2021 XC Preview: 2A Girls

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 2A individuals and teams on the girl's side to watch for in 2021.

 

Elle Thomas, Washougal

Elle Thomas running in the Yakima XC Meet of Champions. (Keenan Gray/The Runner WA)

Washougal is on the brink of accomplishing something big this season, led by their sophomore phenom Elle Thomas. Thomas enters this fall with championship aspirations for individual and team after an impressive freshman campaign for the Panthers, running the 2A's fastest returning 5k time of 18:19.9 while leading Washougal to a GSH League and district titles in back-to-back weeks. As for the track season, Thomas suffered two defeats in 11 races but won the District 4 title in the 3,200 and was third in the 1,600. She ran personal best times of 2:25.28 in the 800, 5:12.12 in the 1,600, and 11:14.28 in the 3,200. Amelia Pullen was the latest Panther to bring home an individual crown back in 2018, and Thomas should be in the running to be the next Washougal athlete to accomplish the feat.


Jessica Frydenlund, Anacortes

Jessica Frydenlund running in a cross country meet this last spring. Photo courtesy of Anacortes Cross Country.

Jessica Frydenlund had arguably the biggest turnarounds of any athlete in Washington from her freshman to sophomore season. After placing 41st at the 2A state cross country in 2019, Frydenlund became the first Anacortes girl to win a cross country individual state title since 1977 (Jeni Troxel) as she won the virtual 2A state meet this past spring in a personal best 5k time of 18:25.3 winning by 13 seconds and led the Seahawks to the program's first-ever team title. Along with winning a state title, Frydenlund won five races during cross country and then ran personal best times in track in the 1,600 (5:24) and the 3,200 (11:23.46) and was a top-three finisher in both events at the NWC South Region Meet. Another contender in a competitive group for this falls state title run.


Kate Laurent, Ellensburg

Kate Laurent running in the Yakima XC Meet of Champions. (Keenan Gray/The Runner WA)

Another state podium finish for Kate Laurent in her junior season as she inches closer to capturing her first state title this coming fall. The Ellensburg standout finished as the runner-up in the virtual 2A state meet running a 5k season-best time of 18:38.9 while leading the Bulldogs to a second-place finish. Laurent went undefeated in CWAC cross country races ending the regular season with a conference title, and then placed second at the Sunfair Invite for the second consecutive season. During track, Laurent won two CWAC titles in the 1,600 and 4x400 relay and ran personal best times in the 800 (2:26.29) and the 1,600 (5:16.72). Laurent will look to become Ellensburg's second state champion in three years, joining her former teammate Leah Holmgren who won the title in 2019.


Gillian Spilker, Bellingham

Gillian Spilker running in the 2019 2A state cross country meet in Pasco at the Sun Willows Golf Course. Photo courtesy of Gillian Spilker.

In a rebuilding year for Bellingham, the BayHawks will rely heavily on veteran Gillian Spilker to carry the team's success. Last spring, Spilker was fourth overall in the virtual 2A state cross country meet running a personal best 5k time of 19:18.1, leading Bellingham to a fourth-place team finish and their third consecutive top-four finish at state. She also ran personal best times in her high school track debut running 2:24.90 in the 800, 5:35 in the 1,600, and 11:34.45 in the 3,200. Spilker was a top 25 finisher at the state meet back in her freshman year and come into this season as a potential top-five runner after an improved sophomore season.


Riley Pyeatt, Sequim

Riley Pyeatt is, without a doubt, the most talented athlete of this group, but could she also be the spoiler that wins it all? The two-time state cross country medalist is coming off one of her best seasons of running. Pyeatt won four races during the cross country season and ran a season-best 5k time of 19:03. Still, her track season was certainly a momentum build-up for the fall posting new personal best times in various events from sprints to distance, including a state-leading 400 time of 57.35 and the 800 where she ran 2:15.46. Speed has been in Pyeatt's favor in most races over the course of her career, but it's strength and endurance that has been a key factor for past state champions in Pasco.


Sydnee Boothby, Washougal

After a breakout sophomore season, Sydnee Boothby has what it takes to be a top-three finisher at this year's state meet. Boothby, who was 26th at the 2019 2A state meet, ran the race of her life at the GSH League Cross Country Championships this spring placing third overall in a personal-best 5k time of 18:23.8, nearly a minute faster from her best in her freshman season. In her high school track debut, Boothby placed top five in two events at the District 4 Championships taking fifth in the 800 (2:29.99) and second in the 1,600 (5:11.87), both of which were personal best efforts. Between Boothby and teammate Elle Thomas, Washougal has the best 1-2 duo for 2A runners and could finish that way at state, in no particular order.


MaryAlice Mitchell, Washington

Other than a seventh-place run of 19:44 in this year's virtual 2A state meet, MaryAlice Mitchell was in a league of her own when it came to SPSL races. The 2019 2A 800 state champion won five races during the cross country season by an average of one minute, 34 seconds, including the District 3 title in a league 5k best 20:32.1. She also went undefeated in league races during the track season, won three more league titles, and ran season-best times in the 800 (2:21.92), the 1,600 (5:20.65), and the 3,200 (12:09.6). Although she didn't have the level of running she's used to running against this spring, Mitchell is one of the best competitors on this list and runs at her highest level in the biggest of racing stages.

 

Teams to Watch for:

Anacortes

- Coming off the program's first-ever state title, the Anacortes girls are the early favorites to repeat, with five of their seven state participants returning this fall led by individual champion Jessica Frydenlund and up-and-coming freshman Carolyn Chambers. Caitlin Brar had an off-year as a junior with high expectations after placing 28th in the 2019 state meet but will look to bounce back in her senior season in hopes of making the state podium.


Washougal

- Washougal may have a young team, but they are loaded with young talent. Three of those underclassmen runners for the Panthers can finish within the top five at the state meet in sophomores Elle Thomas and Jamie Mass and junior Sydnee Boothby. They currently rank first, third, and fifth in returning 5k times. With depth like that, Washougal has a real good chance of bringing home their first-ever team title.


Ellensburg

- Ellensburg will be the oldest team this fall and return four girls from their 2019 state title run led by Kate Laurent and Rylee Leishman. Although this year's Bulldogs squad doesn't have the depth as they did two years ago, the top five returning runners are all under 22 minutes, making a case to be a top-three team in 2A.


Pullman

- The five-runner spread of 47.5 seconds Pullman had this last spring makes a return this fall and is the best of any 2A team. There aren't any individuals that are considered podium finishers in the mix as of now, but Nicole Jones and Poppy Edge are two runners on the outside that could make a jump into the top 16 by the state meet, giving the Greyhounds a greater chance of bringing home another team trophy.

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