Future Stars: 10 Freshmen To Watch For This XC Season

Adrian Rule (2795) will compete for San Antonio Christian as a freshman

A new year means a new crop of young distance stars will come in and help lead the Texas distance running scene to a new era.

We recently saw some of the best girls in Texas history graduate in back to back years and as they do we get the future steadily coming in.

We have a list of five girls and five boys we know of that will make headway in the sport during their freshman year. 

Take a look at the list to see who could become the future of high school distance running.

Gannon Dolan (Grace Classical Christian Academy )

Dolan begins his freshman competition season as a club district champion, national champion and Junior Olympic record holder, making for quite the resume to kickstart his high school career.

His 4k performance at the Southwestern AAU Cross Country District Meet last October of 12:53.30 not only won his age group race, but put Dolan first in the nation among all eighth grade boys who marked times at that distance.

But Dolan truly made a name for himself as a young star to watch just weeks ago at the AAU Junior Olympic Games where he ran 8:59.00 to break the national record in the 14yo boys 3,000m. He also contested the 1,500m earlier on in the games, finishing third with a new PR of 4:15.10.

Macy Wingard (Denton Braswell)

Wingard only has one high school race under her belt, but she has already made quite the buzz. She won the Plano ISD Inv. in good fashion by over 20 seconds and with a 18:07 state leading performance in the 5K. She previously ran middle school in the private school sector, but now in public school she already has eyes on her.

As the season goes along and the competition gets faster, so could Wingard. The season looks bright the the Braswell freshman phenom. She is the younger sister of Wyatt Wingard who placed 12th at the UIL 6A state cross country meet in 2019 for Frisco Reedy.

Sophia Hamdani (Houston Bellaire)

Hamdani goes to school in the heart of Houston -- speaking of heart, this young lady had one that can sustain both aerobic and anaerobic stress. She recent ran impressive times of 4:44.00 1,500m at the AAU Region 17 Qualifier, 4:58.49 at the John Cooper Moonlight mile, and an eye popping 10:02.00 3,000m at the AAU Region 17 Qualifier. This year Hamdani is going forward to not just being one of the top Houston athletes but a threat to the state as incoming freshman. To close things off on a higher note, Hamdani also just finished competing at the 2022 AAU Junior Olympic Games in Greensboro, NC, she finished 2nd in the nation in the 1,500m running 4:43.79, and finished 5th in the nation in the 3,000m running 10:18.04. 

Hamdani is another on this list who has running in the blood. Her older brother Zain is currently one of the top runners in the state and also at Bellaire.

Rowan Saacke (Katy Tompkins

This freshman is coming off a hard-working summer training where she attended Project Gold in Flagstaff, Arizona. Saacke is entering her high school career with some fast times on the track by running 2:34.21 800m at the Week 4 CRHS meet, 5:04.93 1,500m at the AAU Junior Olympics Games, 10:58.34 3,000m at the AAU Region 17 Qualifier, and ran a 5:22 mile time trial at Tompkins just a couple days ago.

Running is also in her family as her older brother Gavin runs at the University of Alabama and was a sixth place finisher at the UIL 6A state cross country meet in 2019.

Billy Bond (Lubbock Roosevelt) 

Bond is a freshman at Lubbock Roosevelt where he will be on varsity from day one. He had an incredible summer of training executing over 140 miles in total.  He also ran two races where he set two personal best as well as two course records. 

In June, Bond completed ran a 10K in 44:53 and in the middle of July, he ran a 20K Trail Race in 1:58.57. Bond not only has the endurance, but he can also turn the legs over. Word on the street is that the 14 year old recently ran a 4:58 in the mile to go along with his longer runs.


Ryder Strohman (Holliday)

The secret is already out about the Strohman brothers. Holliday has had some big time distance runners on the girls side for several years and now they have some boys who will be just as good.

Ryder ran a 13:57 4K race last year, which is equivalent to a 17-mid 5K. Then as a 13 year-old, he ran a 10:49 on grass in the 3200m followed by a 4:38 1600m at the Brooks PR Invitational back in June.

Harper Counts  (Austin Brentwood Christian)

It'll be on certain occasions that we'll get to see Counts lace it up against UIL girls, but the private schooler will still give plenty of runners fits no matter what meet she is at.

Last year, Counts was undefeated at the middle school ranks including big time winst at the FEAST Patriot Inv. and the McNeil Inv.  She has a time of 11:58 in the 3200 on grass and a 11:52 PR on the track. In the 1600, she ran a 5:33 on the track in December as well as recently.

Isabella Billingsley (Tilden McMullen)

We have another sibling who will keep the bloodlines running, literally. Her brother Isaiah was a multiple state champion in 1A track and cross country for Miller Grove and Tilden McMullen and her father is multiple state championship winning coach Gary Billingsley.

As for Isabella, she can write her own checks. She had two races on record this year and the 14 year old ran well on the track. At the Texas Distance Festival, she ran 5:47 in the 1600m in mid-March. A month later at the Schrader 1600, she ran a 5:27 PR to get her ready for the high school ranks.

Adrian Rule (San Antonio Christian)

Adrian Rule will be a major player in TAPPS from day one. He'll also be competitive in any race situation. As a middle schooler, he put together a very solid resume that makes a running fan anticipate his maturation in the sport.

Rule has the national race experience; he ran a 9:23 indoor 3K at the Adidas Track Nationals last winter and was second at Brooks in 4:30 behind another Texas talent Noah Strohman. Rule is also consistent, last season he ran 4:42, 4:36, 4:37, and 4:30 in that order. He also has 2:06 800m speed; thats major for a 13/14 year old.

Noah Strohman (Holliday)

Strohman made the most of his final year in middle school to make him a strong candidate for notoriety as one of the nation's top freshman runners this cross country season. He enters high school coming off an All-American finish at Middle School XC Nationals in 2021, running a middle school US No. 5 4k time of 13:07.2 take second. 

But perhaps Strohman's biggest glimmer of potential came out on the track in the final race of his middle school career. At Brooks PR in June, the eighth grader won the junior 1,600m in a new personal best of 4:23.69, closing out his middle school days in winning fashion. Strohman's win at Brooks also helped him finish the outdoor season on top of the rankings as the fastest middle school 1,600m racer in the country.

Now as a freshman, look for Strohman to continue building his confidence and creating a strong reputation for himself in the state of Texas.