Look Out List: XC Boys To Look Out For In 2022 Edition 3

Zain Hamdani (950) competes at the 202 Texas Distance Festival

Photo Credit: Jessie McCabe

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So, if you're keeping up, this is the third edition of boys I think you should be watching out for in the 2022 cross country season. This is how excited I am for the cross country season....it's also how good I think the boys will be this year.

This list of boys includes some names I am almost certain you aren't thinking about and some you probably have never heard. That neither minimize their abilities nor my optimism on how good they could potentially be on the grass this season.

It's a dead give away that I've selected one of my HISD homies, Zain Hamdani to appear on this list. Again, if you're not in the Houston area, this is definitely a guy you might not have heard of, but I believe you'll become very acquainted with him and the other guys on the list this season.

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James Boutte Jr. - Houston Christian - 6th @ SPC state

PRs - 800m - 1:53.71 - 1,600m - 4:17.46, 5K - 16:22.10

Boutte Jr., the Houston Christian junior showed during the track season that he was a major player in the middle distances. He competed in the very tough SPC 800m season and then topped out with a 1:53 PR at the TTFCA Meet of Champions. He consistently ran mid 4:20s in the 1,600m and then dropped a 4:17 PR at the John Cooper Moonlight Mile.

He ran a 16:22 best last year in cross country and then finished sixth at the SPC state meet in 16:34. An SPC state title or two could be in the cards for Boutte Jr. next season and the first one could come in the cross country season. He has proven he has the wheels!

Tyson Tamez - Temple -
PRs - 800m - 1:53.36, 1,600m - 4:22.33, 3,200m 9:57.48, 5K - 16:34.31

Tamez is a real gamer and will be an excellent recruit for the lucky school who identifies him and signs him. Looking at his stats, he is kind of an enigma because he accelerated his running on the track last spring by leaps and bounds. He ran a 9:57 in the 3,200m early in the season and then went straight to the middle distances where he had a heck of a year.

He went 1:53 and 4:22 to show his speed in the shorter races and PRed in the 400m, but don't be dismayed and think he can not produce in cross country.  The majority of his races are at the 3-mile distance and he was a consistent low 16 minute runner and his finishes shows his ability to race. 

Being a racer does have it's holes and it has come to bite him at the regional races, but the strong Temple product's resume speaks for itself. If Tamez races the courses and the clock instead of competitors, look out for the young man in the shades this cross country season.

Ethan Malesich - San Antonio Brandeis - 60th @ UIL 6A state XC meet

PRs - 800m - 1:55.75, 1,600m - 4:23.80, 5K - 15:55.90

Malesich is another runner on this list who focused on the middle distances las year. He dropped PRs in the 800m (1:55) and in the 1,600m (4:23). Seeing how high school cross country is only three miles, runners like Malesich are quite dangerous on the grass.

Malesich improved last year in cross as he dropped his 5K from the mid 16s to the high 15s and he improved at Old Settlers from a finish in the 100s down to 60th. Last year, Malesich helped his team get to Round Rock and duplicating that as well as being a major threat are both in his wheelhouse this fall.

Zain Hamdani - Houston Bellaire
PRs - 800m  - 1:56.23, 1,600m - 4:12.60, 3,200m - 9:32.81, 5K - 15:33.30

If you're looking for a runner to root for that could go from less known to infamy, Hamdani could be your guy. Looking at his PRs, it's no doubt this dude can run it all. He can also compete; being in the ever-so-tough Region 3 down in Houston, he has had his fair share of top notch competitors to wait his time behind, yet sharpen his skills.

His time should be now. Last season, he ran a 4:12 at TDF and then backed it up at RunningLane with a 4:16 and then another 4:12 in the complete one mile. He was consistent in the 3,200 with 9:30s all season long and a 1:56 in the 800m at district to test his speed.

In cross country, Hamdani jumped from 16 mids as a sophomore to 15 mids as a junior. That advancement shows discipline and effort and if he puts together another big time improvement - - well, you do the math.

It's been a couple of years since Houston ISD has had a dominant cross country runner on the state level. Mamdani could be the HISD resurrectionist.

Chris Saling (3396)

Chris Saling - Tuscola Jim Ned - 5th @ UIL 3A XC state meet
PRs - 800m - 1:55.06, 1,600m - 4:31.48, 16:12.56

Saling is another one of the speedsters on our list to watch out for and his half-mile ability is the reason why. 

Another reason he is a runner to watch out for is his experience. Not many runners in the state have qualified for as many state championships as the Jim Ned star. Last year, he was fifth at the cross country state meet and is the second ranked returner for this upcoming season.

Saling's 16:12 PR might not be improved until the championship season when he races the faster guys, but when the time comes, look for him to drop times and compete for the state title.

Dylan Schieffelin - Austin Vandegrift 
PRs - 1,600m - 4:23.43, 3,200m - 09:43.11, 5K - 16:03.66

Everyone knows Vandegrift's top runner, but their No. 2 guy this year should by Dylan Schieffelin. The junior was impressive in his first seasons and for the most part, he has been pretty consistent.

He now will look to take things up a notch when it comes to his level of running. He has had some of the best runners in the state to identify with and train with; the pathway has been paved. This group should get significantly better with the team Vandegrift will field this year and guidance from the junior moving forward will help them.

Not only should a leadership role enhance Schieffelin's running, but team aspirations will significantly rely on him. After the team qualified for the state meet last year, the expectations will be higher; the better year Schieffelin has the better his team will also have. If the team and individual want to be considered serious contenders, the time is now.

Vedant Bhattacharyya - Coppell - 114th @2020 UIL 6A state XC meet
PRs - 800m - 1:56.5.19, 1,600m - 4:15.92, 5K - 16:00.13

Bhattacharyya is a mixture of all of the runners above. He is at a significant program at Coppell, he has had top runners come through Coppell while he was there, he is in a very competitive area, and he has focused on the middle distances in the track season.

That hasn't stopped the Cowboy from producing excellent performances across the board in every event. In many states and even in many areas in Texas, he would be one of the best runners around, yet in the distance over saturated area known as DFW, he is still fighting for a breakout.

This year could be Bhattacharyya's breakthrough. He ran 16:00 both on the track and on the grass in the 5K last year. Then his ability in the 800m and 1,600m have shown he can do it all and it could all be rounding out at the right time for the senior. Don't be surprised if he is a medalist at the state cross country meet in November.

Harris Ledbetter - Conroe Oak Ridge 
PRs - 800m - 2:05.77, 1,600m - 4:22.67, 3,200m - 9:28.45, 5K 16:48.73

One of my least favorite things to do is categorize freshman boys as being one of the top this or that. However, last year, Ledbetter was one of the best freshmen boys in the Lone Star state and many of you don't know who he is.

In cross country, he didn't knock anybody's socks off. He ran pretty well on grass with some low 17 runs and a 16:48.73 PR. If that wasn't impressive enough then look to his track stats; he ran 2:05 in the 800m, which is pretty darn good for a freshman. If you're still not impressed then take account of his 4:22 and 9:28 runs. 

Ledbetter's 4:22 was a case of right time and right race. It was at the Moonlight Mile, which was set up for a PR chase. he was consistently in the 4:30s, which is good for a ninth-grader. 

His perfect sub 10 season bodes well for his transition into the second year of high school running. Don't get caught off guard . . . you'd better pay attention to Ledbetter!

Owen Cole - Flower Mound 
PRs - 800m - 2:03.31, 1,600m - 4:26.08, 3,200m - 9:20.55, 5K - 15:54.60

It's almost a ritual, after one big time Flower Mound runner graduates, the next one steps up to fill the void as one of the state's leaders.

Last year, it looked like it was Cole's turn to start grabbing headlines. He did crank things up with his performances, but now he should really come into his own and start really become a household name.

He ran 15:54 on grass last cross country season and followed that up with a 16:15 on the track. However, his 4:26 and 9:20 on the track were tell tale signs that it wasn't last year that his training was going to take off, but rather this is the year.

I expect the Flower Mound boys cross country team to get back to the high level we're used to and Cole will be pushing that issue.

William Dunaway - Austin St Andrews Episcopal - 4th place finish @ SPC XC state meet
PRs - 800m - 2:01.66, 1,600m - 4:24.06, 3,200m - 9:26.15, 5K - 16:01.70

St. Andrews senior, Dunaway is coming off his best year on the track and turned in some excellent times. He was a consistent mid 4:20s runner and mid nine minute guy in the 3,200m with PRs of 4:20 and 9:26.

We'll have to wait and see what that means for the 2022 cross country season, but it could result into a pretty good year. If Dunaway gets to some of the top meets in the state then his 16:01 PR could be long gone. 

He was fourth at the SPC state cross country meet last year and with the top two runners graduating he could be staring at a state championship.

Farrin Mangelson - FEAST Homeschool - 4th @ Homeschool state XC meet
PRs - 1,600m - 4:32.08, 9:40.81, 5K - 15:54

Manelson is an explosive runner and is capable of becoming one of Texas' best.

During last cross country season, he got off to a hot start at with some fast times including a 15:14.10 at the FEAST Patriot Inv. From there he lived in the high to mid 15s including a legit 15:54 in the 5K at McNeil.

After a fourth place finish at the Texas Homeschool State Cross Country Championships, Mangelson doesn't have any running stats beyond his state meet, so it's a little hard to gauge his progression or even know his plans of running this fall. If he does line up without incident over the last couple of months, there is no reason to believe he won't be a threat to this year.