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 3A individuals and teams on the girl's side to watch for in 2021.
Claire Archer, Roosevelt
Injuries have been a major factor for Clarie Archer's absence from the running scene her first two years, but she finally got her opportunity to show what she is made of. Archer completed her first cross country season going undefeated in Metro League meets, including winning the league's culminating event and ran the fastest returning 3A 5k time of 17:30.6. Archer then competed in her first track season running personal best times of 4:57.38 for the 1,600 and 10:55.65 in the 3,200. Archer was a top-three finisher in both events at the Metro's culminating event, and then she completed her season down at The Outdoor Nationals at Hayward Field in Oregon as she finished 18th in the 5,000 running 17:32.08. Archer has proven she's up there with the best in Washington, but now let's see if she can chase after the state individual title in one of the most competitive 3A fields.
Anna Grabowski, Liberty (Issaquah)
Anna Grabowski was off to a solid start in her junior cross country season when she ran a new 5k personal best time of 18:30, 33 seconds faster from her 13th place run at the 2A state meet in 2019. However, when it came to the track season, that's where she was at her best. Grabowski, who was The Runner WA Most Improved award winner this past season, dropped her junior times by an enormous amount from her freshman season, going 24 seconds faster in the 1,600 running 5:04.31 and 61 seconds faster in the 3,200 running 10:41.72. She also clocked in a 2:19.36 for the 800. With this much momentum heading into her senior season, no doubt Grabowski could be in the mix for a top-three finish at state.
Macy Marquardt, Kennewick
After hearing about the kind of offseason training Macy Marquardt had, there were no surprises by the results she put together this past spring. Marquardt dominated the country season in the Mid-Columbia Conference, going undefeated in league races and winning the conference title in a 5k personal best time of 18:06.1. She then placed second overall in the virtual 3A state meet, where in 2019, her previous best finish was 39th. During track, Marquardt knocked her 1,600 time down by 41 seconds to run a new personal best 5:10.11, and then over 100 seconds in the 3,200 to run 10:53.24. She also won the conference title in the 3,200 and was third in the 1,600. Marquardt is also a standout wrestler for Kennewick, so no surprise she is the grittiest runner on this list.
Lily O'Donoghue-McDonald, Seattle Prep
Since her surprising 14th place finish at the 3A state cross country meet in 2019, Lily O'Donoghue-McDonald has grown into an elite-level runner. The Seattle Prep star won five cross country races in the Metro League this past spring and posted a new 5k personal best time of 17:44.2, ranking her top 10 individually among all classifications in Washington. However, her biggest accomplishment was when she placed fourth in the virtual 3A state meet while leading Seattle Prep to the team title. O'Donoghue-McDonald also won a Metro League title in track running a personal best 10:50.08 in the 3,200 and then was the runner-up in the 1,600 at the same meet in a personal best of 4:56.68. Between O'Donoghue-McDonald and Roosevelt's Archer, the Metro League will feature some intriguing early-season races.
Tali Braester, Lincoln (Seattle)
Another runner who will make the Metro League be must-see racing this fall is the latest star in the making: Lincoln's Tali Braester. As a freshman for the Lynx, Braester posted a 5k best 18:03.9, the second-fastest freshman time from the spring, and won five Metro League cross country races in their high school debut. They were also fourth at the Metro's culminating event and third in the virtual 3A state meet. As for track, Braester's best racing performance came at the Metro's culminating event in the 3,200 when she a ran personal best of 11:00.25 to place fourth overall. They were also 12th in the 1,600 in a personal best of 5:21.33. When you throw Braester in the mix for top state podium finishers, the Metro League has a chance to sweep first through third.
Alanna Parker, Mead