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 4A individuals and teams on the boy's side to watch for in 2021.
Ethan Coleman, Olympia
Ethan Coleman truly brought back the spark we all needed for this upcoming season. The Olympia star earned the respect of so many over the course of the past year after a dominant spring season in both cross country and track. Coleman won the virtual 4A state cross country meet in a blistering 5k time of 14:39 and went undefeated in South Sound League meets to eventually winning the South Division title. As for track, Coleman ran lifetime bests in the 800 (1:54.75), the 1,600 (4:12.28), and the 3,200 (8:49.57) and took home three SPSL individual titles during the regular season. He also earned a mile win down at the Golden West Invite in California running 4:11.66 and then received an invite to compete in the prestigious Brooks PR Invite hosted in Renton for the two-mile race, where he placed fifth overall. Much is still to be proven, though, according to Coleman heading into his senior season.
Isaac Teeples, Kamiakin
Year in and year out, Isaac Teeples continues to impress us with his running performances. The 2019 3A cross country state champion compiled an undefeated racing record in the Mid-Columbia Conference this early spring season running season-best times of 14:39.5 for three miles and 15:27.3 for a 5k. He also won his second consecutive conference individual title and led Kamiakin to an 11th straight conference team title. During track, Teeples won three more MCC titles and ran lifetime bests in the 800 (1:53.41), the 1,600 (4:09.21), and the 3,200 (8:51.43). His best season performances came when he ran 4:09.21 to the 1,600 at the Tacoma High Performance meet and then ran 8:51.43 down at Stumptown placing as the runner-up in the 3,200. The Runner WA's reigning Cross Country Runner of the Year looks to become the first individual in state history to win two state cross country titles in different classifications.
Grayson Wilcott, Kamiakin
Considering it was a down year for Grayson Wilcott in cross country, expect quite the turnaround in his senior season. Wilcott ran season-best times for three miles (15:32.9) and 5k (16:16.7) in his junior year and was the runner-up at the MCC Championships behind teammates Isaac Teeples. Wilcott did make up for it during the track season when he ran new lifetimes bests in the 1,600 (4:26.53) and the 3,200 (9:23.63) and was a top-three finisher in both events at the conference championships. As a top 20 finisher at state his sophomore season, Wilcott will get his first, and last opportunity at a podium finish this fall. A potential top-five finisher.
Sam Jacobsen, Newport (Bellevue)
The jump Sam Jacobsen has made in his running career makes for an exciting senior year. Just two years ago, Jacobsen was nowhere near state competition level, and now he enters the fall season with one of the fastest returning 5k times of 15:37.9 after placing fourth overall in the virtual 4A state meet. Jacobsen was at his best though during the track season when he ran massive PR's of 1:55.69 in the 800 and 4:21.17 in the 1,600. Those times were both runner-up finishes at The Outdoor Nationals (800) and the Liberty Twilite (1,600). Jacobsen also took home three Bellevue-Mercer Island Championships in the 800, 1,600, and 4x400 relay. Expectations are going to be high after a breakout season like this one for Jacobsen.
Sean Bubernak, Jackson
It's not going to be easy to replace one of the best duos in the state from last year in Brenden Charbeneau and Jordan Hansen, but Sean Bubernak seems to be the perfect candidate to fill one of those voids this fall. Even with the lack of racing this spring, Bubernak put together three quality races for Jackson, with his best being a fourth-place run against Lake Stevens for a 4k clocking a season-best 13:27. No times were recorded for Bubernak in track this spring, but his sophomore times of 4:29.3 in the 1,600 and 9:54.4 in the 3,200 are respectable marks.
Maxim Serafimovici, Curtis
Maxim Serafimovici's first year running with Curtis didn't disappoint with the times he had put together between cross country and track. The soon-to-be senior ran a 5k personal best time of 15:48.2 on the track at the Tacoma High Performance meet but had a cross country 5k best time of 16:17.6. Other top performances in track from Serafimovici included 4:26.42 in the 1,600 and 9:39.13 in the 3,200.
Jackson Hammons, Kamiak
The jump Jackson Hammons made this past year was remarkable given where he was as a sophomore. After placing 103rd at the 2019 4A state cross country meet, Hammons found himself a top 10 finish in this year's virtual 4A state meet placing ninth in a personal best 5k time of 15:51.2. Hammons also ran an impressive 13:03.6 for a 4k in an early meet versus Jackson. Hammons' times weren't spectacular during track, although he managed to run a personal best in the 1,600 in 4:47.57 and a season-best in the 3,200 running 10:26.8.
Teams to Watch for:
- Since 2015, the Tahoma boys have become a perennial powerhouse at the 4A level. The 2020 virtual 4A state champions look to win their fourth state team title in seven years as the Bears reload for another year with a heavy veteran presence led by senior Sam Clarke and junior Daniel Castelluccio. Jack Clarke is the only returning runner with any state experience since he was on Tahoma's second-place state group in 2019, while the rest of the team will have their first opportunities to run in Pasco this season.
West Valley (Yakima)
- West Valley has been on the rise lately, but because of COVID, we haven't had the opportunity to see the Rams race against high-level competition over the last two years. A trio of sophomore runners in Caden Casteel, Elijah Krueger, and Charlie Naught are the ones to watch this season as the program's future star athletes. At the same time, Nathan Ditto looks to regain some late-season confidence after starting the year strong and finishing slower. Like Tahoma, the Rams have one runner back with any state experience in Max Hutton.
- While Isaac Teeples and Grayson Wilcott are the ones to watch for Kamiakin as individuals, this year's Braves team is loaded with sophomore talent. Three of those sophomores all ran under 16:45 for a 5k, led by Jackson Johnson at 16:24.5, and the total number of sophomores under 17:20 is six. For three year's Kamiakin dominated the 3A, and it appears their shift up to 4A won't stop any momentum from being a top-tier team at the highest classification.
- Central Valley has always been one of the most consistent teams in the state in the past decade. Their front four, led by Ethan Sheneman, are a solid bunch, but there's a giant question mark at their fifth runner. There are many teams in the hunt for a top-four finish this season, and if the Bears want to bring home another trophy, they'll need some work to do come November.