Updated: Mar 14, 2021
From the Redmond girls winning their first state team title, to Issaquah's Julia David-Smith finally claiming a cross country state individual title, this fall should have a ton of great stories returning to make for a very exciting, and hopeful, cross country season.
Here are the top individuals and teams to watch for at the 4A level on the girls side.
Ella Borsheim, Bellarmine
Other than a 16th place finish at the 4A state cross country meet last fall, Ella Borsheim put together a quality sophomore season after having won the individual title her freshman season placing sixth at the Footlocker West Regional Meet and earning a trip to the Footlocker National Meet where she finished 36th. Borsheim ran a personal best three-mile time at the Richland Invite in 17:13.5 and a season best 5,000-meter time of 18:07.1 at Nike Portland XC. This spring, Borsheim traveled to down Arizona for the Desert Dream Last Hurrah to finish sixth running 4:50.32 in the Mile in a very fast field, and third in the 3,200-meter running 10:29.49. Borhseim also competed in the virtual Twilight Trials where she placed sixth in the 800 (2:17), and first in the mile (4:50.3, PR) and two-mile (10:20.5, PR). This will be the bounce back year Borsheim proves to everyone she is one of the best in Washington, so don't count her out of the state title conversation.
Julia David-Smith, Issaquah
Arguably one of the most dominant season performances by any athlete last fall, Julia David-Smith returns for one more season to keep building her resume to become one of the greatest high school cross country runners in Washington. David-Smith won the 4A individual title in a time of 17:26.2, winning by 56 seconds, and then placed 18th overall at the Nike Cross National Meet in Portland, Oregon earning All-American honors running 18:02.4. She ran a personal best 5,000-meter time of 17:07.6 to place second at the Nike Hole in the Wall Invite and a three-mile personal best at the Curtis Invite in 16:45. David-Smith also traveled down to the Desert Dream Last Hurrah to compete in the two-mile and ran 10:31.68 placing fourth. I know she is the front-runner to repeat as the 4A champion, but can David-Smith break the 17 minute barrier for 5,000-meters this fall if we have a season? Maybe not at the state meet, but it's do-able at another invite like Hole in the Wall.
Lili Hargreaves, Redmond
Lili Hargreaves leads the best the trio of teammates in Washington, Chloe Connelly and Sophia Dahl, into the 2020 season with the hopes of repeating as team champions in what should be a very competitive field from a team perspective. Hargreaves was ninth running 18:36.6 at the 4A state meet last fall and was the Mustangs top runner for their state championship winning team. She ran her personal best 5,000-meter time at the Nike Hole in the Wall Invite in 18:31.4, and finished as the runner-up at the South Whidbey Carl Westling Invite and the 4A KingCo Cross Country Championships. If Redmond is looking to repeat as team champions, Hargreaves will need to have a big performance at state with a top five finish or better.
Natalie Ruzauskas, Richland
Arguably the biggest surprise last season, Natalie Ruzauskas comes into this fall riding high on a runner-up finish at the 4A state cross country meet and looking to chase bigger goals in 2020. Ruzauskas' second place state finish was run in 18:22.1, only a tenth of a second off her personal best 5,000-meter time from her first place finish at District 8 Championship meet. She also won the Mid-Columbia Conference Championship meet in a time of 18:51.7. My dark horse pick for this fall, exciting things will be coming this fall for Ruzauskas. With another top state podium finish in the making, Ruzauskas could also lead Richland to a team trophy.
Roz Slichko, Emerald Ridge
Roz Slichko made a big jump in her training last fall from her sophomore to junior year, and it showed in all the distances she ran in from two-miles to 5,000-meters. Slichko ran personal best marks in five different races throughout the season with her biggest one coming at the 4A state cross country meet as she placed third in a time of 18:22.2 for 5,000-meters after having placed 34th the year before. Other top performances from Slichko were first place finishes at the PLU Invite (19:05.1, 5,000), the Capital Invite (13:08.7, 2.23-miles), and the Tacoma Twilight (11:31.8, 2-miles). It will be tough to finish in the top five again this fall at the state meet, but Slichko has proved she is more than capable of going above and beyond.
Emily Van Valkenburg, Eastlake
From running JV her freshman year, to placing 13th at the 4A state cross country meet as a sophomore, Emily Van Valkenburg is another up and coming star making her way up to be one of the best in Washington. Van Valkenburg's 13th place state finish was ran in a time of 18:39.3, only seven seconds off her 5,000-meter personal best time of 18:32 from the Nike Hole in the Wall Invite. This spring, Van Valkenburg participated in the Solstice Party Virtual Meet where she ran the 3,200-meter in a personal best time of 10:44, almost 30 seconds faster than her state time from freshman year. Going from running over 20 minutes for 5,000-meters one year, to mid 18 minutes the next season, Van Valkenburg is the most improved runner on this list. There is a ton of potential to finish top 8 or better at state for Eastlake's top runner.
Samantha Williams, Skyview
Another runner we will get to learn more about this fall is Samantha Williams of Skyview after a stellar sophomore season which ended with a personal best 5,000-meter time of 18:29.4 and a fifth place finish at the 4A state cross country meet. Earlier in the year, Williams went on to win the Division 2 race at Nike Portland XC by over 30 seconds in a time of 18:56.4. Finished as the runner-up at the Greater St Helens League 4A District Meet running 19:13. Along with Eastlake's Van Valkenburg, Williams can see herself in the top eight next fall in what should be a very competitive 4A state meet.
The Bears went above and beyond expectations as a very young team last fall and earned themselves a third place finish in a fast 4A state championship field. Theresa Barnhart, who was one spot away from podium at state, and Faith Martinez lead a group of Bears who return all state participants into the 2020 campaign with hopes of bringing a state team title back to Maple Valley for the first time since 2011.
Halle Jenkins will be a big piece missing for Camas this fall, but the Papermakers top four returners provide enough depth for the team to put themselves in contention to win a 4A state title. Like a lot of the teams on this list, youth will play a crucial role for Camas. Katelyn Flolo takes on a new leadership role and Gracie Buzzell will build upward from her great freshman season to help the Papermakers be successful.
Emily Van Valkenburg's impressive sophomore season showed positive signs for Eastlake in what could be an exciting season for the Wolves. However, Eastlakes hopeful success won't be relied on Van Valkenburg alone. In fact, Ava Hagwell will need to take big step in her role as the No. 2 runner and get her time under 19 minutes, and perhaps even faster.
Redmond, by a long shot, has the best trio of runners for all classifications. The key figures to the Mustangs state championship team were Lili Hargreaves, Sophia Dahl (The Runner WA's Freshman of the Year last fall), and Chloe Connelly. All three girls have the potential to place top 10 or better individually at 4A state this fall. Can they repeat as team champions? If they really want to, there needs to be work done at the No. 5 runner spot.
Editor's Note: The 2020 4A girls cross country preview was compiled by track and field and cross country analyst Keenan Gray.