Updated: Jul 23
Ellie Baxter, Snohomish
After a successful 2019 track and field season, Ellie Baxter carried the momentum into last fall with another impressive season of cross country. Baxter finished 12th at the 3A state cross country meet running a 5,000-meter personal best time of 18:36.8, one minute faster than her previous best time on the state course from her sophomore year. Placed third at the WESCO Championships running 18:38.7 and fourth at the District 1 Championship running 19:34.7. Baxter is a tough competitor and coming from what should be a challenging District 1 this season, she will be more than ready to run fast in Pasco. Baxter is a definite top eight state finisher or better.
Olivia Freeman, Bishop Blanchet
Olivia Freeman went from being a middle of the pack runner, to one of the top returners this season after a great state meet. Freeman led Bishop Blanchet to a third place team finish at the 3A state cross country meet with a 13th place finish running a 5,000-meter personal best time of 18:38.5, the first time she had broke the 19 minute barrier since her 25th place finish her freshman year at state. Before the state meet, Freeman was the runner-up at the Metro League Championships running 19:05.4 and fifth at the District 2 Championships running 19:14.6. It was a bounce back year for Freeman in her junior year and should be expected to continue that success as a potential top eight finisher at this year's state meet.
Allie Janke, North Central
Easily one of the best comebacks from injury belongs to Allie Janke after having missed an entire season til post season rolled around. Despite missing an entire regular season, Janke won her second straight 3A state cross country individual title in a time of 17:26.8 and led North Central to their third consecutive state team title. Janke ran her personal best 5,000-meter time at the NXR Northwest Regional Championships in 17:10.1 to finish in fourth place to qualify for NXN in Oregon. Placed 63rd at NXN, while her team was sixth out of the 22 teams that qualified for the nations most elite meet. This spring, Janke was named Gatorade Player of the Year for track and field here in Washington. With a hopeful season, Janke is the heavy favorite to win her third state title.
Sarah Mirkin, Holy Names
Holy Names' state cross country title hopes fall in the hands of veteran speedster, Sarah Mirkin. Mirkin led the Cougars to a second place team finish at the 3A state meet last fall with her first podium finish placing 16th individually running a season best time of 18:51.9. Some of Mirkin's best performances of the season came at the Bellarmine Invite two-mile race placing fifth running 12:13.9 and at the District 2 Championships placing seventh running 19:28.5. This spring Mirkin would have been the top 800-meter runner for 3A and potentially win a state title, and without that track season, expect something big from Holy Names' top runner this fall.
Jasmine Nguyen, Marysville Getchell
Jasmine Nguyen became a whole different runner her junior year after her first two years of cross country and will do even bigger things this fall. Nguyen ran 18:49.7 to place 15th individually at the 3A state cross country meet in her first year running in Pasco. Improving her 5,000-meter time by one minute, 18 seconds, Nguyen ran a personal best time of 18:29.1 and placed second at the Bill Kehoe South Sound Invite. Nguyen also won the District 1 Championship race in 18:53.3, and led Marysville Getchell to a district team title and a berth to state. My dark horse pick for the season, Nguyen will be in the mix to place top six, and perhaps be top four.
Maya Nichols, Central Kitsap
Along with North Central's Allie Janke, Maya Nichols has had a very successful high school career with three state podium appearances. Nichols was 11th at the 3A state cross country meet last fall running a time of 18:35 while leading Central Kitsap to a fourth place team finish. Nichols ran a 5,000-meter season best time of 18:34, not far off her 18:24.4 personal best mark from her freshman year, to win the Nike Hole in the Wall Invite Division 2 race, and a first place finish at the South Sound Conference Championships running 18:57.8. Although the main focus will be on helping her team capture a state title, Nichols is a top contender to finish top two, or perhaps win it all, at the state meet.
Lily O'Donoghue-McDonald, Seattle Prep
By far the most improved runner on this list, Lily O'Donoghue-McDonald made a big jump from her freshman to sophomore year taking her 5,000-meter personal best time down by almost three minutes. O'Donoghue-McDonald placed 14th at the 3A state meet last fall running a personal best time of 18:45.8, and was third at the Metro League Championships running 19:17.2. This spring, O'Donoghue-McDonald competed in the Twilight Trials running the 800-meter in a personal best time of 2:20.9. After a jump like this one, O'Donoghue-McDonald makes a strong case as a top five finisher at state.
Like the 2019 North Central girls, the 2020 Holy Names girls might be on an island of their own this fall at the 3A level. With Sarah Mirkin, Christina Crow and Riley Wells returning, the Cougars have the potential to have three podium placers, which of course is a key for success to a team winning a state title. Maisie McManus and Kathleen Raab will also help carry this team in the right direction as the fourth and fifth runners.
The No. 3-7 runners from Central Kitsap brought their "A" game to the 3A state meet when they needed it most and helped the Cougars bring home a fourth place team trophy. Maya Nichols has a great chance to be the runner-up behind North Central's Allie Janke at state, and lead Central Kitsap to another team trophy. The Cougars could surprise some people and take down Holy Names to win the school's first cross country team title.
A surprising third place team finish for Bishop Blanchet at the 3A state meet last fall sets big expectations in 2020 for the Braves. The only team in the entire state with every varsity returner being seniors, the Braves will be the oldest and most experienced around. Don't be surprised if Blanchet gives Central Kitsap and Holy Names a run for their money for the state team title because of the veteran talent they have.
With a five runner spread of 55 seconds returning, Arlington could make a run for an even better finish then fourth as a team at state. Bridgette Scott will need to have her best race at state and get down to mid 19-minutes, while Kate Rosson and Sophie Gaudin are on the cusp of breaking 20-minutes. As a whole team, Arlington has a faster five through seven runners than Blanchet and Central Kitsap.
Editor's Note: The 2020 3A girl's cross country preview was compiled by track and field and cross country analyst Keenan Gray.