After an exciting finish to the 2A state cross country championships this fall, maybe things will shift gears this spring and we could see new some state champions. Here are the top boys distance runners to watch for.
Hale Behan, Sammamish
After seeing the times Hale Behan posted last track season as a freshman, these next three seasons are a great indicator for what's to come in the future for the Sammamish runner. Ran personal best times of 4:35.7 in the 1,600 meter and 9:49.39 in the 3,200 meter. Behan broke the 16 minute barrier in a 5k for the first time in his career in the fall at the 2A state cross country meet running 15:49.8 to place seventh. It's been five years since Sammamish has had a mid-distance or a long distance runner advance to the state meet and place as well. Behan breaks the streak and makes his first of many appearances to come at Mt. Tahoma for the 2A state track meet.
Sawyer Dagan, Steilacoom
Sawyer Dagan was by far one of the most improved runners in 2019. Dagan went from a 4:57 1,600 meter runner in his freshman year of track, to a state qualifier in two events his sophomore season. Ran a personal best time at the 2A state track meet in the 3,200 meter running 9:36.17 to place 8th overall. He never ran this race his freshman year which is even more impressive. Placed 11th in the 1,600 meter running 4:33.31, but ran a personal best the week before at districts in 4:31.17. Dagan led Steilacoom to a second place team finish in the fall at the 2A state cross country meet with his fifth place finish and personal best time of 15:45.6. My dark horse pick for track, Dagan is a runner that will continue to improve based off the progression he has made each year. A top six finisher in the 1,600 and 3,200 meter races for the state meet.
Isaiah Ellis, Lynden
We all know Lynden is a sprinter and jumper school, but Isaiah Ellis is the main reason why the Lions have had a huge turnaround in their distance running program. Not only did he make it to the 2A state track meet on the 1,600 meter relay, Ellis qualified in the 800 and 1,600 meter races as well. His best placing was in the 1,600 meter taking ninth running 4:29.4, four seconds off his personal best. Placed 16th in the 800 meter preliminary round in 2:00.98, but his personal best time is 1:58.89. Ellis was 24th at the 2A state cross country meet running 16:22.6. Not necessarily the placing he wanted since he had placed fifth at state the previous season, but this was an incredibly fast year for the 2A's. His personal best 5k time is 15:53.7 at the Nike Hole in the Wall Invite. Be sure to pay attention to the 800 meter race specifically because Ellis has a good shot to take down his former teammates, Tate Hutchins, 800 meter school record as well as place in the top four at state.
Kolby Green, West Valley (Spokane)
Some people really do save their best effort for the final race of the year. Kolby Green had struggled all season long to get under 16 minutes for a 5k in cross country this last fall as his fastest time was 16:31. But something clicked for the West Valley senior that day in Pasco at the 2A state meet and he was able to run a new personal best time of 15:55.2 to place eighth overall. Ran personal best times in track of 4:27.57 in the 1,600 meter and 9:57.32 in the 3,200 meter. Only ran the 1,600 meter at the district qualifying meet, but a windy day at Central Washington University kept him from qualifying for state in this event as he ran a disappoint 4:47.92. Whatever it was to get him to run at his best at the state cross meet, Green needs to use that same effort in the spring to get past the GNL/CWAC glue meet to make it to the 2A state track meet since that is one of the fastest districts in the state right now with Pullman's Eliason Kabasenche, and Selah's Shea Mattson and Cooper Quigley.
Rafe Holz, Sedro-Woolley
Rafe Holz is the ideal runner to emulate when it comes to work ethic and determination. The Sedro-Woolley senior led the Cubs to their first ever 2A state cross country meet appearance as a team this past fall, and was their top runner as he finished third individually running a time of 15:38.9, seven seconds off his personal best. Last spring, Holz took a big step in his training from sophomore to junior year for track and qualified for the 2A stat meet in the 1,600 and 3,200 meter races. Would go on to place seventh in the 1,600 meter running 4:26.52, two seconds off his personal best, and 12th in the 3,200 meter running 9:45.35. Holz did run 9:25.16 the week before at the state qualifying meet in the 3,200 meter as a personal best mark. Knowing the type of competitor Holz is, he's a for sure top three finisher in the 1,600 meter and top two finisher in the 3,200 meter at state.
Eliason Kabasenche, Pullman
The more you watch Eliason Kabasenche race, you'll get a better understanding of how dominating he is both in cross country and track. After this last fall, Kabasenche became a two-time 2A cross country state champion after a narrow finish against Selah's Shea Mattson running a personal best time of 15:23.6. He is last year's defending 2A state track champion in the 1,600 and 3,200 meter races where he ran personal best times of 4:18.39 and 9:09.2. Not to mention winning all three distance state championship races in one year gets him the distance triple crown for high school runners. Committed to run for the University of Portland the next school year. My early season pick to win the 1,600 and 3,200 meter races. Not very many runners have claimed the triple crown title in their careers of running, but if Kabasenche were to accomplish that feat a second time, he'll go down in Washington state high school sports history as one of the most successful athletes of all time.
Shea Mattson, Selah
Shea Mattson finished the cross country season with two impressive back-to-back races. One being in the district 5 and 6 regional meet as he placed first running a personal best three mile time of 14:49 and then placed second at the 2A state meet the following weekend with a 5k personal best time of 15:24.2. Last spring was even more impressive for Mattson at the 2A state track meet in the 1,600 and 3,200 meter races. Placed second in the 1,600 meter running 4:21.53 for a personal best and third in the 3,200 meter running 9:17.24 for a personal best as well. Ran the 800 meter a few times and got below two minutes for a personal best time of 1:59.21. The Mattson versus Pullman's Kabasenche match-up is one to look forward to in the future because if Mattson can put together an incredible race or two at state in the 1,600 and 3,200 meter races, you can bet the Selah senior comes home with some first place hardware.
Josiah Nobles, Steilacoom
Steilacoom was an early season contender to knock off Sehome at the 2A state cross country championships for the team title because of Josiah Noble's great start to his senior season. For the longest time, Noble was sitting at the top of 2A rankings with a personal best time of 15:30.1, but finished 10th individually at the state meet in a time of 15:58.7. Not a bad way to end your senior season going from 79th in your junior year, but I think Nobles has something more to prove this track season. Placed seventh at the 2A state track meet last spring in the 3,200 meter running a personal best time of 9:31.38, and was 13th in the 1,600 meter running 4:36.83, five seconds off his personal best. Nobles needs confidence all season long this spring I think in order to accomplish the goals he is capable of achieving, and if he does so, he will be a top five finisher in both the 1,600 and 3,200 meter races at state.
Cooper Quigley, Selah
Like Sammamish's Behan, Cooper Quigley has a bright future in high school running. This fall, Quigley was sixth individually at the 2A state cross country meet in a personal best time of 15:48.8, a minute faster than what he ran the previous season at state. Only qualified for the 2A state track meet in one event last spring, Quigley was 12th in the 800 meter preliminary round with a personal best time of 2:00.08. Only ran the 1,600 meter two times as a freshman, but his best time was 4:36.63. Had Quigley run the 1,600 meter a few more times, he would have gotten his time down to 4:30, maybe even faster. But you can expect more racing this season from Quigley since he already has a year of racing experience. A top six finisher in the 800 and 1,600 meter races.
Alex Williams, Mountlake Terrace
It was an up and down year for Alex Williams after running a personal best time in his first 5k of the season in 15:46.1 as he wasn't able to reach that mark again. But he did end his last year of cross country with a 15th place at the 2A state meet running 15:56.8, so in my opinion, that is something to be happy about. In track last year, qualified for the 2A state meet in the 1,600 and 3,200 meter races placing 14th and 11th running 4:42.48 and 9:45.17. His personal best times ran were 4:24.52 in the 1,600 meter and 9:33.13 in the 3,200 meter. From a mental approach, Williams need to believe how good he is. I know last years state track meet results are not an indicator of who he is as a runner. If everything goes to plan, Williams is a top four finisher in the 1,600 meter and top five in the 3,200 meter.
Editor's Note: The top 2A boys distance runners list was compiled by track and field and cross country analyst Keenan Gray.