With the high school cross-country season in Washington set to begin in February 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.
We conclude this season's rankings with a look at the runners ranked 1-10 on the girl's side.
10. Allyson Peterson, Hockinson
2019 Time: 18:26.8
2019 State: 3rd (2A), 18:26.8
2020 Time: 18:54
Analysis: Allyson Peterson is the top returning runner from the 2019 2A State Cross Country Meet with a third-place finish running a 5k personal best time of 18:26.8. However, in an odd year like this one, she won't claim a state title. That doesn't mean she doesn't have anything to prove. The Air Force Academy signee could join an elite company of great 2A runners if she were to have another breakout year, especially after her incredible junior year with her third-place state finish as well as six wins in some duals and invites.
9. Lauren Larson, Port Angeles
2019 Time: 18:21.5
2019 State: 5th (2A), 18:41.2
2020 Time: 18:01.6
Analysis: Just like Hockinson's Peterson, Lauren Larson could have capped off her impressive high school career with a first-place finish at the state meet had we been in a normal year. Larson began her junior year winning six of her first seven races, including a first-place finish at the Salt Creek Invite running 17:31 for the three-mile race. The three-time podium finisher at the 2A State Cross Country Meet is already off to an even greater start in her senior year in the COVID season running a new 5k personal best time of 18:01.6, 20 seconds faster than her previous best time that was at the Nike Hole in the Wall Invite in 2019.
8. Jasmine Muñeton, Auburn Riverside
2019 Time: 18:26.6
2019 State: 6th (4A), 18:30.4
2020 Time: N/A
Analysis: Perhaps the most underappreciated runner in the entire top 50 is Jasmine Muñeton. Just like many runners on the list, Muñeton went from just another runner competing at the state cross country meet to one of the top returners in all of Washington after a much improved junior season placing sixth in a loaded 4A state cross country field. She finally started to find her groove at the beginning of October in 2019 when she broke 19 minutes for the first time in a 5k at the Bill Kehoe South Sound Invite, and that momentum continued when she ran a 5k personal best of 18:26.6 to win the NPSL 4A League title. This level of running has also landed her a scholarship to run for Eastern Washington University next fall.
7. Roz Slichko, Emerald Ridge
2019 Time: 18:22.2
2019 State: 3rd (4A), 18:22.2
2020 Time: N/A
Analysis: It seemed as if Roz Slichko was getting better and better after each of her races as the season progressed in 2019. Starting the year with five wins, including ones at the Capital and PLU Invites, and four personal best times in four different distances, Slichko had established herself as one of the top tier runners at the 4A level. Hands down, Slichko's best race was her last of her junior year as she placed third overall at the 4A State Cross Country Meet running a 5k personal best time of 18:22.2. Given where she was ranked heading into the state meet weekend, the University of Wyoming signee surprised many people with her state performance.
6. Natalie Ruzauskas, Richland
2019 Time: 18:22
2019 State: 2nd (4A), 18:22
2020 Time: 20:05
Analysis: Who would have guessed a first-year cross country runner like Natalie Ruzausakas would have had the success she did? I wasn't surprised given what she had accomplished in her freshman track season when she qualified for the 4A state meet in the 800-Meter. But going back to my question, I will admit I didn't expect a runner-up finish at the 4A State Cross Country Meet because of the level of competition she was going against. Perhaps winning the Mid-Columbia Conference and District 8 Championships and running a 5k personal best time of 18:22 were confident boosters for Ruzauskas.
5. Emily Van Valkenburg, Eastlake
2019 Time: 18:32
2019 State: 13th (4A), 18:39.3
2020 Time: 16:57.2
Analysis: In a year where I wished we had a state meet, Emily Van Valkenburg would have been the one to watch for this year in Pasco across all races. The work she has put in over the course of the last year is truly inspiring, especially where she was her freshman year as a JV runner to now in her junior year as she would have been in the talks to win an individual state title. During COVID season, Van Valkenburg ran a 5k personal best time of 16:57.2 and a three-mile personal best time of 16:17. Arguably her best race in COVID season came at the Desert Twilight XC Festival 5k in Arizona when she won in a time 17:15.5 and defeated the reigning 4A individual champion, Issaquah's Julia David-Smith.
4. Ella Borsheim, Bellarmine Prep
2019 Time: 18:07.1
2019 State: 16th (4A), 18:46.4
2020 Time: 16:55.8
Analysis: Since her 16th place finish at the 4A State Cross Country Meet as a sophomore, Ella Borsheim has been on a tear lately in recent months in both cross country and track. In the spring of last year, Borsheim went down to Arizona for the Desert Dream Last Hurrah Invite and came away with new personal best times in the 1,600 and 3,200-meter running 4:50.3 and 10:29.49. Borsheim also beat some of the nation's most notable athletes such as Lauren and Grace Ping from Arizona in those races alone. During COVID season, Borsheim ran a new 5k personal best time of 16:55 to place second overall in the Nike Cross Virtual Championships, which is over a minute faster than her season-best time in 2019.
3. Gabby Martin, Life Christian
2019 Time: 17:32.8
2019 State: 1st (1B/2B), 17:57.5
2020 Time: N/A
Analysis: Gabby Martin established herself as the greatest 1B/2B runner of all-time just based on season performance, and with the move up to 1A this school year for Life Christian, she's on her way to becoming the best runner in 1A. Martin piled up six wins her sophomore year including ones at the Brooks Fort Steilacoom and Nike Twilight Invites, and ran a new 5k personal best time of 17:32.8 at the District 4 Championships. Following the district meet, Martin also set a new 1B/2B State Cross Country Meet record running 17:57.5 to win her first of many individual state titles beating the previous mark by 23 seconds set by Sierra Spieker of Oroville in 2013.
2. Julia David-Smith, Issaquah
2019 Time: 17:07.6
2019 State: 1st (4A), 17:26.2
2020 Time: 17:02
Analysis: Julia David-Smith's junior year was one for the books winning her first 4A State Cross Country Meet title and then earning All-American honors at the NXN Nike Cross National Meet. Heading into her senior year, David-Smith hasn't stopped that momentum in the COVID season posting a new 5k personal best time of 17:02 en route to winning the Desert Daylight XC Invite in Arizona, and then back in December placed fifth overall at the AAU Cross Country National Championships in Florida running 17:23.7. In a year unlike any other, the University of Washington commit still has plenty to prove.
1. Allie Janke, North Central
2019 Time: 17:10.1
2019 State: 1st (3A), 17:26.8
2020 Time: 16:43
Analysis: Allie Janke's late-season return her junior year was the best comeback by any runner as she overcame a hip injury to win her second 3A cross country state title. Since returning from injury last fall, Allie Janke has not only run the fastest 5k time in Washington this fall, but it's also one of the top times in the entire country for high school runners. Janke, who signed with the reigning NCAA Division 1 Cross Country National Champions, the University of Arkansas, completed a time trial in Spokane in November running a time of 16:43, crushing her old personal best mark by almost 30 seconds.
Note: The 2021 Washington Girls' Top 50 Cross Country Rankings were compiled by The Runner WA's cross country and track and field analyst Keenan Gray.