* Daniel Simmons (left) posted the fastest 5k time among juniors during the 2022 season; Ellie Shea (right) competed as one of the top junior girls this cross country season.
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The 2022 cross country season saw members of the junior class not just excel among competitors in their grade, but against some of the best racers in the nation, all classes included.
Some of the best junior performances came on the national stage, earning coveted finishes at championship meets and securing state titles, PRs and national attention along the way.
We analyze top speed ratings, times and performances to curate our junior class rankings for the fall 2022 season.
Beginning on the boys side, it was quite the year for the junior class.
THE TOP SEVEN JUNIOR BOYS BASED ON TIME
FL Leon HS
MI Grand Haven
OR West Salem
Olathe Twilight3rd F
MILESPLIT'S TOP SEVEN JUNIOR BOYS
As picked subjectively by the team
1. Daniel Simmons, American Fork (UT)
The transfer from Idaho made a huge impact this season on an American Fork program steeped in distance running history. Not only did Simmons emerge as the top junior in the country, but also as one of the best racers across all classes come season's end, clocking out at No. 4 on the MileSplit50 rankings. The list of accolades for Simmons in 2022 seemingly stretches a mile long -- Utah Class 6A state champion in 14:49.8, ninth-ranked 5k runner in the nation by time with a 14:31.8 PR and Team Nationals individual runner-up in 14:51.7. The latter performance even earned Simmons the highest speed rating of any junior -- and the fourth among all grades -- of 202.
2. Drew Griffith, Butler (PA)
It's hard to believe that just a few years ago, Griffith couldn't even break 21 minutes in the 5k as a freshman. Now, the Butler (PA) junior has earned himself a place among the greats in Pennsylvania cross country history and respect as a national-caliber competitor. Griffith first made national headlines with a 14:49.3 5k performance at the renowned Carlisle Invitational and later broke course records at the TSTCA Championships and District 7 WPIAL Championships. He would end up second at the Pennsylvania Class 3A state meet to fellow state great Brian DiCola, but Griffith would ultimately go on to perform even better in the national spotlight, winning the Champs Northeast Regional and taking eighth at the Champs Sports National XC Championships in his first-ever national cross country event. Griffith ended the season with the third-best junior speed rating of 198 from that elusive Champs Sports race.
3. Landon Heemeyer, Rocky Mountain (ID)
All season long in Idaho, it was Heemeyer who led the way, winning his first-ever 5A state cross country title in a meet record 14:38.79 for 5k and later booking a trip to Champs Sports Nationals with a fourth-place finish at the West Regional Championships. That state championship performance ranked him as the third-fastest junior at the 5k distance this season, and perhaps that gave him all the momentum he needed to excel on the national stage just weeks later, taking ninth at Champs Sports. The top-10 performance with a finish time of 15:14.5 also earned him the third-best speed rating among juniors of 198.
4. Cameron Todd, Brebeuf Jesuit (IN)
Todd had the third-best junior class speed rating of the season from his sixth-place performance at the Champs Sports National XC Championships, registering a 198 speed rating from his 15:13.6 5k race. And that race shaped up to be quite the book end to his fall season, finishing sixth in the nation after finishing in fourth at the Champs Sports Midwest Regionals. Todd ends 2022 with a new 5k PR of 14:57.3 -- a time which earned him third in a star-studded lineup at Nike XC Town Twilight in October -- and a bronze medal from the Indiana State Championships.
5. Sage Wilde, Liberty North (MO)
Wilde put together a regular season campaign that ranked him among the best racers in the nation at points, beginning with three-straight sub-15-minute 5k performances to kick off the fall and ending with the first Missouri Class 5A title of his career. Along the way to that state win, Wilde won five out of seven meets that he toed the line at and registered a 14:36.2 PR at the Chile Pepper Festival, coming in second only to fellow Missouri talent Connor Burns. He also finished out the season with the second-best 5k performance among juniors -- only ranking behind overall top junior Daniel Simmons.
6. Patrick Koon, Leon (FL)
Koon broke records left and right in Florida this season as a junior. First, the Leon star burst onto the national scene with a 14:43.09 win at the Southern Showcase, and later followed up that showing with an Apalachee Regional Park course record of 14:50 at the Pre-State FSU Invitational. Koon later returned to ARP to win the first state title of his career with a 14:56.7 performance at the Florida Class 3A state championships to end his season.
7. Jake Liebert, Wando (SC)
Liebert proved this season that he has the makings of an up-and-coming national star. As a junior, he clocked a new 5k PR of 14:54.6 at the Southern Showcase and smashed the South Carolina Class 5A state record en route to his second-straight title win in 15:13.92. The Wando talent would then go on to finish sixth in a highly-competitive race in sloppy conditions at Garmin RunningLane.
* Drew Griffith competes at the Champs Sports Northeast Regional.
Photo Credit: Mae Kellert/MileSplit
THE TOP SEVEN SPEED RATED JUNIOR BOYS
|1||Daniel Simmons||American Fork (UT)||Team Nationals||OR||Dec. 3||14:51.7||202|
|2||Byron Grevious||Phillips Exeter Academy (NH)||Team Nationals||OR||Dec. 3||15:00.9||199|
|3||Cameron Todd||Brebeuf Jesuit (IN)||Champs Sports Nationals||CA||Dec. 10||15:13.6||198|
|3||Drew Griffith||Butler (PA)||Champs Sports Nationals||CA||Dec. 10||15:14.4||198|
|3||Landon Heemeyer||Rocky Mountain (ID)||Champs Sports Nationals||CA||Dec. 10||15:14.5||198|
|6||Seth Norder||Grand Haven (MI)||MSU Spartan Invite||MI||Sept. 16||14:58.7||195|
|6||Ryan Pajak||Ringgold (PA)||Champs Sports Nationals||CA||Dec. 10||15:22.9||195|
THE NEXT UP
Seth Norder, Grand Haven (MI)
Byron Grevious, Phillips Exeter Academy (NH)
Ryan Pajak, Ringgold (PA)
Connell Alford, Chelsea (MI)
Paul Bergeron, Westford Academy (MA)
JoJo Jourdon, Olympus (UT)
Brayden Marshall, Winfield (WV)
* Ellie Shea finishes second at Champs Sports National XC Championships.
Photo Credit: Raymond Tran/MileSplit California
The girls class of 2024 produced a national champion, a runner-up and plenty of state champions and top national competitors.
Frankly, the competition proved quite close and fierce among junior girls in the nation.
Below, we detail the top junior performers among the girls.
THE TOP SEVEN JUNIOR GIRLS BASED ON TIME
UT Lone Peak
TX Cedar Park
MILESPLIT'S TOP SEVEN JUNIOR GIRLS
As picked subjectively by the team
1. Ellie Shea, Emerging Elites (MA)
We didn't see much of Shea on the cross country course this season as she spent some time this fall on the roads and even on the track. But when the Massachusetts star showed up to race on the grass, she performed as the best junior in the country, and as one of the top all-around racers. Shea won her first logged cross country meet of the season -- which happened to be the important Champs Sports Northeast regional meet --- in 17:10.7 for an impressive 161 speed rating and went on to take second at nationals in a 5k PR of 16:55.1, good for the fastest junior girl speed rating of 165. It's worth noting, too, the unorthodox yet stellar season opener Shea threw down in October, opting to compete on the roads in the Boston 10k for Women and placing 12th overall in 34:12 in a field of well-known pros and former collegians. Shea ended the fall with the best speed rating, 5k time and nationals finish of any junior in the country, hence earning her third on the final MileSplit50 rankings and recognition as the best all-around junior cross country athlete.
2. Bethany Michalak, Air Academy (CO)
When it boils down to it, Michalak performed the best when it mattered the most. At Team Nationals, the junior from Air Academy (CO) had the best performance of her career as she ran her way to a third-place finish in 16:55.4 for the second-best junior speed rating of 161. She's now one of just a handful of girls to ever break 17 minutes at the Glendoveer Course in Portland, putting her in elite company with high school greats like Katelyn Tuohy and Kelsey Chmiel. Looking at the rest of her season, Michalak finished sixth at the Colorado 5A state meet, first at the 5A regional championships and fourth at Team Southwest Regionals, but that Team Nationals showing truly showed that she belongs at the highest level in high school cross country.
3. Isabel Conde De Frankenberg, Cedar Park (TX)
Conde De Frankenberg posted the fourth-best speed rating and fourth-fastest 5k time among juniors this season, hence earning her the fourth spot in our class rankings. Texas' top junior not only ran sub-17 for 5k and won eight of 11 races contested this season, but she also completed the rather challenging Team Nationals-Champs Sports double to cap it all off. And she completed that double, too, in successful fashion with a sixth-place finish at Team Nationals for a 153 speed rating and 13th-place run at Champs Sports. Only Conde De Frankenberg and fellow Texas competitor Nicole Humphries competed at both of the staple meets among juniors.
4. Payton Godsey, Oaks Christian (CA)
The Garmin RunningLane champion put together quite the junior campaign. First came a sensational 15:51.9 three-mile showing for second place at the Woodbridge Classic for the Oaks Christian (CA) leader, and then wins at league and division meets followed suit. Perhaps her best performance of the year came at the California Division 4 state championships where she won a title in a 5k PR of 17:00.06. Godsey then closed out her season with a 17:28.3 win at RunningLane in less-than-ideal conditions, rounding out a memorable season for the junior.
5. Allie Zealand, Pacer Homeschool (VA)
Don't mess with the homeschool talent out of Virginia. Zealand, competing for Pacers Homeschool, developed late in the season as a national talent to watch for, placing third at the Champs Sports South Regional in a 5k best of 17:05.7 and later placing fourth and eighth at Garmin RunningLane and Champs Sports Nationals, respectively. Those two top-10 national finishes and four-straight sub-18-minute 5k races to cap off the season served as the icing on the cake for Zealand in what shaped up to be a stellar junior season.
6. Samantha Humphries, Flower Mound (TX)
Following a monumental outdoor season in the spring, Humphries had her breakout moment on the cross country course as a junior. She kicked the season of improvement off with a 16:03.2 three-mile race for third at Woodbridge, and clocked a new 5k PR of 17:11.1 at the Nike South Invitational only a couple weeks later. Humphries went on the win the district and region championships before narrowly finishing second to her sister Nicole at the UIL Texas Class 6A state championships. The Flower Mound leader then finished fifth at Team South, 11th at Team Nationals and led the nationally-ranked squad to sixth in the team race on the national stage.
7. Andie Aagard, Lone Peak (UT)
Come October, the Lone Peak (UT) junior went on a tear, winning the Utah Class 6A state championships in 17:26.6 and following it up with a win at Team Southwest Regionals in a new 5k Pr of 16:51.1. That sub-17 performance also earned Aagard the third-best junior speed rating of the fall of 154. Aagard would go on to place 12th at Team Nationals and lead Lone Peak to fourth in the team standings, closing out a breakout year for the junior.
* Bethany Michalak competes at the 5A Colorado State Championships.
Photo Credit: Tim McDonald/MileSplit Colorado
THE TOP SEVEN SPEED RATED JUNIOR GIRLS
|1||Ellie Shea||Emerging Elites (MA)||Champs Sports Nationals||CA||Dec. 10||16:55.1||165|
|2||Bethany Michalak||Air Academy (CO)||Team Nationals||OR||Dec. 3||16:55.4||161|
|3||Andie Aagard||Lone Peak (UT)||Team Southwest Regionals||AZ||Nov. 19||16:51.1||154|
|4||Isabel Conde De Frankenberg||Cedar Park (TX)||Team Nationals||OR||Dec. 3||17:17.5||153|
|4||Isabel Allori||Liberty Common (CO)||Colorado State Championships||CO||Oct. 29||17:10.3||153|
|6||Nicki Southerland||Delta (IN)||Indiana State Championships||IN||Oct. 29||17:17.5||151|
|6||Anna Callahan||Skyline (WA)||Team Nationals||OR||Dec. 3||17:23.7||151|
THE NEXT UP
Nicole Humphries, Flower Mound (TX)
Isabel Allori, Liberty Common (CO)
Nicki Southerland, Delta (IN)
Anna Callahan, Skyline (WA)
Ruth White, Orono (ME)
Emma Stutzman, Pomona
San Juanita Leal, Edinburg North (TX)