2022 State XC Preview: 4A and 3A
Previewing the top 4A and 3A individuals and teams at the 2022 State Cross Country Championships.
The time has come - the 2022 State Cross Country Championships are upon us.
Hundreds of teams and individuals will gather in Pasco at the Sun Willows Golf Course this coming weekend for what should be another memorable state championships in Washington.
I got you covered for everything you need to know with my state previews as we all look ahead at the top teams and individuals to watch for, as well as make predictions for the individual and team titles.
Teams to watch: Eastlake; Issaquah; West Valley (Yakima); Lewis and Clark; Tahoma
Outlook: Just a week after facing each other at their district meet, a rematch between Eastlake and Issaquah ought to be another great battle to conclude the year as the KingCo rivals have been at the top of the 4A rankings throughout the season. While the Eagles did win the district title, the Wolves were without No. 1 runner Ethan Pedersen, who is set to return this meet and will also be in the running for an individual title. Issaquah does have the upper hand when it comes to depth with a five-man spread of 43.2 seconds, but talent wise, Eastlake is a bit ahead with four runners under 15:50.
As for the other three teams, they all have great depth and can mix it up in the team race. Tahoma continues to build on late season success, Lewis and Clark is starting to get healthy again and West Valley has stayed consistent throughout the entire season. All three make a strong case not just to be on the podium, but possibly finish runner-up as well.
At the end of the day, Eastlake has been the superior team all season long. Head coach Troy Anderson has been known to get his kids more than ready to run fast at the state meet and I don't doubt that'll be the case this Saturday.
The Runner WA pick: Eastlake over Issaquah
Individuals to watch: Ethan Pedersen, Eastlake; Conner Wirth, Emerald Ridge; Noah Zahn, Eastlake; Isaac Briggs, Rogers (Puyallup); Brennen Rickey, Issaquah
Outlook: While the Eastlake team has proven to be dominant, their own Ethan Pedersen has shown his strengths as well with the best time in 4A at 15:07.4. That being said, this will be the first time in his career he will be really chased down by the rest of the field and it won't be an easy task to run away with the individual crown.
Runners like Emerald Ridge's Conner Wirth and Pedersen's teammate Noah Zahn have proven their worth throughout the year as top-tier contenders being second and third in the state. Someone like Rogers' Isaac Briggs can play a spoiler too and he's riding plenty of momentum after winning his district championship race over ER's Wirth in a personal best time of 15:22.7. Issaquah's Brennen Rickey may not necessarily contend for a state individual title, but he'll be doing everything in his power to get his team on top of the podium stand.
The Pedersen and Wirth match-up should be a close one. This is their type of race and falls in favor of them based on production this season.
The Runner WA pick: Ethan Pedersen
Teams to watch: Issaquah; Tahoma; Mount Si; Eastlake; Lewis and Clark
Outlook: On paper, it's a matchup you love to see. Both Issaquah and Mount Si provide talented duo of runners that have helped turn their teams in elite-level groups this year. Katherine Yahn and Mary Jane Harig are the heart and soul of the Eagles team and will be important for Issaquah's road to a championship. Same can be said for Hailey Cossey and Addison Craig for Mount Si. If the Wildcats want to pursue a title, those two will need to be high on the podium stand for sure.
Tahoma, on the other hand, remains a team built on depth and certainly relies on it for continued success. It isn't their most talented group ever assembled, but it's a team that can still get the job done as all seven runners can contribute in some fashion.
Despite injuries throughout the season and losing runners to graduation last year, both Eastlake and Lewis and Clark remain in the mix to be top-four finishers. The defending state champ Wolves have been without Fiona Wolf all season long and yet still find success with Jane and Sally Roos. LC has been able to build a new trio of runners after losing two of their three from last season as Bridget Burns, Katie Lubbe and Ella Swanson make up the ground.
I like Tahoma's odds again to take the title just like season. I wouldn't be surprised to see anything out of the ordinary on Saturday like last year when Eastlake did what they did, but this feels like it's the Bear's year to claim their first state championship since the 2011 season.
The Runner WA pick: Tahoma over Issaquah
Individuals to watch: Anna Callahan, Skyline; Rebecca O'Keefe, Skyline; Katherine Yahn, Issaquah; Lauren Hoyt, Bothell; Nicole Bissell, Central Valley
Outlook: The best duo in the state will be vying for the individual title as Skyline's Anna Callahan and Rebecca O'Keefe head into state as the top-two favorites. Callahan has been the best runner without a doubt, running a time of 17:23.6 this season and is the heavy favorite to be Runner of the Year. O'Keefe has had one of most improving seasons this year, dropping her sophomore 5k time down by almost two minutes this junior season to 17:40.8 to put herself in the individual title conversation.
Yahn of Issaquah has been right where I thought she would be this season among top-three in 4A. A third-place finish or better would be ideal for her to accomplish. However, you throw in Bothell's Lauren Hoyt and Central Valley's Nicole Bissell, who both have had incredible seasons, into the mix and it becomes even more challenging to be in the top five.
Callahan and O'Keefe should go one-two in this race. It won't be a surprise to many for that finish, but the fight for third, or perhaps anything in the top eight, is open for anyone to take.
The Runner WA pick: Anna Callahan
Teams to watch: Mt. Spokane; Bishop Blanchet; Seattle Prep; Lakes; Mead
Outlook: This will be one of the deepest field of teams assembled in recent memory. At least five, maybe six, schools make a strong case to be named state champions. The team riding high into Pasco are the Mt. Spokane Wildcats after a stellar performance at their district meet where they had a five-man spread of 31.3 seconds. The trio of Kade Brownell, Parker Westermann and Ben Smith have yet to reach their full potential and this week's state meet will be a good test to see where they are at.
The defending state champion Bishop Blanchet boys are now back at full strength after going an entire season without their trio of stars running together in Will Schneider, Vincent Recupero and Drew Oliver. The three ran for the first time together at their district meet and helped the Bears pull off a win over Metro rival Seattle Prep for the district crown. However, Seattle Prep, ranked No. 1 all season long in 3A, were without two key runners that should be expected to run this week in Pasco. The Panthers have incredible depth season led by Jack Henzke.
Other teams making a case to run well on Saturday are Lakes, Mead and even Gig Harbor. The Lancers had their best team performance of the season at districts, coming away with a district title led by duo Cruize Corvin and Zander Trevino. Mead was second to Mt. Spokane but had a really good race from their top three led by Noah Holden's runner-up finish. Gig Harbor struggled a bit at districts, but a bounce back is in store for the Tides.
At the beginning of year, it was easy to pick Blanchet to repeat after seeing what was coming back. Now that we've gone a full season, this is a race where you have to go with your gut when picking a winner. I loved what I saw from the Mt. Spokane squad at districts and that's a team really hungry to bring home the school's first-ever state title.
The Runner WA pick: Mt. Spokane over Seattle Prep
Individuals to watch: Cruize Corvin, Lakes; Brody Hartley, Walla Walla; Blake Reynolds, Central Kitsap; Luke Schmidt, Shorecrest; Micah Galeana, Gig Harbor
Outlook: For the first time since Nike Hole in the Wall, we will see Lakes' Corvin and Walla Walla's Brody Hartley face off for the second time this season for what should be an exciting part two. Corvin's been the best guy all year long in 3A, composing a time of 14:56.9 and looks as confident as ever when he takes the course. Hartley, who's committed to Notre Dame, hasn't been the center of attention but has still shown some incredible numbers in his senior campaign that includes a 14:41.8 three-mile and 15:18.7 5k times.
While Corvin and Hartley are out front, potential spoilers in the making are Shorecrest's Luke Schmidt and Gig Harbor's Micah Galeana. The two are within .5 seconds of each other's personal best times and were neck and neck with one another at Hole in the Wall. Expect the same at state. Can't forget Central Kitsap's Blake Reynolds. An unfortunate ankle sprain at his conference championship may hold him back, but perhaps the two weeks off of racing will have him ready to go to run a hopeful fast time.
In recent years, the No. 2 runner has been able to play spoilers over No. 1 (i.e., Wil Smith over Jonas Price; Isaac Teeples over Ethan Coleman). It isn't out the question to consider Hartley a state title contender, but Corvin has looked so much more confident as a runner this year than ever before. Confidence goes a long way to build on success and Corvin has had that type of swagger all season long.
The Runner WA pick: Cruize Corvin
Teams to watch: Central Kitsap; Gig Harbor; Stadium; Bishop Blanchet; Mead
Outlook: It's no secret the Central Kitsap girls have been the best team all year long in Washington. Head coach Jeremy Duplissey's squad is the most complete group from top to bottom and have the pieces to complete a dominating team performance at this year's state championships. First-year cross country runner Clare Herring has been nothing but great for the Cougars and freshman Audra Palmer is one of the better underclassmen in the state. Between those two, as well as Taylor Palmer and Catherine Vlach, this is a tough team to beat.
You also have to consider both Gig Harbor and Stadium as tough teams to beat. Last week at their district meet, the Tides managed to come away with a one point over the Tigers despite Stadium putting three girls into the top five, including champion Katelyn Galloway. Reese Morkert and Taylor Sletner have stepped up as of lately for Gig Harbor, making the Tides appear to be a much more improved team heading into state.
Bishop Blanchet and Mead are others to watch as well. Since Lily LaPorte returned a while back, Blanchet has become a better team and hopefully are wanting to make up for a poor state performance last season that saw them finish ninth. This group has much more experience this year and are primed for a top-four finish at state. Mead, the defending 3A champions, had a bit of a collapse at their district meet finishing second to Mt. Spokane. I'm expecting a bounce back for sure in Pasco and see both Charlotte Cullen and Raegan Borg on the podium stand.
This will be fun to watch unfold. If everything plays out the way they should, CK is going to be standing proud on top the podium stand. They weren't even on my radar at the beginning of the year, but this team has become something truly special over the course of three months.
The Runner WA pick: Central Kitsap over Stadium
Individuals to watch: Katelyn Galloway, Stadium; Lily LaPorte, Bishop Blanchet; Tali Braester, Lincoln (Seattle); Charlotte Pedersen, Mt. Spokane; Elektra Higgins, Peninsula
Outlook: This 3A girls field may be young, but they are fast. In a race featuring three sophomores and a junior vying for a state title, it can go anyone's way. Stadium's Katelyn Galloway has been great all season long, posting the No. 1 seed time of 18:04.8 in 3A and leading a strong Stadium squad back to the state meet for the sixth consecutive season. The other sophomore's - Blanchet's LaPorte and Peninsula's Elektra Higgins - continue to show their strengths week-in and week-out and currently rank top five in 3A. Then there's Tali Braester from Lincoln in Seattle - a junior who's been running super well as of lately and made big statements at the Metro and district Championships.
All four underclassmen have what it takes to win, but there's a first-year senior who could play spoiler. Mt. Spokane's Charlotte Pedersen is one of the toughest and grittiest runners the state has seen this year. To see what she has accomplished in her first year of cross country has been incredible given her background in running. She's just getting started and that makes her scary to race against because no one knows what to expect.
It's going to be a fun race. Regardless of what happens, this group is the future for our sport. However, the four underclassmen I mentioned are going to have opportunities to win state championships (LaPorte won one already in track), but this Saturday, I'm expecting something greater from Pedersen to really show the state, and the rest of the Northwest region, what she is capable of on the biggest of stages.
The Runner WA pick: Charlotte Pedersen