As Kamiakin makes its way up to the 4A classification, we will see a new state champion for both an individual and team in 2020. Who could take that top spot is still a mystery, but can be found all in this write up.
Let's have a look at the top 3A boys individuals and teams to watch for this upcoming fall and who could re-write history in Pasco.
Samir Amin, North Thurston
Without a spring track season, Samir Amin remains a mystery to many in the running community, but makes a strong case as one of the top returning runners this fall. Amin finished 19th overall at the 3A state cross country meet last fall running a time of 15:54.7 and was only four seconds away from a podium finish. Ran a personal best time 5,000-meter time of 15:34.8 at the Bill Kehoe Invite, and was third at the Westside Classic district race running 16:05.7. Perhaps the fastest distance runner of this group, Amin is my dark horse pick and could surprise people with a top five finish or better at the state meet.
Bryce Cerkowniak, Yelm
Bryce Cerkowniak makes his final return to Yelm as the 3A's top runner in hopes of winning the school's first ever cross country individual state title. Last fall, Cerkowniak placed fifth at the 3A state meet running a time of 15:30.9 and ran a 5,000-meter personal best time of 15:22.3 at the Fort Steilacoom Invite where he also was fifth. Cerkowniak was the South Sound Conference (15:30.6) and Westside Classic District (15:57.5) champion prior to the state meet. Experience will play an important piece for the Yelm senior this fall as he has made two podium appearances in the three state races he has competed in. Coming from a tough district like District 3, Cerkowniak will be more than ready to get after the individual state crown.
Aiden Emerson, Arlington
There was plenty of growth from his freshman to sophomore year for Aiden Emerson, even if the season didn't end the way he would have hoped at the state meet. Emerson ran a 5,000-meter personal best time of 15:34 at the Nike Hole in the Wall Invite, and a few weeks later won the District 1 meet in a time of 16:19.1 while leading the Arlington Eagles to a dominate first place team performance to earn a trip to the state meet. Finished 26th at the 3A state meet running and helped the Eagles to a fourth place team trophy. This spring, Emerson competed in the Backyard Virtual Invite and ran a 3,200-meter personal best time of 9:37.31. Emerson is a top five finisher at the state meet, but his eyes will be set on helping the Eagles get their first state team championship.
Vincent Loftis, Arlington
A key part in the success of the Eagles this season will be relied on the senior leadership of Vincent Loftis. Even though he didn't run a personal best time, which is 15:52.5, it was a solid season for Loftis running 16:01.7 for 5,000-meters and a 22nd place finish at the 3A state meet. Placed third at both the District 1 and WESCO Championship meets running times of 16:24.9 and 16:01.9. Also competed in the Backyard Virtual Invite where he ran the 800-meter in a personal best time of 2:04.17. Expecting a bounce back year individually for Loftis as I see him as top eight finisher at state.
William Schneider, Bishop Blanchet
William Schneider has set the bar high for himself after an incredible freshman season and I am excited to watch him build upon that success in his second year of high school sports. Schneider, who was The Runner WA's Freshman of the Year last fall, placed seventh overall at the 3A state cross country meet running a personal best time of 15:39.6 and helped the Bishop Blanchet Braves to a second place team finish. Finished second at the Metro League Championships running 16:02.9 and then third at the District 2 meet running 16:13.9. In the spring, Schneider ran in Blanchet's virtual meets where he competed in all three distance events running 2:01 in the 800-meter, 4:23.5 in the 1,600-meter, and 9:31.7 in the 3,200-meter. A definite top three finish at state, but I can see Schneider competing with Yelm's Cerkowniak for the individual title.
Leif Swanson, North Central
Leif Swanson is going to need a big year to help the North Central Indians get back to statewide prominence after having placed seventh as a sophomore and missing out on the podium his junior season in an up and down year. Swanson was 21st at the state 3A cross country meet running a time of 15:56.2 and was the Indians third runner on their third place team finish. Top performances came at the Bob Firman Invite where he ran a 5,000-meter personal best time of 15:40.1 and placed fifth at the District 8 Championships running 15:49. If Swanson can put together a top five, or better performance at the state meet this season, this will go a long way for North Central's success as a team.
Sean Westerhout, Bainbridge
Up until the state cross country meet this last fall, Sean Westerhout wasn't even in the conversation to be a podium finisher, let alone finish in the top 30 perhaps. But it was his late season efforts at state and district earning himself a spot on this list. Westerhout placed 11th overall at the 3A state meet running a 5,000-meter personal best time of 15:46.4 after having placed second at the District 2 meet running 16:05.8. Went from running mid-16 minutes early in the season to mid-15 minutes, Westerhout has a ton of momentum coming into 2020 and could be a top five finisher at state.
Arlington has been known for producing great individual runners, but has never put together a strong enough team to win a state team title. The talent is there for sure with Aiden Emerson and Vincent Loftis, two runners capable of finishing top 8 together at the state meet. One runner in particular I think of that needs a big bounce back is Quincy Fankhauser, who went from placing 13th at state as a sophomore to 69th his junior year. Can the Eagles live up to the hype and make school history this fall?
If you're Interlake's coach, you have to love seeing the 19.2 second spread between your top five runners. With that kind of pack running, you can win just about any meet as a team. The only thing missing from this team is a few sub 16 minute 5k runners and Kaden Brinkman and Sam Mahlman are those guys who can put together those kind of performances. The Saints are a dark-horse team in the making and could challenge Arlington as the front-runner.
It's safe to say things are getting back to the way they were at North Central. With a third place team finish last fall at 3A state, the Indians can now start to rebuild back to what was the most dominating program in the state this past decade. Leif Swanson, the lone returning senior, Koshi Schunter, and Zach Kness are expected to have big seasons and are going to need to be the starting blocks for North Central to build back up to be the best team at 3A.
A very heavy senior team will look to use their experience this fall to bring back a team trophy to Edmonds-Woodway. Many of the returning state runners, which include Josiah Ponton, Alphonse Mennano, Nathan Smith and Connor Bryan, all ran personal best times in Pasco and is a great indicator of where this team can go from here on out in their training. It will be tight race though with Stadium and Ballard for that fourth place team trophy, but the Warriors have the best chance.
Editor's Note: The 2020 3A boys cross country preview was compiled by track and field and cross country analyst Keenan Gray.