The Ellensburg Bulldogs re-wrote 2A history last fall winning the school's first ever state cross country team title led by their individual state champion Leah Holmgren.
But with Holmgren and multiple Ellensburg seniors graduating this past year, the individual and team title race are fair game this season.
Here are the top individuals and teams to watch for this fall for the 2A girls.
Sonja Blycker, Cedarcrest
After a slow start to the season, Sonja Blycker took the cross country state meet by storm with an incredible end of the season performance. Starting off at 20:14 in the first race of the season, Blycker ran a 5,000-meter personal best time of 18:56.4 at the 2A state meet to place ninth overall. Placed third at the Nike Twilight Invite in the small school race running 19:15.3 and seventh at the District 1/2 Championships running 20:08.7. If Blycker uses her state race from last year as a stepping stone to blossom into one of the state's best runners, she can see herself placing top six or better at 2A state.
Evelyn Buetow, Sehome
Evelyn Buetow could be the next Sehome great, going into this season after a solid freshman year. Last fall, Buetow placed 11th at the 2A state cross country meet running 18:57 while leading Sehome to a third place team finish. Ran a 5,000-meter personal best time of 18:53.5 placing third at the Northwest Conference Championships, and placed fourth at the District 1/2 Championships running 19:41.2. One of her best runs came at Sehome's home invite when she placed first for the 2-mile race in a personal best time of 12:38.3. Other than running, Buetow swims in the winter time, making her one of the strongest athletes to run cross country. Look for her to place top five at state.
Lauren Larson, Port Angeles
Lauren Larson has always been at the front of the pack, but hasn't quite got over the hump to become the 2A's best. Larson was fifth last fall at the 2A state cross country meet running 18:41.2 tallying her state medal total to three for her career. Ran a 5,000-meter personal best of 18:21.5 at the Nike Hole in the Wall Invite and won a total of five races including a 3-mile personal best run of 17:31 at the Salt Creek Invite. Placed third at the Olympic League Championships running 19:39.3 and fourth at the Westside Classic District Championships running 19:24.4. Larson is the fastest returning runner this fall entering the season as an early favorite to win the individual state title.
Kate Laurent, Ellensburg
Ellensburg could see another individual state title brought home again this season by Kate Laurent. A main contributor to Ellensburg's state team title, Laurent was fourth at the 2A state cross country meet running a time of 18:38.7, five seconds off her 5,000-meter personal best 18:33.4 from the Nike Hole in the Wall Invite. Placed second at both the Sunfair Invite and District 5/6 Championships running 19:17.5 and 17:42 for three miles. My dark horse pick for this season, Laurent is a talented, young runner waiting for her time to shine and will be one of my favorites to win the individual state title.
MaryAlice Mitchell, Washington
From her first race freshman season, MaryAlice Mitchell has established herself as one of the best runners in the state. The 2018 2A 800-meter champion was eighth last fall at the state cross country meet running a time of 18:56.5, 10 seconds off her 5,000-meter personal best time of 18:46 from a second place finish at the Westside Classic District Championships. Mitchell won seven races last fall including the Capital Invite (13:34.8, 2.23 miles), the Fort Steilacoom Invite (18:53.8, 5k), and the South Puget Sound League Championships (18:51, 5k). Predominantly a middle-distant runner, Mitchell's speed could carry her to the top of the podium this fall but she will need to improve on racing longer distances.
Allyson Peterson, Hockinson
Just like Port Angeles' Lauren Larson, Allyson Peterson is on the cusp of becoming one of the best 2A runners of all time but hasn't had the opportunity yet. Running in the 18-minute range consistently last fall, Peterson ran her 5,000-meter personal best at the 2A state cross country meet in 18:26.8 to place third overall. Peterson went on to win the Great St. Helens 2A League and District 4 Championships running times of 18:50.5 and 18:50. This spring, Peterson participated in the Twilight Trials virtual meet running the 800-meter and mile in personal best times of 2:25.3 and 5:15.6. Peterson is more than capable of winning the individual state title, but it will be a battle between Port Angeles' Larson and Ellensburg's Kate Laurent.
Riley Pyeatt, Sequim
Exciting things are ahead for Riley Pyeatt in her junior year after an impressive end to her sophomore season. Pyeatt was sixth at the 2A state cross country meet running a time of 18:46.1, and won the Olympic League title in 18:54 and the Westside Classic District title in a 5,000-meter personal best time of 18:38.2. Another runner with incredible speed, it would have been interesting to see Pyeatt run the 800-meter this spring since she clocked a 58 second 400-meter time her freshman season. Look for her to finish in the top six again this fall.
It's been three years since the Sehome girls brought home the golden runner for 2A schools, so why not start the new decade the same way they did back in 2010? Evelyn Buetow is a tough runner and shares similar characteristics to Sehome legend and three-time 2A cross country individual champion Emily Pittis. Along with Buetow, Julie Gill is another young talent, making these two one of the best 2A duos in the state. The Mariners will once again have to compete with Bellingham, Anacortes, and an always challenging District 1.
Bellingham continue to prove each season they are one of the best teams in the state, but they haven't been able to jump over the second place hump. Five years they have placed second as a team this past decade and four were behind crosstown rival Sehome. With only one senior graduating from the entire program in 2A runner-up, Livi Lackland Henry, the Red Raiders will have a strong core of runners coming back this fall led by Gillian Spilker and Izabelle Anderson and are one perfect race away from winning the school's first ever cross country team title.
The defending 2A state champs are losing three seniors but will return two podium finishers in Kate Laurent and Rylee Lieshman who can lead this team back to the golden runner. This will be a very young Bulldogs team with plenty of talent to keep their name in the conversation to win another team title. Holly Fromherz and Alex Hall are keys runners that will need to improve big time this fall if they want their team to have the best chance of beating very talented teams in Bellingham and Sehome.
Another team that loses only one senior from the entire program, this could the Seahawks best team yet and have the best chance to bring home the school's first ever state trophy. Caitlin Brar is an underrated runner just waiting to prove to everyone she is a state podium finisher, and hopefully she gets the chance this year. Two young runners in Jessica Frydenland and Abigail Goodwin are ones to watch for in their second season of high school running and will play an important role in Anacortes' chances of a team trophy.
Editor's Note: The 2020 2A girl's cross country preview was compiled by track and field and cross country analyst Keenan Gray.