12. Paige Horner, Johnston (IA)
Paige Horner is heading into the NXR Heartland region off a shocking win at the Iowa Class 4A championships on October 28 when she crossed the finish in a winning time of 18:04.30 to help Johnston claim its second straight team championship.
In some ways, it wasn't entirely surprising, though, considering Horner is an accomplished triathlete with plenty of cross-training miles under her belt. But Horner finished fourth on Johnston's team at state last year and hadn't won a race all season.
But the signs were there in three prior races, where Horner broke 19 minutes twice, including runner-up nods at Fort Dodge and conference. Horner should be interesting to watch here, too, especially if she can manage to stay with the lead pack and secure not only an individual bid to NXN -- that's one scenario -- but possibly also lead Johnston to a first or second-place finish. That's not out of the possibility, either.