Cross country season preview: 5 storylines to watch

Lake Stevens’ Taylor Roe is back for her senior year, Warriors reload, Harris looks for an encore.

1 Can Lake Stevens’ Taylor Roe regain her spot atop the 4A girls podium? The Vikings’ long-distance-running phenom already has accomplished quite a bit in her high school career. After taking home 4A state cross country titles her freshman and sophomore years, she fell just short of a three-peat in 2017, finishing 2.6 seconds behind Lewis and Clark’s Katie Thornson. Roe, a senior, is the state’s top returner from last year’s race, with the next closest returning competitor finishing nearly 50 seconds behind the pace of 17 minute, 37.6 seconds Roe ran in 2017.

2 Edmonds-Woodway girls have big shoes to fill. The Warriors are coming off a second-place finish at the girls 3A state meet, but lost their top runner, Yukino Parle, who finished second at the state meet and is now a freshman on the Boise State University cross country team. Even without Parle, E-W returns two top-five finishers — seniors Olivia Meader-Yetter (fourth) and Stephanie Wroblewski (fifth). Warriors coach Al Bonney said he expects both to have strong senior campaigns, though Meader-Yetter is easing herself back from a stress fracture in her hip that she suffered in early April.

3 Arlington boys return a load of talent. The Eagles return six of the seven runners — four seniors and two sophomores — who helped Arlington to a ninth-place finish at the 3A state meet. Senior Noah Loftis was the Eagles’ top finisher at state as all six of the returning runners posted times under 17 minutes. Only one team (Edmonds-Woodway) that finished in front of Arlington at the state meet returns more runners from last year’s meet. Eagles coach Mike Shierk is optimistic his team is poised for another solid year with the work the runners put in in the offseason and the addition of some young talent.

“Your succes come late October is always dependent upon what you did in the summer, and our guys put in a substantial amount of work,” Shierk said. “They’ve been very consistent in their training, they made it to all of the workouts (and) they were very committed to working out as a group. We’ve also recruited some new freshmen who are really, really talented who are gonna be coming in to vie for those varsity spots.”

4 Many of Wesco’s top runners return. Both the boys’ and girls’ sides of competition will see the bulk of its top finishers return from 2017’s Wesco Cross Country Championships meet. The girls’ side graduated just two of its top-10 runners and one of its top-six. The boys’ side returns five of its top-10 and 15 of its top-20, including Jackson’s Joseph Skoog (first) and Glacier Peak’s Riley McDowell (second). It’s a stark contrast from 2017 when only one of the prior season’s top-10 finishers (McDowell) returned.

5Second-year runner from King’s poised for another big season. Junior Naomi Smith set the bar high in her first year as a cross country runner. She helped lead the Knights to a sixth-place team finish at the Class 1A state meet, finishing seventh with a time of 18:42.2, and finished first at the Cascade Conference Championships meet. The league’s next closest returner, South Whidbey sophomore Kaia Swegler-Richmond, was more than 40 seconds behind Smith’s best time.

Zac Hereth, Herald writer

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