Taking a step back to the fall season, I stated that I had no idea who was going to do well in cross country for 2A girls. It was a toss up between multiple athletes, but after the season concluded, I got a better understanding of who were the best runners, and a lot of them will show their talents this spring. Here are the top 2A girls distance runners to watch for.
Kynzie DeLeon, Port Angeles
In only her second season of cross country, Kynzie DeLeon continued to impress people. Showing great signs in her first year of cross country placing 10th at the 2A state cross country meet last season, DeLeon finished 21st this fall in a time of 19:34.2, but ran a personal best time of 18:53.4 earlier in the season at the Hole in the Wall Invite. Aside from the placing at state, it was a solid year for DeLeon. During track last spring, DeLeon qualified for the state meet in the 1,600 and 3,200 meter races and went on to run new personal best times of 5:19.86 and 11:24.05. Placed 13th in the 1,600 meter and 10th in the 3,200 meter. DeLeon makes another trip to state this year in both of her events, but this time will make a podium appearance.
Annika Esvelt, West Valley (Spokane)
There were big expectations for Annika Esvelt this cross country season after an impressive finish to her junior track season. Looking back at track season, Esvelt was a state podium finisher in the 1,600 meter placing eighth in a personal best time of 5:11.7 and seventh in the 3,200 meter in a personal best time of 11:04.3. But injuries plagued the West Valley senior from performing at her best at the 2A state cross country meet as she placed 20th running 19:29.6, 19 seconds off her personal best mark. She was a contributing member to the Eagles fourth place team at the state cross meet and on the state championship winning team in 2018. Esvelt has still lots to prove this track season and has the ability to live up to the hype that she created for herself in the spring last year. As long as she's healthy, Esvelt is a top five finisher in both the 1,600 and 3,200 meter races at state.
Cameron Hodges, Sehome
You can argue that Cameron Hodges is one of the best 800 meter runners to come through the historic Sehome track and field program. With three state appearances and three podium finishes throughout her career in this event, Hodges is an early season contender for the 2A state 800 meter title. Placed fifth last season at state running a time of 2:18.7, but has a personal best time of 2:16.08 from her sophomore season. Hodges is also a great 1,600 meter runner even though she didn't move on to state last spring in the event. In her sophomore season, she ran her 1,600 meter personal best time of 5:07.9 and then 10 days later place 10th at state. Occasionally will throw down in a 400 meter race as her personal best time is 61.2 seconds. Both speed and strength makes Hodges a terrific all-around athlete on the track.
Leah Holmgren, Ellensburg
When this school year is over, Leah Holmgren will be forever known as the greatest Ellensburg High School distance runner in both cross country and track and field on the girls side. It has been the start of a historical year for Holmgren as she went on to win the 2A state cross country individual title this past fall running a time of 18:16.4 and lead the Bulldogs to the programs first ever cross country state team title. Ran a personal best time of 17:58.3 at the Hole in the Wall Invite. Last spring, Holmgren was sixth in the 1,600 meter and fifth in the 3,200 meter at the 2A state track meet running personal best times of 5:03.85 and 10:57.38. Committed to run for the Idaho Vandals the next school year. Holmgren is my early season favorite to win two state individual titles in the 1,600 and 3,200 meter races.
Lucia Ianello, Columbia River
It appeared to be a roller coaster type of a track season for Lucia Ianello last spring, but ended on a positive note I would say. Ianello qualified for the 2A state meet in the 800 meter where she placed fourth overall in finals in a personal best time of 2:18.45. Ianello joined the Columbia River soccer team this fall after running cross country for a year and was a member of the varsity team that won the 2A state championship. Her sophomore year of running cross country she placed 16th at the 2A state meet in a time of 19:53.6. Ran a personal best time earlier that season at the Merriweather National Cross Country Classic in a time of 18:33.1. Don't let her sophomore times in the 1,600 and 3,200 meter fool you though. Just look back at her freshman year when she ran 5:02.47 to place fourth in the 1,600 meter at state, and ran 11:47.65 in the 3,200 meter. Although Ianello didn't run cross country this year, she will still have the strength from soccer to help her to be a potential top four finisher in the 800 meter, and if she continues with the 1,600 meter, a top eight finisher in that as well at state.
Lauren Larson, Port Angeles
To place in the top eight in three events at the state track meet is a great accomplishment, but you rarely see that at the 2A, 3A, or 4A level. Lauren Larson is among a small group of athletes to do this in the 800, 1,600, and 3,200 meter races. Larson was second in the 800 and 3,200 meter running times of 2:14.47 and 10:54.11 and third in the 1,600 meter running a time of 5:03.04 at the 2A state meet last spring. All those times were ran in a span of three days and are new personal best marks for Larson. In the fall, Larson was fifth at the 2A state cross country meet running a time of 18:41.2, only 20 seconds off her personal best from the Hole in the Wall Invite. I may have picked Ellensburg's Holmgren to take home the 1,600 and 3,200 meter state crowns, but I am not doubting that Larson can do the same thing. After all, Larson was the runner-up in two events and a top three finisher in another. I will say Larson is my top pick to win the 800 meter state crown.
Kate Laurent, Ellensburg
Leah Holmgren may have been the main reason Ellensburg won the 2A state cross country team title, but without Kate Laurent, there might be a different school with their name carved on the golden runner. Laurent, only a sophomore, was fourth at the state meet this last fall running a time of 18:38.7. Ran a personal best time of 18:33.4 at the Hole in the Wall Invite. As a freshman in track, Laurent ran personal best times of 5:31.09 and 11:55.08 in the 1,600 and 3,200 meter races. Didn't qualify for state in track last year but Laurent is my dark horse pick for track because of the great signs she showed this past cross country season. Look out for her in the 1,600 and 3,200 meter races as she is capable of placing top eight in both at state, although she will have to get past a tough district, which includes her teammate Holmgren and West Valley's Annika Esvelt.
MaryAlice Mitchell, Washington
MaryAlice Mitchell is the only runner on this list that returns as a state champion from the track season a year ago, and she is only going to be a sophomore this coming spring. Mitchell won the 2A 800 meter state final in a personal best time of 2:14.08 after starting the year out at 2:28.3 in her first meet. She was also fourth in the 1,600 meter in another personal best time of 5:03.7. In the fall, Mitchell placed eighth at the 2A state cross country meet in a time of 18:56.5. Ran a personal best the week before at the district meet in a time of 18:46. When I had the opportunity to interview Mitchell this past fall, what stood out the most to me about her is her willingness to lay it all out on the track, and cross country course, and not be scared to push herself. This not only makes her a great competitor, but shows how much time and effort she is willing to put the work in. That's why the Mitchell and Port Angeles' Larson 800 meter state match-up will be the best one of the three distance races at Mount Tahoma High School in late May.
Allyson Peterson, Hockinson
When it came to big races this past fall, Allyson Peterson always brought her best effort and wasn't afraid to race with high level competition. The Hawks top runner was third overall at the 2A state cross country meet in a personal best time of 18:26.8. Even though Peterson lost by 10 seconds in that race, had you watched the entirety of it, you knew she was in the mix to win from the start. Last spring, Peterson placed eighth in the 3,200 meter running a personal best time of 11:04.93, and 11th in the 1,600 meter running 5:19, only nine seconds off her personal best. Peterson will break the 11 minute barrier this season in the 3,200 meter and be a top four finisher at state, while in the 1,600 meter she will hit the 5:07-08 mark and will be a top six finisher at state.
Makenna Pittman, Bellingham
To go from running the 300 meter hurdles and the 400 meter races your freshman year, to then changing events your sophomore year to the 800 meter and 1,600 meter is quite a jump. Makenna Pittman seemed to adjust pretty well to it. It took personal best effort for Pittman every race to claim her spot on the podium at the 2A state track meet in the 800 meter as she was able to place sixth in a time of 2:18.95. Ran a personal best in the 1,600 meter at the district meet in a time of 5:20.31 and missed by one spot to qualify for state. Pittman will get back to state in the 800 meter, and make a 1,600 meter appearance as well for the first time being one of the top returning runners in her district.
Editor's Note: The top 2A girls distance runners list was compiled by track and field and cross country analyst Keenan Gray.