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.
From veterans to up-and-coming stars, there were so many talented girls distance runners this last spring and the cross-country season across the state that are set to compete once again this 2022 track season. Here is your first look at the top athletes to watch for in the spring.
Elle Borsheim, Bellarmine Prep
It took three years for Ella Borsheim to return to the top of the state podium, but the Bellarmine senior has worked hard for it over the years to regain the respect from those around here as one of the best to lace them up in Washington. This fall, the Washington commit ran a state 5k best time of 16:44.6 and won her second 4A state cross-country of her career beating out Skyline's Anna Callahan by eight seconds to run 17:51.1. She also led the Lions to another state trophy finish claiming fourth place. The following week after state, Borsheim had her best finish at the NXR Northwest Championships placing second overall, surpassing her previous best from her freshman season when she was third. As a junior in track, Borsheim was at her best again running personal best times of 4:45.63 in the 1,600m and 10:20.49 in the 3,200m, and a season best 2:13.11 in the 800m - all three marks are the top returning times in Washington. Her best races included a win at the Nike Rotary USATF in the 3,200 (10:20.49) and a sixth-place finish at the RunningLane Track Championships in the 1,600 (4:45.63). Completing the triple crown this season would leave a lasting mark on Borsheim's legacy, and it would be a great comeback story through the adversity she has battled against over the last few seasons.
Lily O'Donoghue-McDonald, Seattle Prep
A late start to her senior cross-country season didn't slow anything down for Lily O'Donoghue-McDonald. In fact, it turned out better than expected. The recent Harvard commit ran a season best 5k time of 17:45.2, finished second at the 3A state cross-country championships this last fall, and led Seattle Prep to a fourth-place team finish after missing half of her senior season. O'Donoghue-McDonald also placed 26th at the NXR Northwest Championships and then was 42nd at the Eastbay West Region Championships. Last spring, O'Donoghue-McDonald made big improvements in her racing, dropping her 1,600m time under five minutes to run 4:56.68, and then 10:50.08 in the 3,200m, a race where she won the Metro League title. Her sub five effort in the 1,600 was also at the Metro League Championships finishing as the runner-up. Returning as the top 1,600m runner in 3A, O'Donoghue-McDonald now sits as an early favorite to win this year's state title in the event. However, she also sits in second for the 3,200 so that's another race to keep an eye out for to see if she improves upon.
Claire Archer, Roosevelt
Claire Archer's rise to an elite runner her junior season was one of the best stories in the 2021 cross-country season, and it was exciting to finally see her race this last fall in her first real cross-country season against competition outside the Metro League. The Yale commit ran the third fastest 5k mark in 3A this fall, running 17:35.9, five seconds off her personal best, and ran in her first and only state cross-country championship placing 13th overall. While her state run wasn't her best race of the season, it was great to see a runner like herself get a chance to compete in Pasco after all the adversity she has gone through from injuries to the pandemic. After finishing her first cross-country season last spring, Archer jumped right into track and was immediately one of the best long-distance runners across the state. She finished third in both 1,600 and 3,200m races at the Metro League Championships and ran personal best times of 4:57.38 and 10:55.65. A month after those races, Archer went down to Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon to run at The Outdoor Nationals in the 5,000m and ran a 17:32.08 to place 18th overall. Just like this fall, Archer awaits her opportunity to compete at the state track meet in hopes of bringing home a couple of state medals.
Macy Marquardt, Kennewick
The expectations heading into her spring senior season are going to be high for Macy Marquardt after a dominating fall cross-country season, as she earned a ton of respect of those around the Pacific Northwest for her ability as a competitor. The Boise State commit capped off her high school cross-country career with an undefeated season, posting a 5k personal best time of 17:06.9, and claimed this year's 3A state individual title running the fastest mark of the state meet at 17:31.7. Marquardt also ranked ninth in the nation for her three-mile time, running 16:23.7 at the Richland Invite. Arguably her biggest accomplishment of the season and solidifying herself as the best in the Northwest was her first-place finish at NXR Northwest, beating out Bellarmine's Borsheim to run 17:27.8 to win the individual title. As for last spring, Marquardt posted personal best times of 5:10.11 in the 1,600m and 10:53.24 in the 3,200m, and won the Mid-Columbia Conference individual title in the 3,200. If the fall season were any indication of what is to come from Marquardt this spring, we are all in for a treat this track season. Battles between her, Seattle Prep's O'Donoghue-McDonald, and Roosevelt's Archer ought to be good ones at the 3A level.
Sydney Collier, Skyline
Rarely will you ever see a freshman make the top 10 list either in cross-country or track going into a new season, but Sydney Collier is the one exception just based on the resume she has built over the last year and a half. As an eighth grader in track running for Cascade Striders, Collier won a national championship at the AAU National Junior Olympic Games in the 3,000m running a personal best time of 10:06.03, and then finished second in the 1,500m running 4:41.38, also a personal best. As for her first season of high school running, Collier was right in the mix as one of the state's top runners in cross-country, posting a 5k personal best time of 17:31.5, and then claimed third place at the 4A state cross-country championships. She also was seventh at NXR Northwest. The beginning of what hopes to be a successful high school track career for Collier is as bright as ever based on recent successes.
Others to watch for:
Katelyn Rigg, Olympia
- Rigg had already established herself as a pretty good 800m runner based on a fifth-place finish at the 4A state meet her freshman season, but during the COVID season she got a crack at the 1,600m for the first time and made quite the first impression throwing down a 5:08.95. Combing the speed she already has with this developing endurance of a middle-distance runner, Rigg could be a top-three state finisher in both the 800 and 1600.
Anna Grabowski, Liberty (Issaquah)
- The recent Gonzaga commit had one of the most improving seasons by a distance runner in Washington last spring, specifically in the 3,200m dropping her time down by 55 seconds to 10:41.72. While Grabowski didn't race this fall due to a stress injury, the Liberty (Issaquah) star is one to keep an eye out for this spring come the state meet in May, assuming she is healthy and ready to race.
Alyvia Brown, Hazen
- Just like Olympia's Rigg, Brown has shined at the sprint level and now is starting to develop into a good middle-distance threat since beginning her high school career with Hazen. Last spring the sophomore phenom ranked first in the 800 and sixth in the 1,600m races posting times of 2:14.52 and 5:03.93 and is expected to be in the top three mix in both events at 3A state.
Natalie Ruzauskas, Richland
- One last run for Ruzauskas as a Bomber could be a good one coming off a junior year in which she ran three PR's in all distance events. She also played a big role in helping Richland claim the Mid-Columbia Conference girls' team championship last spring with a couple of runner-up finishes in the 1,600 and 3,200m races. The 2019 4A state cross-country runner-up and Eastern Washington commit ranks top five in all distance categories for returning 4A runners.
Audrey Thronson, Lewis and Clark
- Talk about another runner who made quite the leap in track as a junior in LC's Thronson. Knocking all three distance times down by over 20 seconds from her freshman season, Thronson ranks top 10 in each distance event for returning 4A runners including the fourth fastest 3,200m mark at 11:01.53. This past fall, the Tennessee commit was fourth at the 4A state cross-country meet and led a young, inexperienced Tigers team to a runner-up finish.
Note: The 2022 Track Preview was compiled by The Runner WA's cross country and track and field analyst Keenan Gray.