We are roughly two months away from what is a hopeful fall sports season, and after the WIAA's decision about returning to play, which will be talking about in this preview, there is a light at the end of the tunnel for these high school athletes.
As we look ahead, here are some key points and stats to think about heading into what should be an interesting, exciting, cross country season in the state of Washington.
Will There be a Cross Country Season?
There have been speculations on both sides about whether or not there will be something, but it all boils down to what phases counties across the state are in, and the decision from the WIAA and Governor Inslee.
The Seattle Times reported on June 11 that State Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal announced he expects schools to re-open and return to in-person learning this fall as long as public health guidelines allow them to do so.
The reopening of schools would lay down the foundation of what is to come in the near future of high school sports.
The WIAA also released their Return-to-Activity Guidelines on June 22 stating how the fall sports can approach opening up again for practice and competition.
Of all the sports, cross country was determined to be lower risk, so if anything, cross country is the activity most likely to happen this fall. But, we can only hope for the best.
Re-Classifying Schools for 2020-2024 and the Impact on State XC
The WIAA compiled their new enrollment four-year cycle earlier this year in January and will go into effect this fall with plenty of schools shifting around.
The 1B classification leads all six classifications with 88 schools assigned the next four school years, followed by 3A (79), 2A (62), 2B (61), 1A (60), and 4A (51).
Because of the shift in numbers of schools assigned at each classification, there is the potential for the number of state qualifying teams to change as well.
For years it's been 16 qualified teams for each classification at state, but now those numbers could down, specifically for 1B/2B and 4A, while some could go up, specifically for 3A.
The 4A schools could shift from 16 teams to 12 teams due to the number of schools they have, and the 3A schools could bump up from 16 teams to 20 teams because of their higher number of schools.
The 1B/2B schools on the boy's side could also shift down to 12 qualifying teams due to the number of participants they have.
As for 1A and 2A, it appears they will stay the same at 16 qualifying teams and the 1B/2B girls will remain at 12 qualifying teams.
Moving Forward - North Central Girls, Kamiakin Boys
After three years of total dominance throughout the entire state, and on the national level, the North Central girls and Kamiakin boys will be taking a step back from a team perspective and look to rebuild.
North Central graduates Erinn and Mia Hill, Marie Taylor, and Amelu Ruff, arguably the greatest quadrant of senior runners the Indians have ever put together in the program's history, while Allie Janke is back for her senior season.
While Janke will be chasing after her third consecutive state cross country individual title, the rest of the team will figure out who will accompany the best long-distance runner in Washington in larger invite races.
Madison Lee and Kendall Carter have made their mark on last year's varsity team and will continue to do so again.
Tyisha Begshisown will make her varsity debut this year, but after her, it's up in the air as to who will fill the fifth through seventh runner.
As for Kamiakin, being one of the very few teams moving up to 4A, the Braves are set for the top two spots on the varsity team with reigning individual 3A state champion Isaac Teeples and Grayson Wilcott back.
After Teeples and Wilcott, not one single returning Kamiakin runner ran under 17 minutes for a 5,000-meter race, making it very difficult to attempt a four-peat state team title.
Despite the times, the Braves will be a heavy veteran team with soon-to-be seniors Jordan Sanguino, Isaac Edwards, and Kolter Lynch moving on up to varsity.
Soon-to-be juniors Forrest Hopkins and Jonathan Rexus will be in the mix as well. The depth Kamiakin has can also change the varsity team positions any day of the week.
Can't Stop and Won't Stop Sehome Boys
Steilacoom had their chance last season to end Sehome's championship dominance once and for all, especially with a large lead in the team standings with under a mile to go.
The Sentinels even had three podium finsihers, and Sehome had none.
But it's obvious that Sehome prides themselves on team first, so that's what carried them to their eighth consecutive state team title over Steilacoom.
And a ninth state title in the future is looking good for the Mariners as they return five runners from last year's team including Zack Munson and Roman Schroyer.
Not only could they win as a team, Munson could even win a state title of his own as an individual.
Munson completed a recent 5,000-meter time trial last Saturday running a time of 15:22.5, a week later following his races down at the Desert Dream Last Hurrah in Arizona. Last fall he ran 15:57.5 as a freshman.
Munson won't be the only runner on the podium for Sehome. You can expect Schroyer, Max and Jake Gargano, and Ahmed Wariyo in the mix to be considered top 16 finsihers.
I know it's really early to say, but this could be Sehome's best team ever if everything falls into place.
David-Smith vs Borsheim - Part 3
Whether it's on the track or the cross country course, the rivalry between Issaquah's Julia David-Smith and Bellarmine's Ella Borsheim is always one everyone looks forward to watching at the state meet.
David-Smith evened up the cross country state meet series to 1-1 last fall winning the 4A individual title by a landslide over Borsheim who placed 16th.
Overall, David-Smith was the better runner between the two last fall as she ran a state leading time of 17:07 for 5,000-meters, had an overall record of 9-1 in meets in Washington, and earned All-American honors at Nike Cross Nationals.
This doesn't mean Borsheim took a step back in her training, but rather some days we all don't have our best race. You do remember she won state as a freshman right?
In fact a few weeks after state concluded, Borsheim bounced back tremendously and ran in the Footlocker West Regional meet placing sixth overall to qualify for the Footlocker national meet.
With track season being cancelled, we weren't able to see them square off at state again, but both girls drove down to Arizona for the Desert Dream Last Hurrah and ran in the 3,200-meter with Borsheim placing higher than David-Smith.
At the end of the day, it doesn't matter what time you run at the beginning of the year but what you run on the day of the state meet.
This leads me to my final question: Team David-Smith or Team Borsheim?
What Freshmen Will Take the Next Step in Their Sophomore Year?
I must admit, I was pretty impressed with the class of 2024 in their debut as high school cross country runners, specifically the ones in Western Washington.
On the boy's side, there is Sehome's Zack Munson, which I already have talked about, and Bishop Blanchet's William Schneider.
Both Munson (15:57.5) and Schneider (15:39.6) were the only freshmen to break 16 minutes for a 5,000-meter race, with the next fastest freshman, Mt Spokane's Ben Sonneland, coming in at 16:09.8.
Of those three, Schneider proved he was the best of them all with a 7th place finish at the 3A state meet and was named my Freshman of the Year. Schneider will be in the mix to contend for this fall's individual 3A title.
On the girl's side, my Freshman of the Year Sophia Dahl will continue to improve this fall and help lead the Mustangs to back-to-back 4A state team titles. And not only will do she that, but she could also add an individual medal to her early high school resume.
Dahl and her teammates Lili Hargreaves and Chloe Connelly are hands down the best trio in the state. All three are capable of finishing in the top 8
Also can't forget about Monroe's Tryggve Trivett and Sehome's Evelyn Buetow; two runners who finally found their nitch at the end of the season and put together quality races at the district and state meets.
Gabby Martin is the Greatest 1B/2B Runner EVER...and Only a Junior
You're all probably thinking after reading this title, "What about Novie McCabe? Didn't she win three state titles?".
No, I didn't forget about Novie McCabe, and yes, I know she won three state championships.
Quite frankly those numbers do add up to be considered the G.O.A.T. of 1B/2B cross country, but have you seen Gabby Martin race before?
The competition level of the 1B/2B may not be as elite as the other classifications, but Martin made it pretty clear even the smallest of schools can produce one of the best runners in the state.
Running a personal best time of 17:32.8 for 5,000-meters, Martin's time ranked her fourth in the entire state and her 1B/2B state championship winning time of 17:57.5 crushes the previous 1B/2B course record of 18:20.41 ran by Oroville's Sierra Spieker.
McCabe wasn't able to break 18 minutes on the Sun Willows Golf Course during her career, so Martin has the upper hand on that.
But McCabe has two more state titles now than Martin, so McCabe wins there for now. It shouldn't come as shock though if Martin wins two more by the time she graduates.
NEA 1A Boys Teams Continue Hot Trend at State
With Lakeside of Nine Mile Falls winning their second consecutive 1A state team title this last fall, it has now been seven consecutive years that a member of the Northeast 1A League has won a cross country state team title.
The streak could perhaps be even a decade long had Charles Wright not defeated Lakeside by three points back in 2012.
Medical Lake appears to be the best returning team this fall with Quintin Collins and Reid Headrick coming back running in the mid 16 minute range, but a young Lakeside team, led by Hayden Blank, make a good case to complete a three-peat.
Can't forget about Jamar Distel and the Riverside Rams. Distel is arguably the best 1A runner coming into this fall with a personal best time of 15:32.6 and could help pull his team into the conversation of winning a state title as well.
If any team(s) can stop an NEA member from winning again this year, it's Klahowya and Cascade of Leavenworth.
Can the Arlington Boys FINALLY Live Up to the Hype?
On paper, Arlington was without a doubt ,one of the best teams coming into the 2019 season, especially after having placed third at state in a tough 3A race with four underclassmen on their varsity seven.
Quincy Fankhauser proved he could contend for a state individual title running 15:31.2 for 5,000-meters as a sophomore in 2018 and Vincent Loftis made a case to make an appearance on the state podium after his great sophomore season.
Aiden Emerson made the big jump from his freshman to sophomore year this last season running a 42 second personal best time of 15:34 in the 5,000-meter, putting himself in the conversation to be a top eight finisher at state.
But things weren't clicking the way they should have for some reason for Arlington all year.
Other than Emerson, nobody came even close to breaking 16 minutes for 5,000-meters.
Heading into the state meet this last fall, Arlington was second behind Kamiakin and ahead of Bishop Blanchet and North Central by a tiny bit.
Kamiakin went on to win the team title of course; Bishop Blanchet almost pulled off a miracle upset finishing 18 points behind Kamiakin in second; North Central finally showed up and made their presence felt finishing third; Arlington places fourth.
Was it the outcome the Eagles wanted? No, of course not. In fact, it should be the biggest motivation for them going into this fall.
Very similar to 2019, Arlington comes into 2020 as the best team in Washington on paper.
Notice the fact I didn't say, "One of" this time.