1. Grace Ping, Winona Cotter
A healthy Grace Ping is without a doubt one of the best high school runners in the nation. Already a two-time NXN All-American, her only (very mild) blemish leading up to the Minnesota State Championships this fall was a runner-up finish to the emerging elite runner Emily Covert.
However, after a nagging leg injury interrupted her training and hampered her performance at the Minnesota state championships -- where she took third in the Class A race behind Tierney Wolfgram and her sister Lauren Ping -- her status as a virtual guarantee to qualify for NXN has been cast into doubt.
Perhaps in a region with less star power, Ping could still be a confident front-runner in spite of her health status -- a Grace Ping that isn't quite 100 percent is still very difficult to beat -- but the depth of the Heartland Region could be her undoing. At the same time, in spite of her age, she has without a doubt the most experience against other elite competition, and that could still work into her favor. And if she makes it, she'll certainly be one of the biggest names to watch at NXN.