With the high school cross-country season in Washington set to begin in March of 2021, The Runner WA has put together a list of the top 50 runners to watch for this coming spring season. These rankings are based on their 2019 season performances and the 2020 COVID season this fall if they had run a time trial or virtual meet.
Here are the runners ranked 11 through 20 for the boys.
20. Aiden Emerson, Arlington
2019 Time: 15:34
2019 State: 26th (3A), 16:05.7
2020 Time: 15:33
Analysis: With an impressive freshman season, the expectations were even greater in his sophomore season for Aiden Emerson. Needless to say, he lived up to the hype in the mid-point of the fall running 15:34 and placing 10th at the prestigious Nike Hole in the Wall Invite. It was a tough ending for Emerson at the 3A state meet with a 26th place finish as he had aspirations to be on the podium. He may be chasing for an individual podium finish this season, but leading a highly talented Arlington team to the school's first state title is the biggest goal.
19. Samir Amin, North Thurston
2019 Time: 15:34.8
2019 State: 19th (3A), 15:54.7
2020 Time: N/A
Analysis: The 2020 track season would have been a great indicator of where Samir Amin could be at this fall. Known for his speed as an excellent 800-meter runner, Amin proved he can accomplish more at the 5k distance last fall running a personal best time of 15:34.8 and placing top 20 at the state cross country meet in a loaded 3A field. With improvements in his strength training, Amin is poised for a stellar senior season. Not to mention the fact he has to compete against West Central District opponents and two of the state's top athletes, Yelm's Bryce Cerkowniak and Bethel's Cameron McCann.
18. Daniel Quintana, Ilwaco
2019 Time: 15:44.5
2019 State: 1st (1B/2B), 15:55.8
2020 Time: 16:03.9
Analysis: Not many athletes can accomplish what Daniel Quintana did in his first year of running cross country. He proved himself at the state track meet that he can compete with the best his freshman year, but to win a state cross country title in a competitive 1B/2B field last fall was something extraordinary. However, given the number of athletes returning from last years state race, Quintana will have to battle it out once again with athletes like 1B/2B runner-up Justin Peck of Trout Lake and third-place finisher Kobe Deutscher of Pope John Paul II, all of who finished 10 seconds within Quintana's state winning time.
17. Rob McManus, Cashmere
2019 Time: 15:40.9
2019 State: 2nd (1A), 16:00.2
2020 Time: N/A
Analysis: Fearless would be the best way to describe Rob McManus. Whether it be at the Nike Hole in the Wall Invite or the state cross country meet, McManus steps it up on a whole other level when racing at the biggest stages in Washington. The combination of speed and strength he has showcased in his three years of running makes him one of, if not the best in Washington for small schools. As the top returning state placer, McManus is an early-season favorite to win the 1A individual crown.
16. Drew Oliver, Bishop Blanchet
2019 Time: 12:58.9 (4,000-Meters)
2019 State: N/A
2020 Time: 15:12.6
Analysis: After graduating numerous runners from last year's second-place state team, Bishop Blanchet has reloaded once again with incoming transfer Drew Oliver from Cedar Park Christian. Despite having never run in WIAA sanctioned competitions, Oliver has thrown down a 15:12.6 5k time trial this fall and had competed on the national running stage, contributing to the Rain City Flyers Club Cross Country team that won the Junior-Olympic National team title last winter in Madison Wisconsin. Also on that team was his newest teammate and Blanchet's sophomore phenom, William Schneider.
15. Grayson Wilcott, Kamiakin
2019 Time: 15:44
2019 State: 20th (3A), 15:55.2
2020 Time: 16:07.1
Analysis: Just in his first year running varsity, Grayson Wilcott proved he can run with even the fastest in the state as a sophomore. With an incredible supporting cast of teammates ahead of him last season, Wilcott went above his coach's expectations running almost a minute and a half faster from his freshman 5k time. But as those five seniors move on, the rebuilding process for Kamiakin will not only be relied on by Isaac Teeples but Wilcott as well, as he will be considered a top 10 finisher at the 4A state meet.
14. Owen Nelson, Seattle Prep
2019 Time: 16:05.1
2019 State: 54th (3A), 16:24.8
2020 Time: 14:56
Analysis: I wouldn't have expected a 16:05 5k runner in Owen Nelson to drop a 14:56 5k times this fall, but hey, it's 2020. But on a more serious note, the recent Columbia University signee is the real deal and feels he has more to prove this upcoming spring. Seattle Prep hasn't had a legit individual title contender since the Joe Hardy days, and with the work that Nelson has put in over the course of this last year, there's no reason why he shouldn't be in the conversation this season, even if it is a very tough 4A division.
13. Jordan Hansen, Jackson
2019 Time: 15:40.5
2019 State: 100th (4A), 16:39.4
2020 Time: 15:08
Analysis: From running a personal best 15:40.5 to finishing a disappointing 100th place at the 4A state meet, it was a roller-coaster type of year for Jordan Hansen last fall. But during these COVID times, much like many athletes, Hansen did plenty in the offseason to get to where he is now in his training. As he ran a new personal best 5k time of 15:08 in early November, Hansen is way ahead of where he was as a junior and now puts himself among the best in 4A. With a training partner like his teammate Brenden Charbeneau, the two make up the best duo in the state.
12. Paul Talens, Mount Si
2019 Time: 15:39.1
2019 State: 17th (4A), 15:39.1
2020 Time: 15:32
Analysis: Despite the slow start to his junior season, Paul Talens finished the year with his best-ever placing at the 4A state cross country meet taking 17th overall running 15:39.1. This fall, Talens has had a breakout COVID season as he ran his best 5k time of 15:32 and was his fastest effort since his sophomore year where he ran 15:36. With the talent and capability, big things are ahead for Talens in 2021 as the KingCo's top returning athlete, as well as one of the top 4A runners.
11. Daniel Lee, Rogers (Spokane)
2019 Time: 15:34
2019 State: 10th (3A), 15:42.6
2020 Time: N/A
Analysis: Rogers' historic cross country season last year may not have ended the way they had hoped for, but the main key to their incredible success was from none other than Daniel Lee. Just a JV runner two years ago, Lee proved he is among some of the best athletes in the state placing 10th overall at the 3A state meet and running a 5k personal best time of 15:34 in his first year of varsity running. It's been many years since Rogers has had a top-notched runner or perhaps an individual champion contender, i.e., Gerry Lindgren, but Lee shows the potential to be the best in 2A this upcoming spring.
To view previous 2021 top 50 Washington cross country rankings, click below:
Note: The 2021 Washington boys' top 50 cross country rankings were compiled by The Run Down Podcast crew of Keenan Gray, Alex McIntire, and Kyle Paulson.