Updated: Sep 28, 2021
The 2020 high school cross country season was unlike anything we have ever witnessed. There were no state championships, district meets, or big invites to show who the best of the best were in Washington.
With the new season approaching in a blink of an eye, a sense of normalcy is on the horizon. After a short season of fast times and unexpected outcomes, this upcoming cross country season will be one of the most anticipated years in quite some time.
Here is your look at the top 1A individuals and teams on the girl's side to watch for in 2021.
Gabby Martin, Life Christian
Life Christian's Gabby Martin was a top-five runner in the entire state her sophomore season clocking a 5k personal best time of 17:32.8, and won the 2019 1B/2B state title by almost 90 seconds, the largest margin of victory for all 10 state meets. This past season, Martin had only competed in one race for both cross country and track running a 5k in a time of 19:16, which doesn't give us a sense of much but doesn't define where she is at as a runner. As Life Christian makes the move up to 1A this season, Martin has the opportunity of a lifetime that no other athlete, boy or girl, has ever accomplished in state history: win two state cross country titles in separate classifications.
Lara Carrion, Seton Catholic
Seton Catholic's youth has been the key to their success this past season, but it's Lara Carrion who has helped shaped the Cougar's program into what it is today. Carrion, who has a 5k personal best time of 18:12, is a two-time state podium finisher with her best finish being third place at the 2019 state meet. This spring, she won the 1A virtual state meet title running a time of 18:25.7, beating her own teammate Alexis Leone by a little over a second. Carrion ranked first in 1A for the 1,600 and 3,200 running personal best times of 5:13.97 and 11:08.53, both of which were winning times at the District 4 Championships during the track season. Carrion's legacy will be one to remember for Seton Catholic athletes, but winning a state team title will be icing on the cake to end her high school career.
Kayla Aalpoel, Meridian
Kayla Aalpoel had one of the best years of her running career. The soon-to-be Meridian senior ran a 5k personal best time of 18:27.2 to place third in the Northwest Conference Championships and broke a school record during the track season in the 3,200 running 11:12.1. The numbers are great, but it's as if Aalpoel has bigger aspirations. Aalpoel, a two-time 1A state cross country podium finisher, is one of the best competitors in the entire state and is more than capable of being a top-three finisher at this year's state meet, potentially even a runner-up. Over the last year and a half, the work she has put in should be putting herself in a good spot come racing time in Pasco.
Alexis Leone, Seton Catholic
Alexis Leone was one of the few freshmen in the state that immediately impacted her team, but this isn't your ordinary underclassman. Leone comes into the fall with the fastest returning 5k time of 17:58.9 for 1A schools and helped Seton Catholic to the virtual 1A state team title with a runner-up finish in a time of 18:26.8, only a second behind her teammate Lara Carrion. Leone also won a total of three races, including the District 4 Championship. She didn't participate with her school's track team this spring, but rather with Whisper Running Club as she competed in the mile at The Outdoor Nationals in Eugene, Oregon placing 17th in 5:12.88, and then at the Seattle Relays where she won the 1,600 in 5:07.14.
Maya Ewing, Lynden Christian
Other than one occasion, Maya Ewing's racing times weren't any indicator of improvement this last cross country season. Still, without great competition, Ewing's ability to dominate all her races showed us a ton of growth as a competitor. The Lynden Christian star won four races by an average of more than two minutes and then placed fourth in the Northwest Conference Championships running a 5k personal best time of 18:58.2. During track, no personal best times were run by Ewing, but she returned with respectable times of 5:38.73 in the 1,600 and 12:10.76 in the 3,200. As a top 16 finisher in 2019 at the 1A state meet, Ewing will have plenty of more opportunities this season to prove her worth as a top 10 runner.
Sara Cordova, Seton Catholic
Sara Cordova has also played a big role in the Seton Catholic program the last couple of seasons. In 2019, Cordova was a podium finisher at the 1A state cross country meet alongside her teammate Lara Carrion as she placed 10th overall in a time of 19:13.7. This last season, Cordova was sixth in the virtual 1A state meet clocking a time of 19:38.3, but had previously run a 5k personal best time of 19:09 earlier in the season. More personal best times came from Cordova during the track season as she ran 2:33.9 for the 800 and 5:27.96 in the 1,600.
Campbell Baker, King's
Campbell Baker's broken foot was a major setback for King's chances at winning a cross country state team title in 2019, but the Knights' top runner managed to gain a ton of confidence in a bounce-back junior year. Baker ran a season-best 5k time of 19:26.9 placing fifth in the virtual 1A state meet, leading King's to a fourth-place team finish. She also was fourth at the Emerald Sound Championship Meet. As for track, Baker did come away with a new personal best 3,200 time running 11:55.09 and two season-best times in the 800 (2:47.18) and the 1,600 (5:35.24). Another tough competitor just waiting for her chance to make her mark in a healthy year.
Teams to Watch for:
-The 2020* Seton Catholic girls were one of the most dominant teams in recent memory. Led by Lara Carrion and Alexis Leone, the Cougars won the virtual 1A state title by 56 points scoring an unofficial state meet record of 23 points, and had all six of their runners finish within the top 16 as individuals. With five of those state participants returning this fall, Seton Catholic will look to run away with the team title again and maybe even go after the 1993 Lakewood girl's 1A state meet record score of 34 points.
-Depth has played a key role for successful small-school teams the last few years, and it's looking to be in Bush's favor this coming fall with six of their seven varsity runners back. With a 48.8-second spread between their top five runners, the Blazers will be able to rely on one another when it comes to team points during a postseason run.
- La Center's all-time best team finish at the 1A state meet is runner-up, and they'll look to match that mark for the third time in program history this fall. Lauren Fox's much improved junior season showed great signs of making the state podium as an individual. However, it's going to boil down to their fourth and fifth runners to make an impact in the postseason as their current five-runner spread is four minutes, three seconds.
- The Medical Lake girls showed signs of good racing throughout the season, particularly during the mid-season, but it wasn't always consistent. Kayla Ramsey had a solid first year, while veterans Jenna Castro and Allison Payne were nowhere near their personal best times from a year ago. Teams who are consistently good throughout the year have the best success, and the Cardinals will need more of that this season if they want to bring home a trophy this fall.