Future Stars: The Top 5 Freshmen Boys To Watch In XC

* Owen Clemons is among the top freshmen boys to watch this season nationally

Photo Credit: Quanah Thompson/MileSplit Tennessee

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As the 2022 cross country season kicks off, we look to see which new faces will turn heads out on the course.

That begins with examining the Class of 2026 as they prepare to compete as high schoolers for the first time.

Which newcomers to the high school level will make an impact and climb state and national ranks during the fall?

Scroll below to see which five incoming freshman boys to keep an eye on as they take to the course this cross country season.

Owen Clemons, Cleveland (TN)

The incoming freshman at Cleveland High School in Tennessee may be a new face on the team, but Clemons already holds impressive high school championship racing experience.

Clemons toed the line last December at the RunningLane Cross Country Championships in the boys silver race, finishing 25th among a field of high schoolers in a personal best time of 15:17.27. That ranked him first among all middle schoolers for 5k during the 2021 cross country season.

He also enters the cross season coming off of his best track and field showing to date, clocking personal bests of 1:56.84 in the 800m, 4:26.12 in the mile and 9:26.27 in the 3,200m.

Gannon Dolan, Grace Classical Christian Academy (TX)

Dolan begins his freshman season as an AAU club district champion, an AAU national champion and an AAU Junior Olympic Games record holder, making for quite the resume to kickstart his high school career.

His 4K performance at the Southwestern AAU Cross Country District Meet last October of 12:53.30 not only won his age group race, but it put Dolan first in the nation among all eighth-grade boys who marked times at that distance.

But Dolan truly made a name for himself as a young star to watch just weeks ago at the AAU Junior Olympic Games, where he ran 8:59.00 to break the national record in the 14yo boys 3,000m. He also contested the 1,500m earlier on, finishing third with a new PR of 4:15.10.

Photo Credit: Chris Wells/MileSplit Alabama

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Charles Pearson, Huntsville (AL)

Pearson enters the 2022 season familiar with high school racing, having competed at the Alabama Class 7A state cross country championships in 2021 as an eighth-grader for Huntsville. His time of 16:21.82 at states positioned him in 27th place -- in PR-setting fashion -- and Pearson finished out as the only middle schooler to place in the top 100 racers. That also ranked him third in the country for 5K among eighth graders in 2021.

On the track, Pearson found his sweet spot in the 1,600m, running an indoor best of 4:43.95 and clocking 4:44.75 during the outdoor season. 

Pearson will look to replicate that success this season as a freshman  Especially with RunningLane held right in his hometown, perhaps he and Huntsville will take to the national stage in December.

Photo Credit: Jamie Mitchell/MileSplit

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Noah Strohman, Holliday (TX)

Strohman made the most of his final year in middle school to make him a strong candidate for notoriety as one of the nation's top freshmen runners this cross country season. He enters high school coming off an All-American finish at Middle School XC Nationals in 2021, running a middle school U.S. No. 5 time of 13:07.2 in the 4K to take second. 

But perhaps Strohman's biggest glimmer of potential came on the track in the final race of his middle school career. At Brooks PR in June, the eighth-grader won the junior 1,600m in a new personal best of 4:23.69, closing out his season in winning fashion. Strohman's win at Brooks also helped him finish the outdoor season on top of the rankings as the fastest middle school 1,600m racer in the country.

Look for Strohman to continue building his confidence and create a strong reputation for himself in the state of Texas.

Cameron Martensen, Rolla (MO)

The former Rolla Middle School (MO) star will move up to the high school ranks looking to mirror the success he found competing in the younger age groups.

Martensen won the 3,200m race at the Missouri Middle School Cross Country Championships and didn't have any trouble bumping up to the 4K distance two weeks later at Middle School XC Nationals, taking third in 13:09.30. His speed translated to the track months later, clocking personal bests of 4:28.78 for 1,600m and 2:02.82 in the 800m, the latter of which won him an Ozark Conference individual title. 

The newcomer has yet to race against a high school field during his young distance running career, but he'll look to be a top contender among the class of 2026.