Prep cross country preview: 5 storylines to watch

Related: Archbishop Murphy’s Rauvola hoping to become top runner in 2A

Here are five storylines to watch from the local cross country scene this fall:

1. Glacier Peak will be the class of Wesco 4A boys. Most of the Grizzlies’ top runners return, including Riley McDowell, who placed 21st at last year’s 4A state meet. “McDowell is the (conference) favorite,” said Timberwolves coach Eric Hruschka. Jackson also returns most of its core group, including Joseph Skoog, who finished in 30th place at last year’s 4A state meet. Lake Stevens should also be in the mix. “Glacier Peak has to be the favorite to repeat (as conference champion),” Hruschka said. “Jackson and Lake Stevens will have to fight for the final state berth like last fall.”

2. Taylor Roe towers over the Wesco 4A girls scene. It’s impossible to ignore the achievements of Lake Stevens’ Roe, perhaps the state’s most accomplished prep distance runner. She won 4A state championships in her freshman and sophomore years, and there’s no apparent reason to think she won’t strongly contend for another championship this fall. However, Glacier Peak, featuring Brooke Wallace and Alexis Palmer, should be the top Wesco 4A team in 2017, according to Hruschka. Kamiak will challenge as well, led by Alicia Anderson, who finished second in the 1,600-meter run at last spring’s 4A state track and field meet. And “rumor is (the) Jackson girls are greatly improved,” Vikings coach Cliff Chaffee said.

3. The Edmonds-Woodway girls are a powerhouse. The Warriors finished second in the team standings at last year’s 3A state meet, and are well-positioned for a similar run this fall; three of their top four state finishers from a year ago — Yukino Parle (seventh place), Olivia Meader-Yetter (eighth) and Stephanie Wroblewski (15th) — return. They’re ranked No. 1 in the preseason 3A Washington State Cross Country Coaches Poll. Shorecrest, Snohomish, Shorewood and Stanwood should also have strong squads, Warriors coach Alan Bonney said. Other runners to watch: The Scots’ Lillian Visser (14th place at last year’s state meet) and Megan Campbell of Snohomish. On the boys side, Edmonds-Woodway is the favorite, but Bonney said Snohomish, Arlington, Everett and Shorewood should contend. Some of the top returning runners include Jordan Erickson (Everett), Colin Knechtel (Meadowdale), Dawson Andrews (Arlington), Grant Christian (Edmonds-Woodway) and Matt Goddard (Snohomish).

4. ‘Cedarcrest is a beast team.’ That’s the opinion of Cedar Park Christian coach Andy Gist, who dubbed the Red Wolves the Cascade Conference favorite on the boys and girls sides. Cedarcrest’s boys finished second in the team standings at last year’s 2A state meet and return most of their nucleus, including Grant Van Valkenburg, who finished fifth in last year’s state meet. Cedarcrest is ranked No. 1 in the preseason 2A state coaches poll. “On the boys side, the biggest storylines will be the battle up front between Josh (Rauvola of Archbishop Murphy) and Grant, as well as which of the other teams can have the better fourth and fifth runners to allow them to stand apart from the other teams,” Red Wolves coach Bruce McDowell said. On the girls side, Cedarcrest is led by Alicia Krivanek, who placed 23rd at last year’s state meet, and Elsie Dombeck. Other top runners include Megan Dorney and Mackenzie Ryan, both of Archbishop Murphy. “The biggest storylines are the impact of (King’s sophomore) Naomi (Smith) running … as well as whether King’s can dethrone Cedarcrest,” McDowell said. “The Cedarcrest girls have won the Conference title for nine straight years. Can they make it 10?”

5. There’s no doubt Smith will have an instant impact on the Cascade Conference in her first year of cross country. Smith had a great freshman season for the Knights’ track and field team, placing fourth in the 1,600 and 3,200 at the 1A state meet. She’s turning out for cross country for the first time this fall. “She will be a major contender at the conference and state level,” Knights coach Rod Wilcox said. “(She) honestly looks to be better suited for cross country with the strength required to survive the hills and trails. I have been coaching at King’s for 26 years and I haven’t seen many like her. Naomi has a combination of work ethic and talent that is very rare. She is presently running with my (boys) team to get a challenge, and she is keeping the guys on their toes. No one wants to lose to her, but not many can beat her.”

— Doug Flanagan, Herald writer

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