An end of era came to a close last fall as Adna's Austen Apperson won his final 1B/2B state cross country title for the second year in a row after another dominating performance. As Apperson moves on to run for Boise State next fall, the field becomes wide open for anyone to challenge the top spot of the 1B/2B classification.
Here are the top seven runners to watch for this upcoming season that could all be in contention to win a state title.
Noah Phillips - Northwest Christian (Lacey)
The top returning runner at the 1B/2B level looks to have a breakout season and win his first state championship. Last year, Phillips was the runner-up at the state cross meet where he ran 16:21.3 on the new course. He did run a personal best time the week before at the District Four meet in a time of 15:40.5. During track last spring, Phillips qualified for the 2B state meet in all three distance events where he placed sixth in all of them. The only runner to break 16 minutes that return, Phillips is a force to reckon with when it comes to distance farther than two miles.
Addison Smee - Kalama
For the most part, Smee was a very consistent runner in the fall as six of his seven 5k's were run in the 16 minute range. Smee ran a personal best time of 16:02.7 at the District Four meet and then placed fourth overall the following week at the state meet in 16:37.7. In the spring, Smee had a great first outing in the 3,200 meter as he ran a personal best time of 9:59.87, but wasn't able to get back down to that time towards the end of the year. He placed seventh in the 1,600 meter and fifth in the 3,200 at the 2B state meet. Smee is a top three finisher for this upcoming fall at the state meet.
Cameron Nielsen - Northwest Christian (Lacey)
The second Navigator to make our list, Nielson had an improving junior season this last fall from his sophomore season. He placed eighth overall at the 1B/2B state meet helping the Navigators to their fifth consecutive team title. He also dropped his 5k time by 35 seconds as his new personal best is 16:18.1, which was run at the District Four meet. Best performance last fall was his win at the King's Cross Invite. In the spring, Nielsen placed seventh in the 3,200 at the 2B state meet running 10:27.01. Could we see a 1-2 sweep from Nielsen and his teammate Phillips at the state meet? Chances are good.
Justin Peck - Trout Lake
Despite his absence from the state meet last year, Trout Lake's Peck is the fourth fastest runner returning from the fall at this level with a personal best time of 16:24.6. However, his freshman year he did make it to the 1B/2B state meet where he placed sixth overall in 16:34.4. During track, Peck ran personal best times in the 1,600 and 3,200 at the 1B state meet. He placed third in the 1,600 and 3,200 running times of 4:37.19 and 10:06.68.