2021 State XC Preview: 4A/3A Races

Preview for the 2021 4A, 3A State Cross Country Championships.

The wait is finally over.


Nearly two years to the exact date, the WIAA State Cross Country Championships makes its long-awaited return to the Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco on Saturday, Nov. 6.


Here is your preview for this week's 4A and 3A races and the individuals and teams to watch for.

 

4A Boys - 3:00 p.m.

Individuals to watch: Ethan Coleman, Olympia; Isaac Teeples, Kamiakin; Ethan Pedersen, Eastlake; Sam Jacobsen, Newport (Bellevue); Grayson Wilcott, Kamiakin

When it comes to the race of the year, this 4A boy's race will be one for the records as the debate of who is the best in the state will go down between Olympia's Ethan Coleman and Kamiakin's Isaac Teeples.


Teeples looks to make history as the first-ever runner to win two cross country individual titles in separate classifications (3A, 2019), while Coleman looks to collect his first state title to add to his impressive resume.


It will be a toss-up to pick as both Coleman and Teeples come into the race with undefeated records and will meet for the first time this season. However, in their last three races against each other, Coleman has had the upper hand.


Eastlake's own Ethan Pedersen has risen into a star over the last year and should be up there in the top half of the pack. However, he hasn't run his personal best 5k time of 15:11 since late Sept. --- that was on a fast Bellevue course. Sun Willows is a much different beast than Lake Sammamish State Park.


The Runner WA pick: Ethan Coleman.


Teams to watch: Issaquah, Eastlake, Kamiakin, Tahoma

Last spring, I thought it would take Kamiakin a while to get back into the state title conversation, but then I realized they still have Isaac Teeples and Grayson Wilcott. They aren't the only ones helping this Braves team out this year, as it's also been a trio of underclassmen stepping up. On paper, it's not the most talented team out there, but they might have enough to put together a quality state meet.


Issaquah has started to come around the last couple of weeks, and they have put themselves in the conversation to be considered a state championship-caliber team. Winning the KingCo title over Eastlake and Woodinville was a confidence booster for Jerald Imai-Takemura and company. Still, they'll need another big-time team performance to win a state title possibly.


On the other hand, Eastlake did get back at Issaquah at the District 1/2 Championships, winning the team title by the sixth runner.


Tahoma is also another group performing well late in the year, especially when they scored 19 points at their conference championships. They will also need another great day of racing to repeat as champions.


The Runner WA pick: Kamiakin over Issaquah

 

4A Girls - 1:30 p.m.

Individuals to watch: Ella Borsheim, Bellarmine; Sydney Collier, Skyline; Audrey Thronson, Lewis and Clark; Anna Callahan, Skyline; Isabela Alvarado, Eisenhower

Veteran meets rookie, legacy meets future, and present meets up-and-coming. You can name this race so many different ways, but the battle between Bellarmine's Ella Borsheim and Skyline's Sydney Collier will be one of the more intriguing match-ups we see at state this year.


This race is very similar to the 2018 4A meet when freshman Ella Borsheim raced against an all-time great in Lake Stevens' Taylor Roe, in which Borsheim pulled off a shocking upset over the seven-time state champion. I'm not saying this is bound to happen again, but this is something to keep in mind when you look at the progression Collier, who's run 17:31.5 this season, has made with Skyline in her first year of high school running.


On the other side, this is something Borsheim has been working towards for the last three years. Since her disappointing 16th place finish in 2019, Borsheim has run personal bests in every distance event in track and cross country, including an early-season 5k time of 16:44, and has looked like her old self once again.


Another to keep an eye out for is Lewis and Clark's Audrey Thronson. The recent Tennessee commit has run well as of late, posting a time of 17:51 and last Saturday won the District 8 Championship. She should be in the top three mix with Borsheim and Collier. Collier's teammate, Anna Callahan, has also made some noise this season with her personal best 17:46.2 and winning the District 1 title.


The Runner WA pick: Ella Borsheim


Teams to watch: Tahoma, Lewis and Clark, Eastlake, Eisenhower

There are two storylines in this team race to consider. One is about a Tahoma squad that's been No. 1 all season long and if they can sustain their dominance to win back-to-back state titles. The other is about a Lewis and Clark team that has exceeded expectations with little varsity experience and if they can carry momentum heading to Pasco after their last few weeks of great racing.


In October, the two schools met each other in their only match-up this year at the Nike Hole in the Wall Invite. Tahoma was able to defeat LC by six points in the team race at Lakewood High School. LC's trio of Thronson, Bridget Burns, and Ella Swanson did finish ahead of Tahoma's No. 3, but the strong Bears pack, who had five girls ahead of LC's No. 4, were the deciding factor in scoring.


It's going to be a dog fight between both these teams. When it's all sudden done, this team title race could be decided by less than 10 points, just like Hole in the Wall. I believe Tahoma does have the best depth, but talent-wise, LC is a bit ahead. If LC could get three girls on the podium and steal some points away from Tahoma, the Tigers could bring home their first state title in 4 years.


You also can't leave out an Eastlake team that has performed well all year long without their top runner and Oregon State commit Emily Van Valkenburg. Freshmen Fiona Wolf and twins Sally and Jane Roos have all stepped up to fill the void of Van Valkenburg, and it's put the Wolves in a position to bring home another team trophy.


The Runner WA pick: Lewis and Clark over Tahoma

 

3A Boys - 2:30 p.m.

Individuals to watch: Will Schneider, Bishop Blanchet; Cruize Corvin, Lakes; Vincent Recupero, Bishop Blanchet; Drew Oliver, Bishop Blanchet; Carter Joy, Seattle Prep

Other than the Coleman versus Teeples race in 4A, the 3A boys race will be another fan favorite to watch between Bishop Blanchet's Will Schneider and Lakes' Cruize Corvin.


Two of the top juniors in the state are set to go head-to-head for the third time this season as each has a win against one another from previous races this year. Corvin took the first win at the Bellevue Invite when he placed second in a personal best 15:03.6, and Schneider got him back at Hole in the Wall.


Since their last race, both Schenider and Corvin picked up wins, including their respective district titles this past Saturday. Still, Schneider has been producing faster times since Hole in the Wall, including another sub 15 performance at the Metro Championships. It could take a sub 15 performance from either runner to get the state title, and I would fall in favor of Schneider pulling that off again.


Outside Schneider and Corvin, the Metro League has some incredible individuals in the mix for top-five finishes in Schneider's teammates Vincent Recupero and Drew Oliver and Seattle Prep's Carter Joy. Recupero has been the best freshman in Washington all season, while Oliver and Joy established themselves as top-tier runners this season after coming in with high expectations.


The Runner WA pick: Will Schneider


Teams to watch: Bishop Blanchet, Seattle Prep, Arlington, Mead

The Blanchet boys have certainly lived up to the hype this season since entering the year with arguably the best overall team.


There are no surprises from how their top returning runners from last spring have performed in Schneider, Oliver, and Tyler Graff, but freshman Recupero has been quite the edition to this year's team. Even guys like Will Sandnes and Johnny DiMartino have done their part in ensuring Blanchet has continued success each week.


When it's all sudden done, I think Blanchet has too much firepower for any other team to compete with. Maybe Arlington on a great day, but it's been the season of Blanchet.


Aside from who I think wins it, the second through fourth trophies are up for grabs. There's a Seattle Prep team that has had flashes of good moments, an Arlington squad hungry for a state trophy, and a Mead team crawling its way back into the top-tier team conversation. Any of these teams can make a case that they are better than one another, but they'll just have to let the racing speak for itself this Saturday.


The Runner WA pick: Bishop Blanchet over Seattle Prep

 

3A Girls - 1:00 p.m.

Individuals to watch: Macy Marquardt, Kennewick; Lily LaPorte, Bishop Blanchet; Claire Archer, Roosevelt; Lily O'Donoghue-McDonald, Seattle Prep; Alyvia Brown, Hazen

At the beginning of the year, it was up in the air for me to have an idea of who would be the frontrunner of this group. In years past, choosing Allie Janke always seemed to be the move, but this year it's Kennewick's Macy Marquardt stealing the spotlight.


Of all runners this season, no one has dominated the competition more than Marquardt. In her eight wins this year, Marquardt has finished ahead of the second-place runner by an average time of 80 seconds. Her largest margin of victory was 147 seconds at the Mid-Columbia Conference Championships. In the season finale, she will be tested when she races against a quartet of Sea-King District 2 athletes in Bishop Blanchet's Lily LaPorte, Roosevelt's Claire Archer, Seattle Prep's Lily O'Donoghue-McDonald, and Hazen's Alyvia Brown.


The way Marquardt has been aggressive in races from start to finish leads me to pick her to win the individual crown. She also hasn't suffered a defeat in cross country racing since her sophomore season, and I don't suspect she will when she races in a Kennewick uniform for the final time.


The Runner WA pick: Macy Marquardt


Teams to watch: Bishop Blanchet, Seattle Prep, Mead, Roosevelt

The Mead girls were the team to beat going into this season. They had all the weapons --- depth, a solid 1-2 punch, and every runner back from their third-place team in the 3A virtual state meet. However, a few other teams have crept up to the Panthers throughout the year and will challenge them for the 3A team title.


Look at a team like Bishop Blanchet. You'd think the number of seniors they lost from the spring team would mean it was going to be a rebuilding season. Not the case at all. It's athletes like LaPorte, Zoe Louis, and Brynn Chester who have stepped as underclassmen leading this much improved Blanchet team to greater heights.


Then there's Seattle Prep --- the defending 3A virtual state champions. The Panthers were already the target just for winning it all last spring, but like Blanchet, they too graduated many seniors and lacked varsity experience. Athletes like O'Donoghue-McDonald and Daniela Sekhar make a great duo, but it's Tegan Rain and Kat Lauinger making the immediate impact as three and four runners.


And lastly, Roosevelt. The addition of Claire Archer last spring was something the Rough Riders needed, especially since she is the only senior on this year's varsity team that is made up of freshmen and sophomores. It's not all Archer, though, as the young runners have done their part as well to put Roosevelt in top four consideration.


Another tough pick right here. I've liked what Mead has done with their depth as they have run well in strong packs, but at the end of the day, I'm going with my gut and picking the young and very talented Blanchet team that continues to impress me.


The Runner WA pick: Bishop Blanchet over Mead

 

For more information on the 2021 State Cross Country Championships, visit www.wiaa.com.

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