These Girls Are Primed For A Breakout Cross Country Season

We think each of the three ladies in this photo will have breakouts; Find out why we think what we think

We see it year after year as runners grow, get stronger, hit their stride, and mature into being their best in distance running. It results in breakthrough seasons that sometimes you can see it coming and sometimes it comes from who we least expect it from.

Last year, we saw it with the type of seasons Emily Cole (Klein), Emma Heslop (FEAST), and Andrea De La Rosa (Brownsville Rivera) all had.

Who will it be this year? Who will be the ones to take the next step in their development and have a breakout season?

Here are some girls we think could definitely do it and why.

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Alexis Svoboda had a big race at McNeil last year and should have plenty more in 2019

Alexis Svoboda - Prosper - 2021

Svoboda was a key component to the Prosper team that finished third place at the state meet and then went on to qualify for Nike Cross Nationals (NXN).

In 2018, Svoboda started the season off in a big way going 19:09.84 at the Plano ISD XC Invitational and then 18:55.0 at the Marcus I Invitational (Marcus I) in her first two 5Ks of the season.

From there, she went on to compete tough in the big races by going 18:34.95 at the McNeil Invitational (McNeil) for 30th place and 18:12.56 for 28th place at the UIL State Cross Country Championship (State). She continued to finish big with an 8th place at Region 2-6A and a 28th at Nike Cross Nationals South Regional (NXR South).

She didn't have a track season, so she could be itching to lace up her spikes and tear up some cross country courses once again.

Grace Williamson will have a huge season in 2019 for Southlake Carroll

Grace Williamson - Southlake Carroll - 2021

Williamson is the top returning Lady Dragon from the 2018 cross country season. She'll be one of the several top returners for a hungry Carroll squad looking to avenge last season when they didn't finish as well as they would have liked.

She ended the 2017 cross season with a 19:47 PR then started 2018 off with a 19:31 5K at Marcus I. Williamson finished 2018 with a 18:11.36 PR, which was nearly a one minute and 20 second drop from beginning to end for the season. That 18:11.36 was run at state for an impressive 27th place and then she followed that up with a 49th place at NXR South.

The spring saw her run just as well as she blasted PRs of 2:21.15 in the 800m, 5:12.80 in the 1600m, 11:16.37 in the 3200m, and a 17:39.54 5K at the Texas Distance Festival (TDF).

If she continues her improvement this fall, we could see her lead the Carroll Dragons much like Daenerys Targaryen.

Vera Thompson is next in line to lead the Keller Indians

Vera Thompson - Keller - 2020

Thompson is one of the last remaining runners from the Keller group that won a couple of state trophies over the last several years including back to back UIL 6A state titles in 2017 and 2018.

She returned to the level that she was accustomed to running at last season as she PRed with a 18:13.40 and reeled off two other sub 18:40 5Ks. She ran a 2:20 PR in the 800 and won the district 5-6A 800m title in the spring.

If Keller is to continue their streak of qualifying as a team to the state meet, and being one of the top teams in the crazy tough Region 1-6A and in the state, it is difficult seeing that happen without Thompson's experience and her ability to tear it up.

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Amity Ebarb (8) could have ma huge breakout this cross country season

Amity Ebarb - Weslaco - 2021

Ebarb is a Mrs. Do-It-All for Weslaco. She sprints, runs middle distance, jumps, and is their top distance runner. Don't take her ability to do many things well as though she can't excel at one single thing. 

As a freshman, it didn't seem it would be that way for her as she ran 26s in the 5K and only ran one race under 22:30. However, as a sophomore last year, things began to change for her as she made a huge turnaround. She started the 2018 season off with a 21:56.70, but at the end of the year, she dropped a 18:28.10 at the UIL 6A state meet. 

Yes, she went from 26 minutes one year to helping her team qualify for state and she finished 47th individually.

Of course she can't drop another eight minutes from last year's times, but she can still make a big jump. If you look at her track season, I'm sure you won't bet against her.

Last spring, Ebarb qualified for the state track meet in both the 400m and the 800m by dropping PRs of 54.44 and 2:11.74 to win two Region 4-6A titles.

I believe Ebarb will continue her improvement this season as she is guided by the Weslaco staff and as she continues to learn the sport.

Mckenzi Popper (1029) had a fantastic end to her freshman season

Mckenzi Popper - Austin LBJ - 2022

The Austin LBJ boys had a good 2018 cross country season with their state meet surprise, but they weren't the only LBJ athletes to have a good cross country season. Freshman Mckenzi Popper showed that she is an emerging talent. 

She won the Cedar Park Invitational girls D2 race last year and was on fire from then on. She turned in a second place at her district meet and then followed that up with a third place finish at the Region 4-5A race earning herself a state meet qualifying spot.

Her streak of hot running continued at state with a 18:49.15 for 145th overall and then an 89th place run in the championship race at NXR South.

She only has three races on record for the track season, but a 11:40.82 3200m is a good sign for this cross country season. 

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Allen's Brenna Zerby (37) started the 2018 season off well and 2019 could be better

Brenna Zerby - Allen - 2022

Zerby is yet another one of the very talented girls in the class of 2022. This young lady can run, but most importantly, she can race with the best of them.

The Allen Eagle does not shy away or clam up in the big races and earned valuable experience as a freshman. She was fifth at the Region 2-6A cross country meet earning her trip to state last year where she finished 29th in 18:28.48.

Zerby also showed she can blaze on the track as she went 5:06.97 for 1600m and 10:50.36 in the 3200m. I expect her to be even better the second time around this year.

Rachel Sutliff (428) won an individual region championship in 2018 and could shoot for a state title this year

Rachel Sutliff - Grapevine - 2021 

The Grapevine junior will have a great season this fall and you can take that to the bank. Last year, at  Old Settlers, Sutliff went 18:17.20 (McNeil) and 18:22.70 (State). However, on true 5K courses, she reeled off three other sub 19 5Ks.

Sutliff also ran great at the end of the season when it mattered most. She was the Region 1-5A champion and then finished 6th place overall at the UIL 5A state meet and then was 18th at NXR South.

She showed off her wheels in track season by going for PRs with a 2:21.95 800m (in February), 5:03.78 1600m, and 10:57.14 in the 3200m. If that wasn't impressive enough, she also dropped another PR with a  17:22.43 5K at TDF.

Don't sleep on Sutliff!

Shelby Spoor (205) will try to help lead Coppell to another state title in 2019

Shelby Spoor - Coppell - 2020

Coppell senior Shelby Spoor was important to the 2019 state champion Coppell squad. Well, she'll be even more important this year. She could have a lot riding on her performances this season as she could be the #2 girl for the Lady Cowboys.

Spoor should be able to handle things well as she is in a good program with great coaching. She also came up big during cross at the state meet and NXR South. Her 18:17.69 at state was crucial to Coppell's unbelievable state meet race and their mind blowing 15 second 1-5 split.

Track season is another indication that Spoor could have a big breakout season this fall. She went 5:13.93 in the 1600m, and 11:12.09 in the 3200m. Then at the TDF 5K, she went 18:15.54. 

Spoor will make it tough to dethrone Coppell, but she could also have a stud individual season.

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Jaci McGregor (5) had an amazing track season and could continue that in cross

Jaci McGregor - Salado - 2021

The Salado junior is ended track season on possibly the hottest running streak in the state. As a sophomore, we saw her go from a 13:08.50 to an 11:46.40 in the same season. She won her district, was second at the Region 4-4A meet, and then finished fifth at state.

McGregor's track season was a meh, type of season leading up to district, but that is when she kicked it into the high gear. Her times began to drop like crazy to the point where she PRed in both the 1600m (-30 seconds) and 3200m (-42 seconds) races.  That led to her season ending bests being 5:09.99 and 11:19.80 as well as two third place medals at the state meet.

Signs are pointing to a great season from her this fall.

Grace Kohout is one of Tompkins' top runners looking to have a breakout season

The Katy Tompkins girls put together another solid season in 2018. Their young top seven line-up had several girls assist in carrying them back to the state meet and Kohout was one of the major players.

With a consistent top three, she proved to be one of the leaders who were reliable week in and week out as she was a sub 20 5K girl in every meet except for one.

Her 19:09.93 PR is a good sign of what's to come in 2019. That's not all, as her track season showed signs for intrigue in cross. She improved to 5:13.89 in the 1600m and 11:00.57 in the 3200m.

She recently just finished her track season this summer with 2:25.46 (800m) and 4:46.95 (1500m) PRs and a fifth place finish at the USATF National Junior Olympic Track & Field Championships.

As the team looks to climb up the ranks and towards the awards stand at state, Kohout's performance will be important and a big individual breakout season would expedite that process.

Olivia Christmas (1908) could have a breakout sophomore cross country season

Olivia Christmas - Weatherford - 2022

I'll say it again, the class of 2022 girls was very good. Many know who the top names and faces are. Well, here is one that many may not be familiar with.

Christmas didn't knock your socks off with her times throughout the season, but she ran big when it mattered. The Weatherford young star dropped a big time race at the Region 1-6A race with her 18:11.87 for 16th place to earn her trip to state. At state, she ran 18:19.25 for 34th place overall and then she was 39th at NXR South.

During track season, she worked on her speed as she ran 400s, 800s, and 1600s. She went for PRs of 1:03.35, 2:20.93, and 5:17.62 as she qualified for regionals in the 800m and the 1600m.

Christmas could breakout even bigger in year two.

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The track season breakthrough happened long ago for Goggans, but just wait for this XC season

Bailey Goggans - Marble Falls - 2021

There isn't much Goggans can't do. She can sprint and she can run long. She already had a breakthrough during cross country last year as she put a real effort into it. 

Her slowest time of the season was a 19:17.40 as she averaged 18:42 for the rest of the season. That was astonishing considering her fastest time of the year as a freshman was 21:40.73 in a three mile race. With a second  season of emphasis on cross, Goggans could potentially be an All-State performer and one possibly one of the top runners nationally.

That wouldn't be anything new as she has already solidified herself as one of the nation's top middle distance runners in the spring. 

Goggans was on fire both in the indoor and the outdoor seasons. She ran PRs of 54.71, 2:06.10, and 5:04.00 on her way to two state championships.

As for that 21:40 three mile from her freshman year that we noted, well she went 18:35 in a 3 mile race last year. That's over a three minute improvement. How much time will Goggans drop this year? She is definitely a runner capable of going 17 minutes this year.

Gracie Hall will be one of the top 5A individuals in 2019

Gracie Hall - Cedar Park - 2020

The Cedar Park senior is going on her third coach in four years. That's a tough deal for a young runner, but she has had some very good coaches. The new head man at Cedar Park is the former Montgomery coach Chance Edwards.

Hall has flourished throughout her career as she has improved each year. She had a great finish to the 2018 season as she finished third at Region 3-5A and then 32nd at both the UIL 5A state meet and the NXR South championship race.

She went 5:15.34 in the 1600m and 11:18.16 in the 3200m during track season. 

Hall and her Cedar Park teammates want to get back on the awards stand at the state meet and possibly trade in the third place for a first place trophy. Hall will be an important factor in doing so.

Austin Owen (1833) could have a special 2019 season for Marcus

Austin Owen - Marcus - 2022

Owen entered her freshman year being Marcus grad and All-Stater Quinn Owen's little sister. However, she immediately began to create a name for herself.

Right out of the gates at Marcus I, she popped off 2018 with a solid 20:09 to finish 81st in the Elite 5K.

She then went straight to the 19s getting as low as a 19:10.62 PR for the season. She also jumped right in with the absurd DFW talent and amongst some of the best in the state going 18:24.98 at McNeil and 17:58.92 at Region 1-6A or 20th place to qualify individually for the state meet.

The competitiveness was evident when she went 18:45.80 for 66th at state and then finishing 36th in the NXR South Championship race. 

The spring showed that she will be a force during this sophomore year when she displayed her speed by going 2:25.20, 5:08.32, and 10:52.65. With coach Telaneus, a Marcus jersey, and the Owen last name, she has all of the tools to have a breakout 2019 season.

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Sophomore Abby Wilson is next in line to be the leader at Montgomery

Abigail Wilson - Montgomery - 2022

This is the first season Montgomery will be without Allison Wilson and Halena Rahmaan. No problem.

Abigail Wilson will start her sophomore year and if she can pick up where she left off, she will make the sting of losing two of the top distance runners in the nation a little easier to take.

As a freshman, she had one of the best finishes to the season with her ninth place finish at the UIL 5A state meet. She impressed again with a 18:32.35 performance and a 27th place finish at NXR South. Things perhaps started to click earlier in the season when she had a very impressive race at the incredible California Woodbridge Cross Country Classic as she ran 18:00 for 3 miles to finish sixth in the Varsity Blue race.

Wilson was also good on the track as she went 2:21.01, 5:13.43, and 11:17.43. It's worth noting that she'll be getting accustomed to a new coach and possible new philosophies and training, but she has assumed the reigns as the number one runner at Montgomery and should have an even better sophomore year.

Canyon junior Gabi Davis will crank it back up in the distance races after tearing up the track in the 800m

Gabi Davis - Canyon - 2021

Davis' Canyon squad now runs the two mile distance for the state meet, but that doesn't stop them from getting in the fair share of 5K races. That will allow Davis to show how good she'll be state wide at both distances.

Davis will be one of the top two runners for the defending UIL 4A team champions from Canyon. Last year, she finished ninth overall at state with her 11:54.36.

Davis is coming of a good track season where we saw her win a 800m state title and run a PR 2:15.67.

If she can improve on her 18:35.11PR in the 5K from last year, Canyon could be looking at a repeat win as a team, but if she can continue to use her speed and maturation from track season, this could be a breakout on the cross country courses for Davis.

Kaitlyn Childress (1065) is another Cedar Park runner who could have a strong season

Kaitlyn Childress - Cedar Park - 2021

Childress had a pretty solid 2018 cross country season, but she had an awesome finish to the season. She caught fire right when it mattered by going 18:23.90 at her district meet, then a 19:32.80 5K at Region 3-5A, 16th place at the state meet, and then added 35th place finish at NXR South.

During the track season, she PRed with a 5:02.64 at TDF in the 1600m and also had an 11:00 SB 3200m.

Childress will be one of the top two runners on the Cedar Park squad who finished third in 5A and will be one of the top teams in the state. With lofty team goals and expectations, do not sleep on Childress as her junior season could be huge!

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Chloe Smith (7971) is a young runner to watch out for in 2019

Chloe Smith - Frisco Wakeland - 2022

Wakeland rolled their fabulous freshman sensation out on the courses last year and she did quite well. 

Chloe Smith didn't run a single 5K over her season opener of 19:43.10. She even medaled at the UIL 5A state meet going 18:39.06, which was impressive considering the weather conditions.

There aren't any track stats for Smith, which makes predicting what she'll do this fall a pure guessing game. However, taking her 2018 season stats, the Wakeland program, and linear progression, she is definitely a name you don't want to overlook.

Ariyah Gomez assumes the #1 spot at Canyon Randall

Ariyah Gomez - Canyon Randall - 2022

The 2018 season was not what we are accustomed to seeing from a coach James led Randall team. With a little less typical cross country problems this year along with the absence of other unexpected challenges from last season, it would not be wise to expect them to return to their usual standards.

Gomez will be big part of making that happen. As a freshman, she was able to put together a good season going for 18:33 and 18:27 in her fastest two 5Ks. With the graduation of Daphne Pate, she will take the leadership role for Randall.

In track season, she was able to gain traction in the end of the season at Region 1-5A as she PRed in the 1600m (5:24.52) and the 3200m (11:20.63) making it to the UIL 5A state in the latter to finish seventh overall.

This year, Gomez is an emerging talent and will slide into the one spot forRandall. She will look to improve individually but will also carry some responsibility of returning her squad to the top of class 5A.

Allison Millan races during indoor season

Allison Millan - Cypress Bridgeland - 2022

Yes, we have another girl from the class of 2022 on this list.

Bridgeland's Millan is just one of many talented girls on the team roster full of young stars that helped make last year a special season in cross country.

The group running was key to the season, but Millan's part just can't be overlooked. A second place finish at district, a 18:32.65 and 20th place finish at regionals, followed by 18:27.87 for a 44th place finish at state made her end of the season performances huge.

She also ran well on the track. Key performances for her were her 5:23.38 (1600m) and a 11:41.07 (3200m). What that means is, Bridgeland will be dangerous with a bunch of talented girls all capable of running on the same level and Millan's performances will be huge this season.

Hayden Gold could be one of the top girls in Region 3-6A

Hayden Gold - Katy Tompkins - 2021

Gold had phenomenal track and cross country seasons last year. She could enter this season in Tompkins' number one spot.

She did what a good runner is supposed to do, blaze the fast courses and run solid on the tougher ones. Gold ran a 18:46.14 PR in her first 5K of the season at Seven Lakes and then lowered that with an 18:40.98 at district. She also impressed at Old Settlers with her 18:38.53 at the state meet.

On the track, she PRed in every even this season. With new personal bests of 5:10.90, 11:14.00, and 18:02.13 in the 5K at TDF Gold showed how tuned up she is for the next two years at Tompkins. For good measure, she completely rocked one of her favorite track events - the steeplechase. She won the Texas Relays steeple with a 7:12.35.

Gold is ready for a breakout to the next level, she is the type of runner I expect to run in the 17s regularly in the second half of the season.

Gracie Morris (15) will make her first XC debut since foot surgery in 2017 this fall

Gracie Morris - Aledo - 2020

She 's back!!!

I'm talking about Gracie Morris of Aledo. She missed an entire year of training and competing after a foot injury resulted in surgery and rehab following the 2017 cross country season. 

Morris made a comeback in the spring, during the middle of track season and she ran herself into enough fitness to qualify for the state track meet. Recognizing the importance of thinking about the rest of her career the long run, she took the gradual approach by competing in one 3200m race (11:27.47) and some 1600m (5:05.43) races from mid March through the state meet.

Using the track season to build her fitness and knock off the dust from the 12 plus month layoff, the focus was clearly on this fall. Now that the time is drawing near, Morris will have had months of build up toward being the runner and competitor we all remember.

With health on her side the 2019 season could be a true breakout for Morris.