Ranking the top teams in the state are always a tough task to do. None are harder than the girls returning team rankings.
Most of the projections are from estimations based on what happened a year ago. With girls, that is almost impossible to get right. Each season, new young runners have major impacts.
In some ways, it would just be hard to get some rankings wrong. The defending state champions Flower Mound should pretty unanimously the top team in the state with Southlake pretty close. The Woodlands should definitely be the next team in line before a small separation.
That separation is where it gets tough to predict. The Cross Country Coaches Association of Texas (CCCAT) voters have the Houston area as a tough area to compete in this year with six of the next seven top teams hailing from the Houston metropolitan area.
Looking at the returning performances from the state meet, that could be a little misleading.
Historically, the Houston area is a strong distance running part of the state, especially team wise. However, so is the DFW metroplex, but the Houston area got the nod over the Dallas area teams in the representation of the top 10 teams in the poll.
District championships have a big effects on the post season. Some of the top teams are all in the same districts. Last year, we saw the post season was affected with only two teams moving beyond district and three beyond regionals.
With one less team moving beyond regionals, several teams were unable to qualify for state out of Region 3-6A. Only nine points separated the second through fifth place teams and ending the season to two quality teams at home. Those teams return several runners for the upcoming season and they seem to be rewarded based on the projections.
In the DFW area, the district championships left some quality teams at home a round earlier. Teams like Marcus and Hebron also had their seasons ended throughout the rounds.
Marcus is a team who returns enough from last year where they could be the fourth best team in the state. With only two teams making out of districts last season, they were the odd team out when they finished third. District rival Hebron made it out of districts last year, but their season ended at the Region of Doom. They graduated their number one runner, but considering true 5K returning stats, Hebron could potentially be the eighth best team in the state to start the season.
Here is the CCCAT preseason poll and our preview for the UIL 6A girls and our take on why these teams were rated in the CCCAT Top 10 poll.
Head Coach: Andrew Cook (CCCAT Girls Coach of the Year)
Last Year's Finish: 1st at UIL 6A State meet, 1st at Region 1-6A, 2nd UIL District 6-6A
Key Returners: Natalie Cook (Sr.), Allison Buemi (Sr.), Samantha Humphries (So.), Virginia Knight (Sr.), Nicole Humphries (So.), Emma McLaughlin (Jr.), Allie Lyda (Sr.)
Take - The FloMo Lady Jags had a strong run through the 2020 championship season taking on the top teams in the top meets on the toughest courses. Coach Cook brings back five of his top 7 runners from the state meet and could be even tougher to stop this year. Natalie Cook should be rested and ready to go for her senior year .If her 10:12.70 3,200m run on the track last week and a 149.42 speed rating is any indication, it should make her an early individual championship favorite.
Cook wasn't the only one to show how fit she is over the weekend. The Humphries twins also look fit; Nicole Humphries ran 10:57 for another sub 11:00 time on the team and for a 126.54 speed rating. Samantha Humphries was not too far behind in 11:06, Allison Buemi in 11:09, Virginia Knight in 11:15. Although it's only 3200m, that's a 10:55 team average and 1:03 1-5 runner split.
Head Coach: Justin Leonard
Last Year's Finish: 2nd at UIL 6A State meet, 2nd at Region 1-6A, 1st at UIL District 4-6A
Take - The Lady Dragons graduated two of their top seven scorers from last year, but in typical Carroll fashion, they seem to be just as strong as ever. Just one season removed from their state championship in 2019, they aren't too far away from being able to attain another one.
But, how close are they? The SLC girls also competed in the 3,200m event this passed weekend. Kaylie Cox ran 10:50 for the first spot on the team; not only was that impressive, but the rest of her squad wasn't too far behind. Audrey Dunn was just over 11 minutes in 11:06, Ava Bushaw finished in 11:21, Natalie Ng in 11:27, and Olivia Jones finished in 11:35.
That was good for a 11:15 team average and a 45 second deviation from the first runner to the fifth runner across the line. Could they close the 20 second team gap to Flower Mound with another mile plus distance?
Head Coach: Juris Green
Last Year's Finish: 3rd at UIL 6A State meet, 1st at Region 2-6A, 1st UIL District 13-6A
Take - Last year, The Lady Highlanders made a big jump. They did so with a mix of youth and seniors. The group that returns from their third place trophy winning team will have four key members, but will infuse some new runners to the top seven.
That shouldn't be a problem with an extra year of continuity after coaching, training, and philosophy changes. They might get their season started this weekend at the Friday Night Lights event as they look to make a jump on the awards stand this season at state.
Last year, they ran an awesome 18:50 team average with a 1:04 split. That could normally battle for a championship. Although it will be a tough task for anyone to displace Flower Mound and Southlake Carroll, don't count out The Woodlands girls.
Head Coach: Jermaine Dye
Last Year's Finish: 6th at UIL 6A State Meet, 2nd at UIL Region 3-6A, 1st at UIL District 21-6A
Take - The Lady Mustangs were just the UIL 6A runner-ups going back to 2019. With a superb run thanks to a lot of youngsters, the Kingwood girls are a team who could easily make a jump to the award stand. The girls who were young two years ago are now upperclassmen and are capable of another team podium finish.
Head Coach: Tom Kennedy
Last Year's Finish: 6th at UIL Region 2-6A, 1st at UIL District 16-6A
Take - Bridgeland didn't qualify as a team for the state meet last year, but they could and should have. A late championship season injury to their number one runner had costly effects at regionals. The Lady Bears still were just slightly outside of the reach for qualifying to the state meet.
Bridgeland has both the talent and experience to go along with the coaching to be one of the top teams in the state once again. Emily Ellis emerged as one of the top runners last year and could take a step up and the team level should definitely use it's depth with new young runners to the program.
Head Coach: James Darcey
Last Year's Finish: 5th at UIL Region 3-6A and 2nd at UIL District 19-6A
Take - It's been a couple of years since Katy has made it's presence felt on the state level. That almost ended last season and could start a new streak this season.
The Katy Tigers were fifth last year at regionals, but they were just four points away from qualifying for state and just nine points away from a runner-up finish at regionals.
The power in KISD and the region could shift back to Coach Darcey's girls this year. Isabella Rubio and Christina Rodriguez are the only seniors on a squad where youth will help carry the team after last year's heart crushing near miss.
While the freshmen turn into sophomores, Rubio and Maddy Hunter lead the team and will look to take the rest of the squad back to state with them.
Head Coach: Shawn Siemers
Last Year's Finish: 4th at UIL Region 3-6A and 2nd at UIL District 19-6A
Take - Houston Stratford went through a new regime change last year and things worked out well with a lot of runners being mostly freshmen and sophomores.
The training and philosophy of Coach Siemers was accepted and the program was able to stay on course at the level the previous staff had it at and perhaps further along the curve than expected. Stratford was fourth at the regional meet and just three points away from qualifying for the state meet.
Things could be different this year. Weinhardt was able to qualify for state last year as a freshman, but each runner returning, her travel group could expand by a whole team.
Head Coach: Aaron Shock
Last Year's Finish: 3rd at UIL District 15-6A
Take - Coach Shock's return to Klein Oak is huge as it brings previoius knowledge and culture of the program and quality assistance. That is huge in such a competitive district and region.
Oak finished third in the district last year and that kept them from advancing to the region. With fellow Klein ISD rivals Klein and Klein Cain who return very quality squads, this year will be a challenge. One of the key returners will be senior Gabrielle Hoots who was the district 15-6A champion last year.
Along with Shock an Hoots, Oak returns their entire team from last year and that will be key to their team aspirations. They will find out where they stand early in the season as they travel to the DFW area to compete at the Lovejoy Invitational that will have some of the best teams in the state, including some Region 2-6A teams.
Head Coach: Jennifer Gegogeine
Last Year's Finish: 4th at UIL Region 1-6A and 2nd at UIL District 19-6A
Take - Last year was tough for Prosper. It was decimated by transfers with the new school in the district taking key runners who were part of the squads who qualified for the Team Nationals in 2018 and 2019.
However, Coach Gegogeine and the program persevered to qualify for the Region 1-6A championships where they finished fourth. After the coaching clinic we saw from Gegogeine last year, this season could be see Prosper return things back to normal quicker than some expectations.
Aubrey O'Connell (2019 UIL 6A individual champion), had a fantastic track season and already ran a 10:44 3,200m on the track last weekend for a 132.82 speed rating. With five other quality returners, Prosper will likely have to battle Marcus, Hebron, and El Paso Franklin for the final two state meet qualifying positions.
Head Coach: Timothy McGuire
Last Year's Finish: 7th at UIL 6A state meet, 3rd at UIL Region 2-6A, and 1st at UIL District 15-6A
Take - Kristen McHugh is the reigning Region 2-6A champion and will look to lead a Klein squad who returns six of seven runners from last year.
Things will be tough as they have to deal with Klein Cain and Klein Oak through the entire season and then have The Woodlands and Bridgeland when regionals rolls around.
With a squad who should be considered experienced after last season, this will be a tough team to outrun during what will be a very competitive championship season. Coach McGuire has turned Klein into a legit program and one to never count out.