last fall at the 1B/2B cross country meet running a time of 17:57.5, winning by almost one minute, and 30 seconds over the second place finisher. Martin's best performance came the week prior to the state meet at the District 4 Championships as she ran a 5k personal best of 17:32.8, which ranks third for returning times this season in the entire state. Martin also won a few big-time races including the Brooks Fort Steilacoom Invite (18:20.4), the Nike Twilight Invite (18:36.5), and the Bill Kehoe South Sound Invite (18:13.8), but also placed sixth at the nationally known Nike Portland XC (18:06.3) where she beat Bellarmine's Ella Borsheim. Martin and Life Christian have opted up to the 1A level this season, and she will still be the heavy favorite to win the individual title even after changing classifications.
Matise Mulch, Lakeside (Nine Mile Falls)
It was a solid year last fall for Matise Mulch, but I think there is more business to be taken care of this season, specifically from a team aspect. Mulch was eighth overall at the 1A state cross country meet running a time of 19:05.9, and helped Lakeside to a second place team finish. Ran a 5,000-meter personal best time of 18:56.4 to place fourth at the District 7 Championships, and was the champion of the Moses Lake Invite running 19:00.9. I know Mulch is a for sure top six finisher at state, but she will have to take on a new leadership to help lead the Eagles back to winning ways at the state meet.
Kaia Swegler Richmond, South Whidbey
Kaia Swegler Richmond is the most experienced runner for 1A and is ready for great things to happen in her final year of high school running. Swegler Richmond placed sixth last fall at the 1A state cross country meet running a time of 19:02.4 after having missed the podium her sophomore season by three spots. Ran a 5,000-meter personal best at the Nike Hole in the Wall Invite running 18:50.5 to place second in the varsity 2 race. Swegler Richmond was the runner-up in top meets including the South Whidbey Invite (19:39.7), the North Sound Conference Championships (19:23), and the District 1/2 Championships (19:32.6), but won a race down at Nike Portland XC in a time of 19:14.4. Easily the strongest runner on this list, Swegler Richmond is someone to definitely consider as a top candidate to compete for a top four finish at state.
Lakeside (Nine Mile Falls)
On paper, Lakeside was the best team across the board last season from talent to depth, but they just couldn't get the job done at state to bring home another state title. This year, they are once again the best team on paper returning five runners from last year's team which finished second at state. Other than Matise Mulch being a podium finisher, Makaylie Stockert, Anna Milazzo, and perhaps Emma Ames are other runners from the Eagles who could crack the top 16 at the state meet.
Deer Park was the surprise team this last fall and could be again this season. Losing four-year varsity runner Adele Schick will be tough to replace and was a key reason to Deer Park's state team championship last fall. The Stags return six runners from that team and will be fairly young led by sophomore Layne Lathrop. Andrea Loos and Marion George ended the season with great times at the state meet and will be two runners that can help lead Deer Park to back-to-back state titles.
Missing the podium by just one spot last season, Cashmere's goal for this year is to crack that top four at state. Sydney Smith has established herself as one of the top runners in the state and probably deserves more credit than she has been given. It's been 35 years since Cashmere has won a state title in cross country and the Bulldogs are one the oldest teams with four seniors back this season, putting themselves in the conversation to potentially win a state team title.
Klahowya is another veteran group looking to build upon their fourth place team finish from last season. Alyssa Becker is already in the conversation to win an individual title, which of course will give the Eagles a better chance to win the school's first ever cross country team championship. Becker and her teammate, Rachel Newhard, are the best duo in the state, but will need some help from their third though fifth runners if they want to compete with Lakeside and Deer Park.
Editor's Note: The 2020 1A girl's cross country preview was compiled by track and field and cross country analyst Keenan Gray.