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

* Cameron Macias is among the top freshmen females to watch in 2022 in cross country

Photo Credit: Pat Hames/California MileSplit

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Which freshmen females -- or perhaps how many -- will take the cross country season by storm this year? 

Naturally that question has yet to be answered. 

But it never hurts to dive into the numbers and estimate where some of these athletes could go, both in the landscape of their states and possibly on the national stage. A year ago, the brilliant performances of Sadie Engelhardt, a freshman at Ventura High School in 2021, captured our imaginations and led to one of the best first-year campaigns of any girl in history. 

She produced a tough act to follow.

But we think there are any number of talented ladies heading our ways. In recent weeks, we looked at the top 500 athletes making the jump into high school. Names like Eliana Black of Cambridge Christian (FL) and Ellie Maddox of Sioux Falls Christian (SD) certainly stood out. 

Below, we offer a few more suggestions as to which athletes could perform well over 2022.

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

Samantha Damico, Lake Placid (NY)

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The New Yorker holds the distinction of being the fastest incoming freshman female at the 5,000 meter distance. 

A year ago, Damico set the Section 7 Championships ablaze with a blitzing performance of 17:40.30, which qualified her for her first New York State Cross Country Championship -- and astonishingly enough, she won the race by over two minutes, earning a 122 speed rating. 

She then went on to post a fifth-place finish in the New York State Class D Championship race, behind two seniors, a junior and a sophomore, on a notoriously difficulty Chenango Valley State Park course. 

On the season, Damico was one of only two eighth-grade girls last year to drop a sub-18 minute performance for 5K -- the other was Eliana Black -- and so she enters the 2022 season with high expectations. 

Cameron Macias, Fresno (CA)

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Macias ran just one race last year, and one alone: The Middle School XC Nationals. 

Good thing for her, though, because she won it. 

The rising freshman from Fresno, California, clocked a time of 14:42.30 on the 4K course at Tom Sawyer State Park, defeating homegrowns Addison Moore and Gracie Reed, two up-and-coming runners in their own right. 

That performance by Macias finished the year within the top 50 performances (No. 47, to be exact) at the distance.

So there's reason to believe she might be a solid freshman to watch in California. This past outdoor season, Macias ran 2:18 for 800m and 4:59.20 for the full 1,600m distance. 

Efa Paschka, Mason (OH)

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Paschka won't show up in any returning 5K lists.

But her exclusion shouldn't be taken out of context. 

Because one look at the rising Ohio freshman's record indicates she's a potential star in the making in high school. 

Over 10 races a season ago, both at the 3,200m and 2-mile distances, Paschka won eight of them.

She finished fourth at the Ohio Middle School Cross Country Championships and then went on to notch a second-place finish at the Middle School XC Nationals. 

She ran personal best times of 11:33.70 in the 3,200m and 11:36.30. At Middle School Nats, she finished second only to Macias, notching a time of 14:53.3.

Alivia Cleveland, Fort Mill (SC)

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Cleveland earned her stripes as an eighth-grader in South Carolina in 2021. 

She ran in 13 races, won five of them, and would finish her year as the champion of the SCHSL AAAAA State Qualifier Race -- and a fourth-place finisher in her Class 5A state championship. 

Better yet, she ran a PR of 18:29.22 for 5K and dropped four performances under 19 minutes on the season, including two straight to end her season -- both at Qualifier and States. 

That's the kind of performance record that suggests more is coming. Watch out for Cleveland in 2022.  

Addison Moore, Lexington (KY)

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Moore has certainly put in the work over the last year. 

During the cross country campaign last fall, she won a series of eight races -- including the KHSAA Region 6 Class AAA Championships -- was 11th at the state meet, fourth at the KTCCCA Meet of Champions and third at Middle School XC Nationals, where she broke 15 minutes for 4K. 

That season included two performances under 19:30 for 5K and a total of seven under 20 minutes. 

From the indoor to the outdoor season, however, she wasn't done, and Moore proceeded to conclude her year with two AAU Junior Olympic Games titles, including a win at 1,500m in a time of 4:38.08 and another in the 3,000m with an effort of 9:57.00.