Updated: Aug 2, 2021
It was a year full of historical moments for the 1B/2B girls.
Pope John Paul II knocked off Liberty Bell to win their school's first ever sports team title, and Life Christian's Gabby Martin joined the company of former state individual champions with her amazing performance in Pasco winning her first state championship.
But Martin has transitioned up to 1A, so who will be the next individual champion?
Here are the top 1B/2B girls and teams to watch for this coming March.
Maddy Blake, Cedar Tree Classical Christian
Maddy Blake made her way back to the podium for the first time since her eighth grade year with a 14th place finish this last fall at the 1B/2B state cross country meet running a time of 20:41.1. Blake ran a 5k personal best time of 19:32.7 at the District 4 Championships to finish in third, and took first at the Harvest Classic running 20:04.5. Also placed fourth at the Central 2B League Championships running 21:31.1. Between Blake and her teammate, Suzie Johnson, the two make up the best duo in 1B/2B. Watch for Blake to be in the top five at state.
Mya Edwards, Kettle Falls
Mya Edwards started off her sophomore season with great races including a 5k time of 19:59.5 at the Nike Battle for the 509 Invite and a 2.5 mile time of 16:18.7 at the Highlander Invite. It was about the mid-point of the season where she fell off in her racing success, but was able to pick back up where she had left off at the beginning of the year at the 1B/2B state cross country meet running a time of 19:53.2 to place fourth overall. Ran a season best 5k time of 19:50.1 at the District 7/9 Championships placing second, and won her second consecutive District 7 Championship running 20:04.8. With a personal best time of 19:27 from her freshman season, Edwards will get back down to that time in her junior year and will be a top three finisher at state.
Jori Grialou, Liberty Bell
It took Jori Grialou a few months to get under her freshman 5k time, but she was able to go above and beyond that mark in her two postseason races last fall. Grialou placed sixth at the 1B/2B state cross country meet running a personal best time of 20:10.4 and is the Mountain Lions top returner from their second place team. Took second at both the Central Washington B Championships and the District5/6 Championships running 20:39.26 and 20:14.5. Grialou is a top six finisher once again this season, but the main focus will be to lead her team back to another state championship title.
Suzie Johnson, Cedar Tree Classical Christian
Along with Kettle Falls Mya Edwards, the battle for second place at state will also include Cedar Tree Classical Christian's Suzie Johnson. Johnson was fifth last fall at the 1B/2B state cross country championships running a time of 20:03.7, and her team was three points away from a team trophy. Took first at the Central 2B League Championships running 20:18.6, and then a week and a half later ran a 5k personal best time of 19:19.6 at the District 4 Championships. Also won the Bill Kehoe South Sound Invite's Silver race in 19:57.3. A three year state competitor and two-time state podium finisher, this could be another great year for Johnson with the chance of adding another a state championship to her resume and leading her team to a state trophy.
Clare Kondrat, Pope John Paul II
Not only has Clare Kondrat placed herself with the best of the 1B/2B as an individual, she's the key reason Pope John Paul II was so successful last fall. Kondrat placed ninth at the 1B/2B state cross country meet running a time of 20:21.6 and was the Eagles top runner for their state team title. Kondrat came up with her first two career cross country wins at the Eagle Cross Country Invite running 20:40.2 and the Sea-Tac League Championships running a 5k personal best time of 19:44. Took fifth at the District 4 Championships running 19:50.6. The 2019 1B runner-up in the 3,200-meter will look to lead Pope John Paul II to back-to-back state titles, but will be in the mix to finish in the top five individually.
Emily Montgomery, Kettle Falls
Emily Montgomery, a transfer from Colville, made an immediate impact for Kettle Falls when she arrived to the school this last season. In the beginning of the year, Montgomery ran a 5k personal best time of 20:08 at the Nike Battle for the 509 Invite, but for a long stretch during the season she wasn't able to get back down to that time. Then the 1B/2B state cross country meet rolled around and Montgomery was able to finish the year with a seventh place finish running 20:14.5. She was also fourth at the District 7 and District 7/9 Championships. Montgomery will be looking to place top five at state this cross country season.
Selena Niemi, Rainier
Consistency standouts the most when you see the times Selena Niemi ran last season for Rainier. Niemi was 12th at the 1B/2B state cross country meet running a time of 20:38.9, but her best race of the year was at the District 4 Championships where she ran a 5k personal best time of 19:37.5 after the starting the year at 20:30.2. Placed first at the Brooks Fort Steilacoom Invite in the JV race running 20:33.4, and was second at the Eagle Cross Country Invite and the 2B Central League Championships running 20:43.9 and 20:29.5. Niemi was a top 10 finisher at state her freshman year, so she will look to get back into that spot in her junior year.
Pope John Paul II
As mentioned earlier, Pope John Paul II is the returning state champions and look like they will be the favorites again this season with all seven their state runners returning. Clare Kondrat isn't just carrying the team by herself though, she has some assistance from Moriah Steinbrecher, Bella Kondrat, and Maggie Larson, who were all top 30 from the state meet last year. Another runner who can make an impact is Holley Nichols, who is not too far from being from a state podium finisher with the 19th fastest returning time. This is only the beginning of the newest dynasty's being created for 1B/2B schools.
Only one state podium finisher returns in Jori Grialou for Liberty Bell, but this is a program with rich history of success at the state meet. Two runners that I think could have a big year for the Mountain Lions are Liv Aspholm and Stella Sholz. Both come in with top 20 returning times, but could possibly make their way into the top 10 at state. Pope John Paul II may have the depth and talent, but Liberty Bell has the experience which in some circumstances is an advantage and could benefit them in their chase for a fourth state title in five years.
Northwest Christian (Lacey)
Northwest Christian may be young, but the talent they have back this season will be able to get them a state podium spot, perhaps a runner-up finish, as a team. Josie Ryder and Rachel Carlson got their first chance to race at state and did not disappoint with their 15th and 35th place finishes. Both girls are ranked top 10 in returning times. Isabella Friendline is also one who could also crack the top 16 at state as she stands at 18th right now in returning times. Only four girls return from last year's state team, so the Wolverines will need to figure out a fifth runner and that could be Alicia Kitchens.
In total, St. George's only has five total runners in their program, but it will be enough for them to be considered a top four team at state. However, all five girls that are back have state experience and were part of the third place team last fall led by Audrey Harrill and Clara Witmer, who right now sit at 22nd and 27th in returning times but could easily make their way into the top 16. One of the state's most successful programs in the history of Washington high school sports will need some work to be done at the fifth runner spot though if they want to give themselves a chance
Editor's Note: The 2020 1B/2B girl's cross country preview was compiled by track and field and cross country analyst Keenan Gray.