NXN Girls Individual Preview: Baxter will be challenged by Efraimson and Cranny

The girls individual race at NXN will be the best individual national race of the season and perhaps the best NXN match-up in the history of the event.  

The fact that there are three favorites at the front of this race is inescapable.  The fact that one of these three will win is also just about as likely as the sun rising tomorrow morning.    

Sarah Baxter (CA) enters the season undefeated as a high schooler and a two-time defending champion.  She is arguably the best prep cross country runner  The senior runs fearlessly at the front and isn’t afraid to put away the competition early in the race and then hang on for the win.  It is a strategy that has worked very well for her in the past, but could this be the year all that changes?  She has a speed rating of 161 entering the competition but there are two others rated at 159.  

Elise Cranny (CO) has steamrolled through Colorado this year and has developed the strength to go with her scary 4:15 1500m speed.  Elise is undefeated on the year and beat a collegiate field in the Rocky Mountain Shootout with a time of 20:39 over 5.8k at 5300 feet.  She also has run in the 16:40’s two times at altitude so far this fall, a certain testament to her growing strength as a runner.  

The other runner is Alexa Efraimson (WA) who also took down an elite collegiate field at the Bill Dellinger Invite with a time of 16:35 over 5k, beating eventual NCAA runner-up Emma Bates in the process.  

Could Elise or Alexa pose a serious threat to Baxter for the overall title?  It is certainly possible and would certainly not be surprising given the credentials and race savvy these two possess.  

There is still an incredible wealth of talent behind these three, and to count anyone else out of a podium spot would certainly be a mistake.  Soph Fiona O’Keeffe (CA) is coming off a very fine race at the California state meet, winning the D1 title with the 2nd fastest time to Baxter.  Taylor Werner (MO) is a super-soph in her own right and finished 13th last year at Foot Locker as a frosh.  She has had an incredible sophomore year riddled with course records and a state title as well.  

Marissa Williams (CA) finished 8th last year at Foot Locker and comes into this race as a more experienced junior who finished just a few ticks behind Fiona at the CA state meet.  Another pair of great sophomores include sisters Bethany and Megan Hasz (MN) who went 1-2 in a strong showing out of the Heartland regional.  Two other strong contenders include Bethan Knights, the D3 CA state champion and Ella Donaghu (OR), who went toe to toe with Efraimson a few times during the year.  

A few other strong contenders include Courtney Smith (PA), Abbie McNulty (MA), Destiny Collins (CA), Sarah Robinson (CA), and Addi Zerrenner (CA).  

My pick for the individual title is Alexa Efraimson from Washington.  Her tough nature and ability to rise to the occasion and defeat elite collegians is difficult to ignore.  Of course Baxter won't just lie down and give the title away.  The finish will be very close between Alexa, Sarah, and Elise.  

See the full list of favorites with speed ratings below, courtesy of TullyRunners.com.  


Top Individual Runners (Both Team & Individual):  

Name Grade School State Speed Rating Region
Sarah Baxter 12 Simi Valley CA 161 California
Elise Cranny 12 Niwot CO 159 Southwest
Alexa Efraimson 11 Camas WA 159 Northwest
Fiona O'Keeffe 10 Davis CA 152 California
Taylor Werner 10 Ste. Genevieve MO 152 Midwest
Marissa Williams 11 Palisades Charter CA 152 California
Bethany Hasz 10 Alexandria MN 152 Heartland
Megan Hasz 10 Alexandria MN 151 Heartland
Bethan Knights 12 Northwood CA 151 California
Ella Donaghu 10 Grant OR 149 Northwest
Courtney Smith 12 Unionville PA 148 Northeast
Abbie McNulty 12 Bishop Feehan MA 148 Northeast
Destiny Collins 10 Great Oak CA 148 California
Sarah Robinson 12 Gunn CA 148 California
Addi Zerrenner 12 Dos Pueblos CA 147 California
Kelcy Welch 12 Carmel IN 145 Midwest
Annika Avery 11 Fayetteville-Manlius NY 145 New York
Paige Hofstad 10 New Braunfels TX 145 South
Leigh Moffett 12 Clovis North CA 145 California
Katie Rainsberger 10 Air Academy CO 145 Southwest
Autumn Eastman 12 Champlain Valley VT 144 Northeast
Lauren Gregory 9 Fort Collins CO 144 Southwest
Abbey Wheeler 10 Elmira District NY 143 New York
Hannah Gindlesperger 10 Summit OR 143 Northwest
McKenzie Yanek 10 Pleasant Valley IA 143 Heartland
Emma McMillan 10 Barrington RI 142 Northeast
Nora McUmber 11 Bethesda Chevy Chase MD 142 Southeast
Danielle Jones 11 Desert Vista AZ 142 Southwest
Jamie Kempfer 12 Festus MO 142 Midwest