NXN Northwest Girls Preview: Five Ranked Teams, Seven Ranked Individuals To Battle

Where: Eagle Island XC Course, Boise, ID
When: 2:30 p.m. CT
States: AK, HI, ID, MT, OR, WA, WY

Saucony Flo50 Teams: #15 Bozeman (MT), #16 Jesuit (OR), #18 Sunset (OR), #19 Summit (OR), bubble Mountain View (ID)
Team Challengers: Boise Senior (ID), Camas (WA), Jackson Hole (WY)
Saucony Flo50 Individuals: #10 Tiahna Vladic (MT), #14 Ember Stratton (OR), #15 Annie Hill (MT), #25 Anna Gibson (WY), bubble Eve Jensen (ID), bubble Lexy Halladay (ID) bubble Taylor Roe (WA)

2015 Team Qualifiers: Bozeman (MT), Sunset (OR)

Top Individual Returners: 1. Annie Hill (MT), 4. Tiahna Vladic (MT), 5. Kristen Garcia (WA), 6. Ember Stratton (OR), 7. Olivia Brooks (OR), 8. Hannah Tobiason (OR), 9. Kenenni Wiegand (MT), 10. Taylor Vandenborn (OR), 11. Piper Meuwissen (MT), 12. Rachel Morrin (ID)

Analysis: This race will be another exciting battle between Montana superstars Annie Hill and Tiahna Vladic, who have battled back and forth all season. Hill has more high-profile performances under her belt but Vladic won the Montana state title in 16:40.74 while her junior competitor, a two-time defending state cross country champion, faded to seventh. Both athletes enter this race with title aspirations, though Hill has traditionally bypassed NXN to compete at Foot Locker West as both races are held on the first Saturday of December. 

In the team battle, it's hard to bet against No. 15 ranked Bozeman, who return their entire varsity seven from last year's winning squad and recently won their ninth consecutive Montana Class AA state title. Vladic's Billings High squad was second to Bozeman at the state meet, 47 to 62. 

The Montana teams will have tough competition coming from the Oregon squads. No. 16 Jesuit beat No. 18 Sunset head-to-head at the Oregon Class 6A state meet, 51 to 85, while No. 19 ranked Summit won their ninth Class 5A title with just 23 points. Summit fell a few spots in the national rankings when they took third at the Nike Portland Invitational earlier this season behind Timpanogos (now No. #24) and Sunset, but it should be noted that they competed without star runner Olivia Brooks, a seven-time Oregon state champion. Both Brooks and Hannah Tobiason qualified for NXN as individuals last year.

Brooks is undefeated this year and will be in the running for the individual title, as will Sunset's top runner, No. 14 ranked Ember Stratton. She was 20th at NXN as a freshman last year. Her only loss this year is to Washington 5A state champion Jordan Oakes, a 2015 Foot Locker finalist and recent Stanford commit. 

No. 25 ranked Anna Gibson of Jackson Hole and Lexy Halladay of Mountain View are both individual and team state champions this year in Wyoming and Idaho, respectively, who figure to make an impact in both races.

Taylor Roe of Lake Stevens, Wash. is a wildcard. Her sole loss this year is to Oakes, though she actually recorded a faster time by 10 seconds in winning the Washington state cross country meet (the athletes race in separate divisions).

Team Prediction: 1. Bozeman 2. Summit

Individual Prediction: 1. Annie Hill 2. Tiahna Vladic 3. Ember Stratton 4. Anna Gibson 5. Taylor Roe

Bozeman reacts to winning the 2015 NXN Northwest Regional: