2022 Preseason DFW Metro XC Girls To Watch

Preseason Second Team

Peyton Benson

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14. Peyton Benson - Lucas Lovejoy

As a key contributor to a dream season for Lovejoy, Benson's sophomore year proved she is tough, consistent and a reliable performer in the championship season's crucial moments. She was third at the district meet, 10th in Region 2 and then 13th at the state meet as Lovejoy's fourth girl. Her results on the track were not eye catching, but she has proven that the value of track times are often diminished in the latter stages of a championship cross country race compared to the value of a strong mind and a team title in mind.

With that, she still ran PRs from the 400m all of the way through the 5,000m on the track. Her 11:15 3,200m and 18:26 TDF 5,000m were signs of optimism and should bode well for the upcoming cross season.

Audrey Dunn

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13. Audrey Dunn - Southlake Carroll

Though Dunn has struggled with consistency in cross country, she has three strong track seasons under her belt and is part of a program with eternally high aims. Her cross country season got off to a great start as she was sixth at Southlake's home invitational and 12th at the Marcus Coach T Invitational one week later. Unfortunately, the rest of her performances declined in quality throughout the fall. However, it is her resume on the track that warrants her spot in the Preseason All State Team. Already having a 3200 personal best of 10:54, she made it as far as the Region 1 Championship in the event where she finished sixth in 10:58. She replicated her sixth place finish in the 1600 at regionals after winning a district title in the event. She then wrapped up her season at the North Texas 1600 where she finished third with a new personal best of 5:02. Her best performance came in Mid March at the Texas Distance Festival where she ran a staggering personal best in the 5000 of 17:33 which earned her 7th in the elite race.

There is no question about her ability or potential. If she can overcome the trouble she's had on the grass this fall she will be a significant contributor to any success that Southlake has this season. 

Alexandra Walsh

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12. Alexandra Walsh - Southlake Carroll

If this list was reassembled to display the runners who improved most from fall to spring, Walsh would sail into the first team. For now Walsh is 12th, but if she continues along this path of rapid improvement she will quickly scale Texas's increasingly competitive ladder of elite runners.

The facts of her cross country season are that her best race was a 9th place finish at the district meet, while she could only manage to be 29th in Region 1-6A and 71st at the state meet. Truth be told, there was nothing underwhelming about her cross season as she was not even on Southlake's varsity squad in 2020. As commendable as it is to go from struggling to break 21:00 to running at the state meet, it is not in the DNA of a Southlake Carroll runner to be content with a top 75 finish at state. 

Once the outdoor season arrived, Walsh wasted no time putting her fitness to use. At the North Texas Winter 3200, she dropped her personal best by 55 seconds as she was fourth in 10:58. Her big opportunity to prove that dip under 11:00 was no flash in the pan when it came in the Elite 5000 at the Texas Distance Festival. It is one thing to speculate about one's 5000 meter potential based on a new 3200 personal best, but it is an entirely different challenge to actually go out and run to that potential. Simply put, Walsh produced the best performance of her career to claim sixth in the prestigious race and run another staggering personal best of 17:26.

Though her championship season ended at the regional meet, she came away with personal bests (4:59, 10:48) that make her one of the most exciting prospects this fall.

Sara Morefield

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11. Sara Morefield - Lucas Lovejoy

Morefield went from 64th at the 2020 State Cross Country Championship to 12th in 2021. This 52 spot jump was a massive contribution to Lovejoy's title winning run and in the spring she gave no indication of regression or stagnation. Her cross country races last fall were either championship meets or highly competitive invitationals. In the regular season, she never put a foot wrong as she placed between fifth and 13th in the state's premier meets. Consecutive top five finishes at the district and regional championships preceded her top 15 finish at the state meet. Her season extended through the Garmin RunningLane Cross Country Championship where she was 112th in a national championship field of 296. 

A sub-18:00 5000 at the Texas Distance Festival was one achievement among many in a track season that brought personal bests in every event imaginable. Though she ran well over 800 and 1600, the events in which Morefield excelled were the 3200 and 2000 meter steeplechase. Her 3200 meter campaign included three sub 11:00 performances, a regional silver medal and culminated in a third place finish at the state track meet. If the steeplechase was contested in UIL Championship Meets, her personal best of 7:03 would have comfortably made her the favorite to win it. 

Morefield's sophomore year demonstrated that her strength is in the longer distances and her fitness is firmly on an upward trend. While she has aspirations of team title defense, Morefield could easily find herself in contention for individual glory. 

Margaret Thompson

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10. Margaret Thompson - Hockaday

The SPC star from Hockaday earned the 13th spot in the preseason all state team by sweeping up the conference's championships and racing well anytime she came up against the state's best athletes. Along with a commanding win at the conference championship meet, her best performances include a third place finish at the Jesuit XC Classic where she went toe to toe with Cameron McDonnell and Shewaye Thompson as well as a seventh place finish in a loaded field at the Garmin MileSplit XC Invitational.

Her track season largely emulated her cross country season as she won more conference titles, collected a wide range of personal bests and reminded the rest of the state of her ability at big invitationals and some postseason meets. She won every 3200 including the SPC title until the TTFCA Championships where she was narrowly second. She managed to run a personal best of 4:57 in a 1600 race that she won by nearly 20 seconds. The most impressive aspect of her season was her performance in the 2000 meter steeplechase. Of the very limited steeple races offered to high schoolers in Texas, Thompson won two. The first was a victory at the Texas Relays where she edged Lovejoy's Sara Morefield for the title in an excellent time of 7:03. She returned to the steeple in dominant fashion at the end of her season, winning the TTFCA 2000 meter steeple title by nearly 30 seconds in a very admirable time of 7:05. 

With the limited opportunity to compete against the best girls from the UIL, she may fly under the radar for a bulk of the season. However, her personal bests and performances at meets like Texas Relays have earned her the respect of the whole state and leaves no doubt about her potential to continue rising through the ranks of the best runners in Texas. 

Kailey Littlefield

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9. Kailey Littlefield - Lucas Lovejoy

While her greatest potential is likely in the middle distance events, Littlefield is no stranger to success on the grass. In her two years of high school running, she has two top 10 finishes at the 5A State Cross Country Championship. As a freshman she never finished outside the top 10 in the cross country season and was eighth at the state meet. In 2021, she took silver medals at her district and regional meets then finished seventh at the state meet as the Lovejoy girls won the 5A state title. In between her excellent cross country seasons was a track season where Littlefield claimed her first state title as she won the 800 in 2:08.

Fastforwarding into the spring of 2022, Littlefield put her exceptional range on full display. Racing every distance from 200 to 3200 meters, she ran personal bests in each event and got more successful experience at massive championship races under her belt. A collection of fantastic 400 meter races along with very strong performances in the 1600 constructed the groundwork for an 800 meter campaign which propelled her into the nation's elite tier of middle distance running. In the 400, she was district champion and ran as fast as 55.91. That speed was coupled with the strength of a 4:55 1600 personal best. She also managed to win a regional title and qualify for state in the 1600. The climax of her season came in two parts. The first came in Austin as she won the 5A 800 meter state title in a staggering time of 2:06. One month later she ran 2:07 to claim sixth at New Balance Nationals. 

Littlefield's junior year will provide several opportunities to capture gold at the state level. In the fall, she will be fifth best returner at the state meet and a real contender for a spot in the top three as Lovejoy looks to defend their spot on top of the 5A mountain. 

Gabbie Love

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8. Gabbie Love - Colleyville Heritage

With only one full cross country season and one track season on her resume, the outlook on Love's potential for her senior year is relatively uncertain. Last fall, she got off to a winning start at the Southlake Carroll XC Invite as she edged out Shewaye Johnson in 17:23. As the season wore on, the meets increased in quality and Love continued to perform. She was fifth at the Lovejoy XC Fall Festival and the Garmin Milesplit XC Invitational just one week apart, then eighth at the Mcneil Invitational in late September. Alongside her win at Southlake, her best performance of the season came at the Chile Pepper XC Festival where she was second to Oklahoma superstar, Cayden Dawson and just ahead of her sister, Alli Love. She was out of commission for the district and regional meets, though her teammates managed to advance to state without her. She returned to racing at the 5A state meet where her 21st place finish helped her team to a fourth place finish. 

Her last races on the track were in the spring of 2021. Her 800 meter campaign included district and area titles and finished with a fifth place finish at the 5A State Track Championship in a personal best of 2:12. She also secured a 1600 meter personal best of 5:00 at the North Texas 1600. 

If Love returns in the fall and replicates her form from one year prior, she will have a real chance to win a medal in the extremely difficult Conference 5A at the state meet in November.