RunningLane Girls Preview: Game-Changers, Contenders & More

* Cady McPhail, Allie Zealand and Hannah Stuart are athletes to watch at the RunningLane Track Championships

WATCH LIVE: The RunningLane Track Championships


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State champions, state record-holders and a long-list of talent will file into Milton Frank Stadium on Friday and Saturday in Huntsville, Alabama for one of top competitions of the 2023 campaign. 

The third edition of the RunningLane Track Championships will be bigger, better and possibly even more entertaining than before, with meet records on the line and elite performances on tap in the DMR, 2K steeplechase, 400m, 800m, mile and 3,200m. 

Here are the storylines that have emerged: 

  • In the mile, can Allie Zealand go from runner-up to winner?
  • Will Mary Bonner Dalton, Gillian Bushee or another athlete break 10 in the 3,200m?
  • Will the girls 800m produce a sub-2:05 time? 

We break down some of the top storylines we're watching out for this weekend in the breakouts below. 

Related Links: 

Hello Sister to perform on Saturday (stream will be on MileSplit's YouTube)

Related Links: 

Meet Page

On The Line series page

Top Girls Athletes To Watch: 

The Championship Contenders:

800m: Nicki Southerland, Delta (IN); Cady McPhail, Chelsea (AL); Elyse Wilmes, Father Tolton Regional Catholic (MO); Kenyah Conner, Woodford Academy (GA); Olivia Bufalini, Laney (NC). Mile: Cady McPhail, Chelsea (AL); Allie Zealand, Lynchburg (VA); Gillian Bushee, Herndon (VA); Tilly O'Connor, St. Rose (NJ). 3,200m: Mary Bonner Dalton, Myers Park (NC); Gillian Bushee, Herndon (VA); Allie Zealand, Lynchburg (VA); Alyssa Sauro, Williamstown (WV); Reagan Riley, Mountain Brook (AL); Hannah Stuart, Canyon (TX).

The Darkhorse Candidates:

800m: McKenzie Blackledge, Hoover (AL); Lucy Benton, Mountain Brook (AL); Justine Preisano, Cuthbertson (NC); Jordon Bray, Powdersville (AL); Raylee Hunt, Sante Fe St. Michael's (NM). Mile: Lily Guinn, Maury (VA); Sarah DeLaCerda, (CO); Alyssa Preisano, Cuthbertson (NC); Kinley Wolfe, Cherry Creek (CO); Alli Crytser, Hanover (VA). 3,200m: Caroline Hood, Pace Academy (GA); Maddie Gardiner, The Covenant School (VA); Tilly O'Connor, St. Rose (NJ); Alyson Johnson, Creekside (FL); Emma Zawatski, Freehold Township (NJ).

Why You Need To Pay Attention To These Girls:

Cady McPhail, Chelsea (AL): It will be McPhail's (above) swan song as a prep athlete in Alabama. She's coming off two individual titles in the 800m and 1,600m at states, along with a 4x800 win as well. With a new 1,600m outdoor PR of 4:52.14 and an 800m best of 2:10.14 this season, the Auburn recruit will be among the favorites. 

Allie Zealand, Lynchburg (VA): Zealand was superb a year ago in the mile and 3,200m, finishing third and second in those races, respectively, in times of 4:45.17 and 10:15. She enters this year as top five seeds in both, but as far as we can tell, she hasn't opened her outdoor season just yet. Will Zealand ramp it up in Year 2? 

Gillian Bushee, Herndon (VA): Scheduled for the 3,200m and mile, Bushee has a big weekend ahead. The Virginia No. 1 in the 1,600m is hoping to break 4:45 on Saturday during the final races. But on Friday, her quest is even greater. She can drop a sub-10 time on this track and enter into elusive company? 

McKenzie Blackledge, Hoover (AL): We're going to take a flier on the junior from Hoover. She's split 56.61 for 400m outdoors and has gone 2:11.45 for the 800m. She'll be competing in both events this weekend. We have a feeling she'll be in the running for titles in both. 

Hannah Stuart, Canyon (TX): The small-school athlete from Canyon had a star-making turn at the Texas State Outdoor Championships, winning both the 1,600m and 3,200m in impressive fashion. With better competition, there's a sense that Stuart can compete with an elite field and come up with even stronger performances. She's run times of 4:54.28 for 1,600m and 10:30.12 for 3,200m. 

Where The Mile Will Be Won: 

At 1,000 meters: With seven girls with seed times under 4:50 and 13 under 4:52, the chances are high that the first half of this race is paced conservatively, which means there could be a group as big as 10 or more who are within meters of one another. 

What does that ultimately mean for this field? 

Like any good championship-style race, we feel a second-half move could win this one. Position will be valuable in a field that includes a host of athletes with varying speeds, so a move at 800 meters isn't out of the question, nor is one at the 1K mark. 

We know for sure the race will be won in the final 400 meters, and perhaps, as it was last year, a final push with 100 meters left might be the final strike that seals it. 


A busy meet week is no problem for this Indiana athlete

On The Line Analysis:

Pre-Race Shake-out at John Hunt Park

The crew at RunningLane has been preparing for this meet for months. For athletes coming into town on Thursday, the team has prepared a shake-out run at John Hunt Park in Huntsville that evening. This course is the site of the RunningLane Cross Country Championships and is considered one of the fastest 5K courses in the country. Been curious about it? Give it a test run. 

A RunningLane Track Championships


The first installment of the RunningLane Track Championships produced a World-age group record. Sadie Engelhardt, just 14 years old at the time, ran a time of 4:40.16. Check out the performance above. 

Featured Content:

On The Line: We Break Down Our Top Storylines