2021 XC Preview: 3A 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 3A individuals and teams on the girl's side to watch for in 2021.

 

Claire Archer, Roosevelt

Claire Archer running in a Metro League cross country race this past spring.

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

Macy Marquardt running in a Mid-Columbia Conference cross country race last spring.

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

Alanna Parker (left) racing her twin Alexis to the finish line at the GSL 4A/3A Track Championships last spring. (Keenan Gray/The Runner WA)

If Mead will be a state title contender, they'll need to rely on their top returner in Alanna Parker to find her own individual success. Parker won only two races during the cross country season; one where she ran her 5k personal best time of 18:42.9 and finished ninth individually in the virtual 3A state meet, leading the Panthers to a third-place team finish. During track, Parker's numbers weren't anything spectacular, but she managed to improve by a significant amount from her freshman year in the 1,600 and 3,200 running 5:33.16 and 11:37.89. The biggest thing Parker will need to learn how to do this fall is leading races and winning them, giving her the confidence she needs come postseason racing.


Alexis Parker, Mead

Alexis Parker (right) racing in the 3,200 at the GSL 4A/3A Track Championships last spring. (Keenan Gray/The Runner WA)

Like her twin Alanna, Alexis Parker will need to find her success this coming season, but a bit more, to give Mead a chance to bring home a state team title. Parker ran a 5k personal best time of 18:43.3 and finished 10th individually in the virtual 3A state meet as a part of Mead's third-place team. She also posted similar numbers to what her sister did in track and ran personal best times of 5:33.61 in the 1,600 and 11:37.98 in the 3,200. Because of the similarity in running between Alexis and Alanna, their competition will be fun to watch and will only make this Mead team stronger heading into November.

 

Teams to Watch for:

Mead

- In the hope of breaking a six-year state appearance drought, the Mead girls are one of the strongest teams coming into this season with seven of their varsity runners returning. Senior twins Alanna and Alexis Parker are the heart and soul of this Mead squad looking to make some noise as individuals. Still, the team also features a group of talented sophomores led by Charlotte Cullen. It's been a long 23 years since the Panthers hoisted up their last golden runner at the state meet, and they'll have what it takes to bring it home in 2021.


Roosevelt

- Having never won a state cross country trophy in the program's history, the 2021 Roosevelt girls make a strong case to be the first to accomplish the feat. Individual state title favorite Claire Archer will look to build upon an undefeated junior year, while Avery Williams shoots for more success as a sophomore after a solid freshman year. Although the Roughriders lose four seniors to graduating, the returning runners look to be a strong core that can make up for the loss.


Gig Harbor

- Historically speaking, the Gig Harbor girls have been praised as the greatest 3A program of all time, but the Tides haven't brought home a state trophy in over a decade. Their latest trip to the state meet was in 2019 when they placed 14th, and four runners from that group return this fall. Reese Morkert is one of the four returning who had a much-improved sophomore year, dropping her 5k time down by 100 seconds, placing her on the outside of the returning top 16 runners. Another of the four was Belle Johnson, the Tides' highest finisher in 2019, placing 21st in a strong field.


Lincoln (Seattle)

- After closing the school for 38 years, Lincoln has risen into a successful program in just two short seasons since rejoining the WIAA in 2019. The Lynx were sixth in the virtual 3A state meet led by up and coming star Tali Braester who finished third individually. With most of the team comprised of sophomores and juniors, this season could be a good build-up for what's to come in 2022.

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