The Fab 15: The Top Girls Contenders At RunningLane

* Air Academy's Bethany Michalak (left to right), Newbury Park's Samantha McDonnell, Mira Costa's Dalia Frias and Olathe North's Anjali Hocker-Singh are all top athletes to watch at Garmin RXC2

Photo Credit: MileSplit

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Jenna Hutchins made history in 2020, becoming the first girl in high school history to dip below 16 minutes for 5K at the RunningLane National Cross Country Championships. 

What's in store for Year 2? 

For starters, the national-level girls field is much deeper than it was in 2020, and within that field includes 14 girls with seed times under 17 minutes. Only two girls broke that barrier a year ago -- and one of them is back, by the way. 

Saturday's race could feature incredible performances all around. 

Yesterday, we laid out a selection of the 15 best boys runners headed to RXC2.

Today, we've selected 15 of the top girls heading into the 2021 Garmin RunningLane Championships on Saturday in Huntsville, Alabama, and gave you our insight into their chances. 

Related Links

Watch The 2021 Garmin RunningLane Cross Country Championships LIVE on MileSplit

The Big 15: The Top Boys To Watch At RunningLane

Injury Notes: East Greenwich's Reese Fahys will not be competing on Saturday at RXC2.

1. Natalie Cook, Flower Mound (TX)

Class of 2022


The Texan may be the best bet to win on Saturday after an exceptional performance at the UIL Class 6A Championships, where she crossed the line in a career-best and U.S. No. 1 time of 16:32.40. An equal performance came just a few weeks later at the Eastbay South Regional on Nov. 27, with Cook clocking another sub-16:40 effort in 16:38.05, which qualified her for the Eastbay Cross Country Championships. 

Late season consistency is what this game is all about, and Cook has showed poise in two difficult races in recent weeks. With RunningLane on Saturday, she'll get a fast course and an even better field. Can she ace another test? Cook signed with Oklahoma State in November. 

2. Dalia Frias, Manhattan Beach Mira Costa (CA)

Class of 2022


A late signee for RXC2 after a brilliant performance at the CIF Division 2 Championships at Woodward Park, Frias will be a true contender for an individual title alongside a talented pool of female candidates. You don't have to look far to understand why. 

Frias clocked a winning-time of 16:52.00 on Nov. 27 at the state championships in California, capping off a season that included seven wins and a U.S. No. 1 three-mile best of 15:43.50 at the Woodbridge Cross Country Classic on Sept. 18.

Frias logged big wins at Mt. SAC and the CIF SS Division Prelims and the SS Championships. But at RunningLane, she'll face the best national field she'll get all year. She signed with Duke in November. 

3. Samantha McDonnell, Newbury Park (CA)

Class of 2022


Few runners should be as motivated as McDonnell heading into Saturday. She lost a heartbreaker at the CIF Division I Championships on Nov. 27, finishing second at the state championships in 17:08.70. But generally, McDonnell has been at the top of her game all season long, clocking a three-mile best of 15:54.60 at the Woodbridge Cross Country Classic on Sept. 18. That performance only trailed Frias and still stands at No. 2 in the country. 

McDonnell's biggest win came at Clovis, where she ran a winning time of 17:02.10. If McDonnell plays her cards right on Saturday, she'll be among the contenders to win when all is said and done.

4. Riley Stewart, Cherry Creek (CO)

Class of 2022


The girls race is wide open, and Stewart is square in the middle of the hunt following her outstanding performance at the Eastbay Midwest Regional, where she took charge and won in a time of 16:54.40. Only Anna Rohrer, the former Indiana legend and two-time Foot Locker Nationals winner, was faster ... by 0.4 seconds.

Stewart, too, qualified herself through to the Eastbay Cross Country Championships on Dec. 11. 

But if she wants to cross off another bucket list item, she would do well to compete for a win here. Beating the likes of Frias, McDonnell and Cook, among others, is no small order. But Stewart has won five out of seven races. She's been in the hunt in every single race, too, just a few seconds off from winning every one of them. If Stewarts wins on Saturday, she could even jumpstart a Cherry Creek team that could very well contend for a team title, too. Stewart is headed to Stanford next fall. 

5. Cameron McConnell, Lubbock Canyon Randall (TX)

Class of 2022


McConnell's last high season season was spent in Texas after three stellar years at Cherokee Trail in Colorado. In the Northwestern corner of the Lone Star State, McConnell won nine straight races, including the UIL Class 5A Championship on Nov. 6 in 17:15.40. Her best performance came on Oct. 2 when she clocked a time of 17:06.80. No race, however, is quite as loaded as the field at RunningLane, and so McConnell will get a shot of adrenaline as she surges off the line on Saturday. 

Saying all that, though, McConnell should be ready. She ran at Team Nationals in 2019 and was fifth at the Team Southwest Regional that same season. She should draw from a memory bank of experiences and she'll surely have all the prerequisite skills to compete. McConnell will join Cook at Oklahoma State next fall. 

6. Chloe Foerster, Portland Jesuit (OR)

Class of 2024


Foerster should have two goals for Saturday: Run well individually, and prepare Jesuit for a proper finish. The Oregon squad is currently ranked No. 9 in the most recent MileSplit50 girls rankings, while Foerster is the team's legitimate No. 1, with a personal best 5K time of 16:51.60 from Oct. 27. 

Foerster's only loss came at the OSAA Class 6A State Championships, where she battled with Lake Oswego's Kate Peters and finished in the runner-up position. But if Peters is one of the country's top runners, so too is Foerster, who was just seven seconds shy of her at state. On Saturday, Foerster could be one of those runners who comes up with a big performance late. 

7. Bethany Michalak,  Air Academy (CO)

Class of 2024


It's been over a month since Michalak took a DNF at the Colorado Class 4A State Championships, and you have to bet that she's been itching to get back on the course. The star sophomore from Colorado posted three wins on the season at Cheyenne Mountain, Liberty Bell and at Region, and her only loss came to Lauren Ping at the Desert Twilight XC Festival. 

It was at Desert Twilight, though, where Michalak set a personal best time of 16:54.80. John Hunt Park's fast sections are tailor made for Michalak and so we expect her to be fully in control of her fate on Saturday. 

8. Ava ParekhChicago Latin (IL)

Class of 2022


Parekeh was undefeated in Illinois across the 2021 season. Her only losses came at the Roy Griak Invitational in Minnesota, where she finished second to Ali Weimer, and at the Eastbay Midwest Region, where she landed in fifth-place. Parekh is certainly positioned to succeed in Alabama, where her measured running will be crucial on a course that sneaks up on you just after the mile. 

Having experience at Roy Griak will help, too, considering the field will be over 200 runners large, too. Parekh ran a season-best 17:21.60 at Eastbay, so that's a sign her season is lining up in the right way heading into Saturday and Eastbay on Dec. 11. Parekh will join Stewart at Stanford next fall. 

9. Lily CridgeIndianapolis Bishop Chatard (IN)

Class of 2023


Heading into the season, one of Cridge's biggest goals was to break 17 minutes. On Saturday, her wish might come true, as the course at John Hunt Park plays to her strength. Athletes can parlay their fast turnover on large and flat sections, while a series of hills after the first mile will aide any hill runner who has a particular strength on them. 

Cridge has a history of battling on tough courses. She won the Indiana state championship on Oct. 30 and ran a time of 17:32.70 on the Terre Haute Course. She also clocked a season-best of 17:04.55 on Sept. 11 and replicated it on Oct. 23. If she's firing on all cylinders, Cridge might be a sneaky pick to win on Saturday. 

10. Anjali Hocker SinghOlathe North (KS)

Class of 2024


A two-time Kansas state champion, Singh has clocked seven sub-18 performances in her last eight outings on the season, including a career best performance of 17:11.50 on Nov. 14 at the Team Heartland Region. 

Those conditions in South Dakota should largely match the ones she'll face on Saturday at RXC2, and that could yield a similar performance out of Singh, who was 12th at the Eastbay Midwest Regional on Nov. 27. 

11. Ava Gordon, Loudoun Valley (VA)

Class of 2022


After logging four straight wins between Oct. 16 to Nov. 13, culminating with her third VHSL Class 4 state title in Virginia, Gordon earned herself a bid to nationals with a 10th-place finish at the Eastbay South Regional in 17:22.78, which was a new season best time.

Over the season she's clocked four races under 18 minutes, too. 

Gordon's experience should go a long way here. She's been in plenty of national fields before: The XC Town Meet of Champions in 2020, Team Nationals in 2019 and Team Southeast in 2018. Gordon signed with Liberty in November. 

12. Caroline Lehman/Mary Ellen Eudaly, Cambridge Christian (FL)

Class of 2022/Class of 2022


The Cambridge Christian (FL) pair are ready to roll. Lehman just missed out on a berth to the Eastbay Cross Country Championships after finishing 11th at the South Region on Nov. 27, though some solace came in the fact that she clocked a new personal best time of 17:26.70. Eudaly, meanwhile, was 12th overall and finished in 17:38.96. 

The tandem, however, could certainly pump in one of their best performance of the season, and maybe even their careers, at RunningLane. They were nearly identical at the FHSAA Class 1A Championships, with Lehman winning the title on Nov. 12 in 17:53.30, while Eudaly was second in 18:09.90. 

13. Sydney SundgrenBuchanan (CA)

Class of 2023


Sundgren has been the very definition of consistent, logging six 5Ks all between 20 seconds of one another, none of them slower than 17:41. She ultimately went on to finish third at the CIF Division I Championships on Nov. 27, leading the girls of Buchanan to a state title on Nov. 27. 

At RunningLane, Sundgren could once again lead the pack and give this California team, ranked No. 2 on the MileSplit50, added credibility over the 2021 season. She ran a season best time of 17:31.69 on Nov. 11. She also finished fifth in the girls sweepstakes race at the Woodbridge Cross Country Classic on Sept. 18.  

14. Jenna MulhernWest Chester Henderson (PA)

Class of 2022


It's been an unorthodox season for Mulhern, who's been splitting training in Pennsylvania and Florida this season. But her races, while limited, have been promising. The Furman signee finished second in a collegiate open race on Oct. 15 at the FSU Invitational, finishing second for 6K in 20:49.50. She followed on Nov. 27 in a do-or-die moment at the Eastbay Northeast Regional, qualifying for nationals with an impressive time of 17:46.40 at Van Cortlandt Park in New York City. 

Back in May, Mulhern traveled to Huntsville to compete at the RunningLane Track Championships. A few days before the event, she got her shake-out on the RXC2 course, so it would be easy to assume she's should be ready for the course and its conditions. 

15. Mia ProkNiwot (CO)

Class of 2024


Prok is actually the top returner back from RunningLane in 2021, and she crushed it last year. In fact, Prok was the only other runner outside of Jenna Hutchins -- who broke 16 minutes in 15:58 -- to dip under 17 minutes, logging a runner-up finish of 16:56.97. 

That performance will carry some weight into Saturday. Few runners are as experienced as Prok to navigate this flat but deceiving course. On top of that, Prok finished 46th at the Eastbay Midwest Region, which could give her an ample slice of motivation. On top of that, Prok also will be leading the favorite to win the team title. Niwot, ranked No. 3 in the MileSplit50, will face competition from Arapahoe, Cherry Creek and Buchanan. 

The sophomore has run a personal best of 17:06.40 on the season and finished third at the CHSA Class 4A Championships on Oct. 30 in 18:23.40. 


Lilly ShapiroColts Neck (IN)

Class of 2022


Let's not forget about Shapiro, who was 10th at the Eastbay Northeast Regional. That performance locked up a bid to nationals in San Diego on Dec. 11. But Shapiro's season has also includes successes like her second-place finish at the NJSIAA Meet of Champions (17:35.00), her Group 3 Championship win (17:59.00) and a victory at the Shore Conference Championships (17:07), which yielded a career best time. 

The 2021 Garmin RunningLane Cross Country Championships

How To Watch

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Info: MileSplit will stream a cart cam and multiple shots throughout the course. It will stream all races on Saturday.

Race Time

7:30 a.m. CST -- Community Race

8:00 a.m. CST -- Blue Boys Race

8:30 a.m. CST -- Bronze Girls Race

9:00 a.m. CST -- Bronze Boys Race

9:30 a.m. CST -- Silver Girls Race

10:00 a.m. CST -- Silver Boys Race

10:45 a.m. CST -- Girls Gold Championship Race

11:30 a.m. CST -- Boys Gold Championship Race

Where: Huntsville, Alabama