The Top 12 Girls Athletes To Watch At NXR Heartland

9. Emma Atkinson, Wayzata (MN) 

In 2016, Emma Atkinson did not even qualify for her own state championship meet in Minnesota, and neither did her Wayzata team. The situation could not be more different in 2017, as Wayzata enters as the strong favorite and Atkinson seems poised for an impressive performance.

She ran her best times of the season at the Heartland region in both of her last two seasons -- 18:41 in 2015 and 18:21 in 2016 -- so she certainly seems to favor the course and she is fresh off a third-place finish at the Minnesota Class AA championships where she ran a career-best time of 17:57.

Ultimately, Atkinson's place may not matter much if Wayzata's team does what they are expected to do, but Atkinson's presence -- or that of her teammate Caroline Sassan, who has seemed attached at the hip to Atkinson at times this year -- could certainly alter the strategies of other runners gunning for one of the last qualifying spots.