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
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 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
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
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