North Carolina's only returning runner from the 2011 Foot Locker Nationals, Alana Hadley, could run a few more 5K's this fall.
Nobody can ever predict what will happen over the summer, and every cross country season brings surprises (some good and some bad). So, perhaps it is best to think of these rankings as representing "Pre-Summer" rather than "Pre-Season." The list below was assembled using returning times from 2011 with consideration for improvement during spring track. As with the team rankings, the runners are divided into tiers, although in this case the third tier is huge and was impossible to separate; really, the runners from 10 to well beyond 25 could be assembled in nearly any order and it would make sense. With so many unknowns (some of the runners below could well be injured right now), these rankings should be taken with a grain of salt. They are simply interesting to look at until we have some real 2012 results to work with!
Tier 1: Returning times 17:41 and below
1. Alana Hadley (Unattached)
North Carolina's long-distance queen (she holds age-group national records at the half-marathon) has an interest in focusing a little more on the 5K this year. Clocked 17:03 in a road race two weeks ago.
2. Darby Middlebrook (Watauga)
Expect her steady improvement to continue, and for her to return from the summer fresh-minded and in great shape. Big favorite for 4A state title (she won in 2010).
3. Wesley Frazier (Unattached)
Was last fall an aberration, or is cross country just not as important to the Fraziers? Based on track fitness she could be #1, but we thought that in 2011, too.
Tier 2: Returning times 17:46 - 18:00
4. Eliza Dekker (Durham Academy)
Just continues to improve steadily. Has uncommon speed for her size, but has improved dramatically at longer races. Has been running for a years; probably no big leaps ahead.
5. Sydney Foreman (Ardrey Kell)
Made great strides in the spring, and could be poised to join the national elite, but will miss her training partner.
6. Anna McBride (Davie)
Has the ability to be a low-17 runner, and seems to be developing some well-deserved confidence in her racing ability. Fierce kick over final 800.
7. Maura McDonnell (Green Hope)
The total package: speed, strength, and determination; will have to adjust to pushing herself in races this fall. Does soccer impede her progress a little?
8. Rebekah Greengrass (Panther Creek)
Impressive consistency throughout freshman year; will be a factor as long as she continues to race aggressively. Confidence is key for her second year.
9. Brooke Gordon (T.C. Roberson)
Did not improve much last year; should be out to prove that she hasn't reached the limits of her potential yet. Great when she puts the hammer down and pushes early.
Tier 3: Returning times 18:29 and above
10. Rachel Bartolomeo (Cardinal Gibbons)
Strong soph season clearly shows that she still has improvement ahead; ran like a #1 during the spring. Get the sense she hasn't come close to potential yet.
11. Megan Sullivan (Broughton)
Focused more on running than ever before during this summer, and could take a leap forward in the fall. Plays basketball in the winter, slows her training a bit.
12. Mallary Price (Weddington)
Has made big improvements each fall season, and races best at the 5K distance. Not a burner on the track, but has improved there, as well.
13. Blake Dodge (West Carteret)
Has a lead runner's mentality, and will run what she needs to run to win; wildly talented with speed to spare. Another spring soccer player who needs strong summer training.
14. Tristin Van Ord (Chapel Hill)
Another girl who races best at 5000 meters; significant progress at the mile this spring could be a good omen; closing speed was her biggest weakness.
15. Mattie Blue (Broughton)
Perhaps a bit overshadowed by teammate's meteoric rise, but is a very good runner in her own right. Has dropped 1 min+ each CC season so far!
16. Jennie Cunningham (Pinecrest)
Will benefit from full oxygen delivery this year, and should be poised for a step forward. 5K isn't her favorite, but could sneak up the rankings.
17. Allie Castro (North Lincoln)
Big improvement from '10 to '11, and continued through spring track. Looks like she hasn't topped out yet; speed is still developing.
18. Malia Ellington (Community School)
Difficult to place because she was injured last fall, so there's no baseline to use; based on her 10:57 this spring, could be higher than this.
19. Madison Harman (Watauga)
Flies under the radar, but she races consistently and solidly; has range up to 10K, but still good on the track; will be strong college runner.
20. Mary Grace Doggett (Cardinal Gibbons)
Capable of running #1 for the crusaders when needed, such as at 2011 states. Cross country is her best season, but showed improving strength on the track.
21. Theresa Enright (Green Hope)
Stepped out of graduated seniors' shadows with 7th-place finish in 3200 at 4A outdoor meet. Will be called on to score low this year.
22. Pegah Kamrani (East Chapel Hill)
Could benefit from having a healthy Nina Pande to train with; strong 3200 indicates improvement is coming.
23. Natalie Andrejchak (Jay M. Robinson)
Great freshman cross country season followed by uneven track season; extremely competitive racer on the course.
24. Grace Morken (Carrboro)
Continues to improve all-around, but she isn't challenged at the races where she's in the best shape; have we seen her best?
25. Kayla Montgomery (Mount Tabor)
Huge improvement during track season, plus great work ethic, means another step forward is possible this fall.