The 2021 track season was one of most the unique sports seasons we will ever witness in the history of Washington state high school athletics.
Like any of the sports seasons during the pandemic, it was a year with no state competition, leaving out an opportunity for the best of the best athletes to compete for glory and fulfill their legacies as Washington's best.
While those opportunities for some were put to a pause, the 2021 track season will forever be remembered as one of the most historical ones in state history, particularly on the distance side.
With so many of those distance runners from last season returning for the 2022 campaign, here is your look at the top boy's distance runners to watch for this spring.
Isaac Teeples, Kamiakin
When it came down to the final cross-country race of the season this past fall, Isaac Teeples proved to be the No. 1 runner in the state. The Kamiakin senior silenced the doubters once and for all at the 4A state meet when he defeated Olympia's Ethan Coleman by 25 seconds to win his second state title in a 5,000-meter time of 14:47.9, all while leading Kamiakin to their fourth consecutive state team title. However, that race wasn't the icing on the cake. Teeples, along with other Washington standout runners, traveled to Huntsville, Alabama, for the Garmin RunningLane Cross Country Championships and came away with a 10th place finish, running a 5k personal-best 14:23.8, which is supposedly a new Washington state high school record. When you look at Teeples' stats from the track season last spring, he ran multiple PR's, including an impressive 8:51.43 mark in the 3,200 at the Stumptown Twilight, and then 1:53.41 for the 800 and 4:09.21 for the 1,600. Expect another strong spring season from one of the all-time greats the state has ever seen as he chases after his first state track championship and the distance triple crown.
Ethan Coleman, Olympia
Give credit where credit is due. Olympia's Ethan Coleman's efforts and advocacy to promote running in Washington have helped put the Evergreen state back into the conversation as one of the nation's top distance running regions. It all started with the push for the Olympia 3,200, where Coleman got his first national recognition running 8:49.57 in one of the greatest races Washington had ever witnessed. Coleman was the top runner in the South Puget Sound League, running 1:54.75 in the 800 and 4:12.28 in the 1,600 as we went on to win three SPSL titles in each distance event. Coleman's efforts through the spring also earned him a bid to run in the Brooks PR Invite in the 3,200, completing a time of 8:51.76 to place fifth. The fall cross-country season was another steppingstone in Coleman's running progression posting a state-leading 5k time of 14:40.2 and coming away with an NXR Northwest title a week after placing second in the 4A state meet. Having already committed to run for Notre Dame next fall, Coleman will look to end his Olympia career on a high note in search of his first state championship(s).
Jamar Distel, Riverside
The confidence. The swagger. The win at all costs mentality. What isn't there to like about Jamar Distel? Through all the injuries with his IT band and changing his entire runner mechanics, the Riverside standout finally had his breakout season this past fall coming away with his first-ever state title, running a 1A state course record mark of 15:00.5. Distel also gained national attention when he threw down a personal best 14:47.8 to win the Danners Championship at Nike Portland XC, defeating the Oregon 6A champion James Crabtree from Sherwood and Washington 2A champion Cooper Quigley of Selah. During his junior track season, Distel ranked first at the 1A level in all three distance events, running 1:55.97 for the 800, 4:12.47 for the 1,600, and 9:04.97 for the 3,200. It's clear the University of Washington commit is the favorite to sweep the 1A 1,600 and 3,200 titles this spring, but where can he place himself among the nation's top runners, primarily in the 3,200? That 9:04 PR will be knocked down to 8:50 or faster for sure.
Will Schneider, Bishop Blanchet
Will Schneider is one of the most talented underclassmen Washington has seen in quite some time, and yet he still has plenty to prove this spring. Schneider took home this year's 3A state cross-country individual title in convincing fashion, running a 5k time of 15:17.1, leading Blanchet to their first state team title in 17 years. The following week he traveled to Boise for NXR Northwest and placed fifth in a stacked field of the Northwest's best competitors running 15:24.1. Before postseason running, Schneider ran two of his best racing performances of the season in a span of 12 days, running 14:54.9 to place third at Hole in the Wall, and 14:52.7 to win the Metro League Championships for the second consecutive season. Looking back at his track season this past spring, Schneider ran some of the best sophomore times in the country in each distance event including a top-10 mark in the 3,200 in 9:03.45 when he placed sixth at the Olympia 3,200. He also ran a 4:11.19 for the 1,600 at the Tacoma High Performance Meet and a 1:56.45 in the 800 to win the Metro League title. Schneider's another runner on this list in the hunt for the distance triple crown but will have to work for it when it comes to the 1,600 race in a stacked 3A field of talented mid-distance runners.
Aiden Emerson, Arlington
One of the hardest working kids in this sport found a ton of success last spring in the mid-distance races in Arlington's Aiden Emerson. Emerson enters his senior season with the No. 1 returning 800 time in Washington at 1:53.13, and third-fastest 1,600 time at 4:11.78 - both the fastest marks an Arlington runner has produced in those events the last few seasons. Another time you should be aware of is from the DMR he ran in late May with Arlington. Emerson threw down a 1:51.1 time for the 800 leg. And just to add on top of all the stats, Emerson was the only runner in Washington last season to break the two-minute barrier in the 800 five times or more. Safe to say he's pretty good at the event and will be the top contender come the state meet. As for his fall stats, Emerson ran a 5k personal best time of 15:22.6 at the Hole in the Wall Invite, placed 10th at the 3A state cross-country championships, and then finished the year with a 16th place finish at NXR Northwest.
Others to watch for:
Cooper Quigley, Selah
- The Arizona commit is good enough to win state titles at all three distance events at the 2A level, coming in with the fastest returning times of 1:54.24 in the 800, 4:16.41 in the 1,600, and 9:08.70 in the 3,200. No other 2A runner was able to keep up with him this fall, but we shall see what the spring has instore for Quigley.
Cruize Corvin, Lakes
- The son of Washington state high school running legend Curt Corvin had himself a strong cross-country season dropping his 5k time down to 15:03.6 and then placing seventh at the 3A state meet. As a sophomore in track, Cruize was ranked first in Washington in the 1,500 running 3:56.24.
Sam Jacobsen, Newport (Bellevue)
- One of the top mid-distance runners at the 4A level has shown us some early time trial performances this fall that make him an early candidate as the top 800 runner. 10 days after a fourth-place finish at the 4A state meet, Jacobsen threw down a 1:56.6 in the 800, a second off his personal best, and then a personal-best of 4:18.8 in the 1,600.
Brody Hartley, Walla Walla
- Hartley was already having a good sophomore campaign in track with the times he was running, but when he ran 4:14.89 in the 1,600 at the Tacoma High Performance Meet, that got the attention of many people around the state. However, if you talk with people who know him personally, they aren't surprised by it. He's proven to be a gamer when it comes to the biggest of stages.
Brandon Moore, Arlington
- As the old saying goes, "Save the best for last," and that's exactly what Moore did to conclude his Arlington cross-country career. But finishing second at the 3A state meet wasn't the only good thing to come out of 2021 for the Arlington standout. Earlier in the year during track, Moore was among the state's top dual threat runners in the 800 and 1,600 running personal bests of 1:56.66 and 4:16.02. Between him and his teammate, Emerson, they make up a scary good duo of mid-distance runners.
Note: The 2022 Track Preview was compiled by The Runner WA's cross country and track and field analyst Keenan Gray.