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Quite simply, a team or two is going to be left out of Nike Cross Nationals in this stacked field of national-caliber girls programs.
And that's a shame, because every single one of these clubs from the Northwest Region have arguments to be made for their entry into the national race in Portland, Oregon.
But while there are five ranked teams in the MileSplit50 top 25 national rankings, nothing is guaranteed and no team should take any of their competition lightly, especially on a course that can play fast or slow based on the conditions set in front of runners.
One year ago at this time, Bozeman and Portland Jesuit made their way to NXN following first and second-place finishes, respectively. Summit, which has improved dramatically since then, was third in that same race and was left off the at-large picks.
Historically, Bozeman's girls have won four out of the last five NXR Northwest titles, while Bend Summit has been in the picture in the top four over that span, though has never won.
Key difference this year?
Summit is as strong as it's ever been. Below is our analysis of each team in the region.
2017: 1. Bozeman (MT), 2. Jesuit (OR), 3. Summit (OR), 4. Issaquah (WA)
2016: 1. Bozeman (MT), 2. Summit (OR), 3. Sunset (OR), 4. Jackson Hole (WY)
2015: 1. Bozeman (MT), 2. Sunset (OR), 3. Summit (OR), 4. Jesuit (OR)
2014: 1. Camas (WA), 2. Coeur d'Alene (ID), 3. Summit (OR), 4. Bozeman (MT)
2013: 1. Bozeman (MT), 2. Bellarmine Prep (WA); 3. Camas (WA), 4. Coeur d'Alene (ID)
2012: 1. Coeur d'Alene (ID), 2. Camas (WA), 3. Glacier Peak (MT), 4. South Eugene (OR)
Teams To Pay Attention To:
- No. 1 Bend Summit (WA): With a 17:51.12 average and a split ranging likely below 60 seconds, the Storm have all the potential in the world to claim an automatic bid. Last year proved to be difficult with an experience Bozeman team, though Summit has proven itself a few times in 2018, including two wins over Portland Jesuit, the last coming at the Class 6A state championships recently. Four girls have produced times under 18 minutes for 5K and the squad is led by junior Fiona Max, who was 19th in this race last year. If Summit runs well, they'll be in.
- No. 6 Boise Senior (ID): The breakthrough team of 2018 could be the sleeper to win this region. At the Bob Firman Invitational earlier this year, the Braves upset No. 4 Great Oak, giving the Wolfpack their only loss of the season. That wasn't really surprising though, because Boise has some serious talent. With three potential No. 1s on their team, the Braves run strong up front and hold on in the back. They come in with a 17:56.28 average and a spread likely under 60 seconds.
- No. 7 Portland Jesuit (OR): The Portland squad may have lost to Summit twice this season, but racing is racing, and on any given day things can change. With a 18:04.50 average, Jesuit has the adequate talent. The only question will be whether the team can move its back of the lineup high in the field, avoiding too much displacement in the team scoring. If Jesuit wants to grab its second straight auto bid, it will need to have a plan that fights for position.
- No. 12 Spokane North Central (WA): The Spokane team might be the other sleeper in this region to win. They sport an 18:07.90 average and 75-second spread, led by two girls under 18 minutes and two others who likely will be under 18:30. North Central has dominated its state competition for much of the year, but a key result was at Firman, where the squad took third behind Boise Senior and Jesuit.
- No. 21 Missoula Hellgate (MT): Don't count out the Knights, who have been the class of Montana for much of the season. Their coming off their first state title in school history and a banner year where Bozeman was upset at the state meet for the first time in 11 years. Hellgate's team average of 18:37.15 is slightly behind the four teams ahead of them on this list, but it's run on Eagle Island Park a before and the Knights will be motivated following a poor showing at Firman earlier in the year. Senior Ember Stratton is charging strong, too, and she will look to get her team to NXN.
- Bozeman (MT): Ah, Bozeman. Never count out the Hawks in this meet ...ever. Historically, the program runs extremely well in big fields and understands what it takes to win. Their team average is 18:37.43 and junior Terra Trom leads the squad with a season best of 18:03.50.
- Issaquah (WA): Another sleeper which could possibly finish in the top four. The program did it last year when it wasn't expected. And surprises often occur at these deep regional fields. Led by sophomore Julia David-Smith, who is an absolutely stud with a season best of 17:16.40, the team will score low up front. But how the team positions itself in the back of its lineup will be the crucial detail. Issaquah sports an average of 18:50.40.
- Sydney Thorvaldson, Rawlins (WY): The sophomore could be the co-favorite here after setting a record in Wyoming at the state championships, pulling through the line in a career best 17:34.68. She's won every single race this year and has broken 18 minutes on her last two outings. A year ago she was third in this race with a time of 17:36.10 and went on to finish ninth at NXN.
- Tiahna Vladic, Billings (MT): The redemption story is strong for Vladic, who missed out on an auto bid to NXN by a few places. She was eighth in this race last year despite a strong showing (17:53.90), but has been driven this season unlike any before. She won seven out of eight races on the season and scored her second Montana state title in three seasons with a time of 17:40.71.
- Fiona Max, Summit (OR): You can call this Max's breakout season. She posted four times under 18 minutes, including her first Class 6A state title in Oregon with a time of 17:29.00. Not only will she be looking for a strong individual race, but she'll be leading Summit as well.
- Lexy Halladay, Mountain View (ID): If Thorvaldson is one half of a contender, Halladay is the other. She's finished second in this race two straight seasons and has qualified for NXN over the last two seasons. She's the most experienced and will be looking to finally position herself for the win on this course, a rather familiar one. But interestingly, she chose not to run at Firman earlier this season, instead opting to go to Nike Battle for the 509 in Washington, where she placed fourth. Halladay is coming off a career best outing and her third straight state title in Idaho in 17:08.73.
- Makenna Schumacher, Jesuit (OR): Schumacher will have a lot to think about in this race. Jesuit is one of the top teams in this region, but it's not a lock to make it through, so the senior will also have to think about her own race. She was 37th in the championship last year and was 132nd at NXN after making it through as a team. But Schumacher is much stronger and is coming off a runner-up finish in the Class 6A race to Max. Expect her to go out with the lead pack.
- Maggie Liebich, Boise Senior (ID): The Braves' No. 1 hasn't won any big races thus far, but her objective might be a little deeper than that. If Boise Senior expects to knock off Summit or earn an automatic bid, Liebich will have to set the tone. And she's capable. She finished third at Firman, eighth at Nike Desert Twilight and third at her state championships in Idaho.
- Kyla Becker, Portland Lincoln (OR): Let's not forget about one of Oregon's most consistent individual runners this year, either. She's logged seven times under 18 minutes and was third at the Class 6A race in Oregon. Her biggest win came at Warner Pacific, where she ran a career best of 17:24.40.
Other athletes to watch: Rosina Machu, Boise Senior; Eve Jensen, Boise Senior; Allie Janke, North Central; Ember Stratton, Hellgate; Terra Trom, Bozeman; Lucky Huelskamp, Sunset; Julia David-Smith, Issaquah, Taylor Roe, Lake Stevens.