The Top 10 Freshmen Girls To Watch This XC Season

* Evie Malec is one of the top incoming freshman this 2023 cross country season

Photo Credit: Teresa Brubaker/MileSplit Minnesota

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The incoming freshmen girls class is stacked with talent.

In 2023, we will be able to see a glimpse of that on the cross country course. We generated some thoughts on the top girls in the Class of 2027 who can make an impact during their first season as high school athletes. 

Continue below for our top 10 freshman girls to watch out for this upcoming 2023 cross country season.

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    2022 Cross Country Leaderboard

    Auburn High School (AL)

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    Tole gained plenty of experience at the state level in Alabama.

    As an eighth-grader, Tole was Auburn's (AL) No. 1 and led the squad to a second-place team finish at the Alabama Class 7A State Cross Country Championships. She set a 5K lifetime best of 18:02 and earned a 129 speed rating for her efforts as she won the title by over 19 seconds. 

    Outdoors, she continued to excel as she broke 11 minutes in the 3,200m to finish third at the Alabama Outdoor State Championships with a 10:39.73. In the 1,600m, she clocked a personal best of 5:01.06 to finish as the runner up at her Section 2 meet. 

    9. Kayla Devin 

    Ridge Harriers TC (NJ)

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    Despite having just two cross country races underneath her belt this past season, Devin made them count.

    She set a 4K personal best of 14:33.05 at the USATF New Jersey Association Junior Olympic Championships before she finished sixth at the AAU National Championships. 

    This spring, she personal bests in every event ranging from the 800m through the two-mile. 

    In the middle school field at New Balance Nationals Outdoor, she finished fifth in the two mile with a 11:25.35. 

    8. Linnea Ousdigian

    Mounds View (MN)

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    Ousdigian had a breakthrough season in 2022. 

    In her second year of running cross country, she was able to finish 44th overall at the Roy Griak Invitational in September.

    As she continued throughout the fall, she had a top 10 finish at the MSHSL State Cross Country Championships and clocked an 18:19 for 5K to earn a 127 speed rating. She was the top finisher from Mounds View and led the team to a third-place finish.

    Ousdigian was able to gain national exposure by placing in the top 50 at the Nike Heartland Regional Championships and earned a 122 speed rating. She was the second-fastest middle school athlete to compete in this qualifier. 

    In the spring, she went 5:06 in the 1,600m and 10:48 in the 3,200m. 

    She finished on a high note over the outdoor season as she competed in Hayward Field at Nike Outdoor Nationals. Ousdigian finished 15th with a 17:43 best on the track. 

    7. Kaylie Livingston

    Ann Arbor (MI)

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    Livingston has been competing since 2019, but this year Livingston set herself apart at national meets. 

    Before competing at the AAU National Cross Country Championships, Livingston toed the line at Meet of Champions, where she defended her MITCA Michigan Meet Of Champions in the 5K with a personal best of 17:55.10, which ranks her No. 5 among girls in her class. A month later, she earned the silver medal at the AAU National Championships in Tennessee with a 14:49.90 in the 4K. 

    Even though she didn't compete during the spring, she finished third in the 3,200m at the MITS Indoor State Championships with a 10:52 but has a personal best of 10:50.88. 

    6. Adria Favero

    Olympus (UT)

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    Favero is one of the top distance runners in her class -- not only in the state but nationally as well. 

    As an eighth-grader, she took a leap into the sport and competed in her first season. During cross country, she won the USATF Utah Association Junior Olympic Championships with a 14:24.80 lifetime best for 4K. Favero tested her skills among national competition and finished second overall at the USATF National Junior Olympic Cross Country Championships with a 14:26. 

    As she hit the track in the spring, she continued to progress as she set a best of 2:24 in the 800m, 5:05 for the full mile, and en route to an emerging elite Nike Outdoor National title, Favero set a lifetime best of 10:42.20 in the two-mile. 

    5. Peyton VanDeest

    Spearfish (SD)

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    Throughout the year, VanDeest outperformed many competitors at the state and national level. During the cross country season, she sprinkled in four races that were sub 19-minutes for 5K.

    One of the top moments in her cross country season was finishing sixth at t the SDHSAA State Championships. Here she earned a 131 speed rating as she clocked an 18:18.09 personal best. On the national stage, VanDeest finished fifth at the Nike Heartland Preview in September with an 18:32.30.

    This spring, she's gone 10:58 for 3,200m and 5:10 in the mile. 

    * At her second cross country meet of the season, Ava Lindsey won the Eye Opener in 18:12

    Photo Credit: MileSplit

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    4. Ava Lindsey

    Greenville Hurricanes (SC)

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    Lindsey went undefeated this past fall in South Carolina. The incoming freshman posted three sub-18 minute 5K last year.

    She began the season by clocking 18:14 and 18:12 for 5K at the FIGHT like Wyatt and at Eye Opener. At the latter meet,  Lindsey earned a 129 speed rating. 

    The young talent from Greer, South Carolina, ran a lifetime best of 17:34.18 to win the Starlight Run in October. To cap off the year, she became the champion at the SCHSAA & IC State Championships with an 18:13.40. 

    As the spring season progressed, she won two SCHSAA State Championship titles in the 400m and 3,200m. Lindsey clocked times of 1:04.23 and 10:57, which were new lifetime bests on the track. 

    * Evie Malec of Minnetonka is one of the top distance runners in the state

    Photo Credit: Teresa Brubaker/MileSplit Minnesota

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    3. Evie Malec

    Minnetonka (MN)

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    Malec lined up against some of the nation's best this year and held her own.

    She debuted her cross country season at the St. Olaf High School Showcase, where she clocked a 20:19. As the season unfolded, she earned top finishes in the state, such as her third-place finish at the Lake Conference Championships and her sixth-place finish at the MSHSL State Cross Country Championships.

    She will return this year as the sixth-fastest competitor in the state, and she's just a rising freshman. 

    To cap off her cross country season, she set a lifetime 5K best of 17:53.90 at the Nike Heartland Regional. Her best performance ranks her fourth overall among the Class of 2027 and she earned the second-highest scoring speed rating of 131. 

    During the spring season, she was the runner up in the 800m at the Lake Conference Championships before she finished fourth at the MSHSL State Track and Field Championships in the 1,600m.

    Even during the summer, Malec ran a best of 4:50.49 to finish second at Brooks PR Invitational in the mile. 

    * Paige Sheppard crosses the tape at the Brooks PR Invitational to win the 1,600m title in 4:52.65

    Photo Credit: Jamie Mitchell/MileSplit

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    2. Paige Sheppard

    Hillsborough (NJ)

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    Sheppard gained national experience in cross country and track and field across her middle school seasons. 

    Last season, she competed in two 4K cross country races. One of those meets was the AAU National Championships, where she won her first cross country championship title with a personal best of 14:28.97.

    In June, she clocked a time of 4:49.79 in the mile to win her division at Brooks PR. Within the same week, she ran 2:07.97 to finish eighth in the championship 800m race at New Balance Nationals Outdoor. 

    She leads the eighth-grade class in the 800m, 1,500m, and 1,600m. 

    Since 2017, Sheppard has been competing at the AAU Junior Olympic Games. Recently, she became the 800m and 1,500m 2022 AAU Junior Olympic champion with winning times of 2:12 and 4:38. 

    * Sophia Rodriguez at the Bermuda Track Challenge this spring

    Photo Credit: Shawn Conlon / MileSplit

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    1. Sophia Rodriguez

    Dallastown Area (PA)

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    As an eighth-grader, Rodriguez was a revelation. And she dropped World Records along the way. 

    In March, she secured the 1 14-year-old age group World Record in the two-mile at Nike Indoor Nationals with a 10:20.68. Later in June, she hit the outdoor oval and ran the fastest 5K ever run by a 14-year-old girl with 16:22.30.

    She didn't stop there as the Pennsylvanian ran a 14-year-old age group 2-mile record at Nike Outdoor Nationals, clocking a 10:12.33 to finish sixth overall in the girls championship section.

    Now as she enters her freshman season, she will carry with her a 17:55.70 5K best from the Garmin RunningLane Cross Country Championships, where she finished seventh overall.

    Her performance ranks her No. 6 for her class all-time and it earned the highest speed rating for the Class of 2027 with a 142. She also won the Nike Northeast Regional open race title with an 18:40. 

    At the end of the 2022 season, she grabbed the USATF National Junior Olympic Cross Country Championship title with a 14:02 4K performance and was 17th at the USATF National Cross Country Championships with a 21:42 6K run. 

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