The Eastbay Watchlist: Profiling 15 Girls Race Contenders

* Jenna Mulhern, Sadie Engelhardt, Angelina Perez and Natalie Cook are a handful of the top contenders at the Eastbay Cross Country Championships

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SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA -- Forty of the nation's best girls distance runners will line up Saturday at Balboa Park with hopes of claiming All-American status at the Eastbay Cross Country Championships. 

A handful of girls who competed at the Garmin RunningLane Cross Country Championships are in attendance, and those who posted a handful of the fastest times this season will compete for a chance to prove how dominant they are. 

Who are the top 15 girls to watch out for?

Check out our profiles below to see who has an opportunity to grab a title or snatch up an All-American honor this weekend. 

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Natalie Cook, Flower Mound (TX)

Class of 2022


This past weekend at the Garmin RunningLane Cross Country Championships, Cook ran the second-fastest all-time 5K at John Hunt Park.

She won this race in an astonishing manner and clocked a 16:03.93 to earn a 165 speed rating. This was her third consecutive sub-17 minute 5K this season.

Leading up to Eastbay, she clocked a 16:38.05 to win the South Regional.

The biggest question will be: Can Cook be a double champion over the weekend?

That challenge will lie ahead for the Flower Mound senior as she will face some familiar faces. 

Angelina Perez, Lakeland Regional (NJ)

Class of 2022


If there's an athlete who's been consistently great all season, Perez comes to mind.

Cook and Perez are the only two girls who have scored speed ratings over 160 this year. Perez earned a 163 rating after she grabbed a victory at the New Jersey Group Championships.

She then showed her dominance at the Northeast Regional by claiming the title in 17:21.50. She won this race by 21 seconds over the rest of the field. 

As a matter of fact, Perez hasn't lost a single race this season. She ran a lifetime best of 16:44 at the Big North Championships. 

Can Perez finish her senior cross country season undefeated?

Riley Stewart, Cherry Creek (CO)

Class of 2022


After claiming her third consecutive Colorado Class 5A state title on Oct. 30, Stewart has been on fire. 

The Stanford signee will return to Balboa Park one last time. She's one of five athletes -- and specifically, three girls -- who will compete Saturday after she qualified for Foot Locker Nationals in 2019.

At the Midwest Regional, Stewart crossed the tape in 16:54.40, which was just 0.40 seconds off of Anna Rohrer's all-time best of 16:54.00 on that course. 

A week later, Stewart finished third at the Garmin RunningLane Cross Country Championships with a personal best time of 16:28.38 for 5K.

For Stewart, this will be her final cross country race with a Midwest uniform. She will be in the hunt for the title. 

Kate Peters, Lake Oswego (OR)

Class of 2023


The undefeated Oregon Class 6A state champion will lace up this weekend for a chance to win her first national title. 

Before qualifying at the West Regional, Peters set a personal best at the Nike Portland XC meet, where she clocked a time of 16:40.90. The junior broke the 17-minute barrier for the second time of her career. 

Even though this will be Peters' first appearance on this course, she's not looking to break her undefeated streak quite yet. 

Sadie Engelhardt, Ventura (CA)

Class of 2025


Engelhardt has been leaving her mark all season long and is arguably the nation's top freshman.

In her first-ever California Division II State Championship, she finished second to Dalia Frias with a personal best of 16:58.70 for 5K. She then crossed the finish line as the runner-up at the West Regional to secure her ticket to nationals.

Engelhardt is coming off a strong summer where she broke Mary Decker's 14-year old age group world record in the mile.

Caroline Wells, Winter Springs (FL)

Class of 2022


The Stanford signee ran well all season long and completely dominated runners in the state of Florida. She's grabbed victories at the FSU Invitational, district and regional championships. 

The two-time FHSAA Cross Country State champion clocked a personal best of 16:40.20 5K at the Hagerty Invitational at the end of September, too.

As Wells moved into the post-season, she finished fifth at the South Regional. 

Juliette Whittaker, Mount De Sales Academy (MD)

Class of 2022


Whittaker is one of three girls returners from the 2019 season. As a sophomore, she finished 13th at Foot Locker Nationals, claiming an All-American spot. 

Whittaker brings experience to the table this time around, too.  

Despite having only five races this cross country season, the Stanford signee is coming off a summer to remember. She competed at the U.S Olympic Trials in the 800m and made it through the first round.

To Whittaker's advantage, her foot speed and strength are both her strong suits. 

Karrie Baloga, Cornwall (NY)

Class of 2023


Similar to Whittaker, Baloga is one of three girls returners from Foot Locker Nationals in 2019.

Baloga enters the Eastbay Cross Country Championships as the top returner in the field. She finished 11th as a freshman and will look to improve this time around.

Leading up to this championship, Baloga competed at the Six Flags Wild Safari Invitational and broke 17 minutes for 5K for the second time of her career. She ran a 16:52.00 to set a new personal best. 

The junior also finished third at the New York State Class A Championships before she went on to win the NY Federation Championship. 

She crossed the finish line at the Northeast Regional as the fifth fastest runner. 

* Ellie Shea finished sixth at the Eastbay Northeast Cross Country Championships

Ellie Shea, Emerging Elite (MA)

Class of 2024


Shea had a limited cross country season, as she only competed twice: Performances at the Boston Mayor's Cup and the Northeast Regional.

At the Mayor's Cup, Shea ran a personal best of 17:12.00 and earned a 154 speed rating for her efforts. She was second in the women's Championship field, which consisted of collegiate and professional runners. Only Shalane Flanagan and Sydney Masciarelli ran faster high school times than Shea at Franklin Park. 

A month later, Shea finished sixth to claim her spot at the Northeast Regional.

A side note to keep in mind: Shea won the NSAF National 5K in 16:10.42 last spring to break the national freshman high school record. 

Even though Shea had few racing opportunities this year, she could contender for the title. 

Jenna Mulhern, West Chester Henderson (PA)

Class of 2022


Mulhern raced three times this season and set personal bests for 5K and 6K. She grabbed a second-place finish at the FSU Invitational (Pre-National) meet -- in a field of collegians -- and ran a 6K personal best of 20:49.50.

After qualifying for the Eastbay Cross Country Championships with a fourth-place finish of 17:46.40 at the Northeast Regional, she ran a lifetime best of 16:29.51 at the Garmin RunningLane Cross Country Championships on Dec. 4. 

Mulhern earned a 156 speed rating for the effort. The Furman signee has been under the radar a bit this season. However, with her racing style spectators can expect to see her in the front of the pack. 

Sophia Nordenholz, Albany (CA)

Class of 2022


Nordenholz has finished her senior season strong. The University of Washington signee had an eye-catching performance at the CIF California Divison IV State Championships.

At this meet, she won the title in 16:46.00 and ran the fastest 5K time of the day -- faster than Dalia Frias, in fact, and Frias won the Division I title. Nordenholz's performance equaled a 156 speed rating.

A week later, she finished fourth at the West Regional to lock up her spot at this year's Eastbay Cross Country Championships. 

Ali Weimer, Saint Michael-Albertville (MN)

Class of 2022


No one should underestimate Weimer at this year's championship.

Throughout the season, Weimer has been dominant in Minnesota by claiming titles at sectionals and the MSHSL State Cross Country Championships.

She also grabbed a victory at the Team Heartland Regional, which is where she ran a lifetime best of 17:03.30 for 5K.

At the Eastbay Midwest Regionals, the University of Minnesota signee finished second. 

Lauren Ping, Desert Vista (AZ)

Class of 2023


As Ping kicked off her cross country season, she faced stiff competition at the Woodbridge Cross Country Classic. She was the sixth-fastest runner and set a new personal best of 16:04.50 for 3-miles.

That momentum continued throughout the season as she grabbed a victory at the Desert Twilight XC Festival. At this historic meet she set a lifetime best of 16:40.40 for 5K.

The junior continued to win elite races like the AIA State Division I State Championship and at the Team Southwest Regional.

Ping finished fifth at the Eastbay West Regionals, punching her ticket to the Eastbay Cross Country Championships. 

Ava Parekh, Chicago Latin (IL)

Class of 2022


Another Stanford signee will be among the 40 girls competing at the Eastbay Cross Country Championships.

Parekh has been within elite fields throughout her high school career. When under pressure, she is one of the athletes who can carry herself through a race and finish strong. 

We've seen this during the indoor season at the adidas Indoor Nationals, where she ran a lifetime best of 4:47.17 to win the mile. This cross country season, Parekh completely dominated Illinois. Along the way, Parekh earned her first state cross country title in 16:23.88 for 3-miles.

At the Midwest Regional, she finished fifth. A week later, she competed at the Garmin RunningLane Cross Country Championships and was the ninth girl to cross the finish line.

She clocked a personal best of 16:45.97 for 5K.

Abby Faith Cheeseman, Webb School (TN)

Class of 2025


Another freshman who entered this championship is Cheeseman -- she's one of two girls. 

As a freshman, Cheeseman has already faced national competition and held her own. Back in September, she won the Southern Showcase before finishing third at the Great American XC Festival.

Later in October, she finished as the champion at the TSSAA State Cross Country Championships.

When she lined up at the South Regional, she finished fourth in a time of 17:13.91. This was her seventh sub-17:30 5K performance of the year.