With the launch of Ohio's 2021 high school cross country campaign now just a week away, we're unveiling our Subjective Pre-Season Overall Top 10 Rankings.
The listing is a blend of athletes from Division's I, II and III and is based primarily on XC performances during the 2020 season, success at the '20 OHSAA State Championships, as well as distance track pedigree from 2021 indoor and outdoor.
The depth of returning talent made for intensive analysis and ultimately difficult final decisions. We have no doubt that our rankings will experience a shake-up once the season commences and under-the-radar veterans and incoming freshmen alike begin to display their skills. For now, however, see below the first installment of our Subjective Top 10.
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1) Grace Hartman / Oakwood -- Hartman collected seven wins in nine appearances during the 2020 season and no bigger than her triumph at the OHSAA Division II State Championships, where she edged two-time reigning titlist Ella Gilson at the line in one of the most thrilling finishes in recent memory. Following her efforts last season, Hartman was acknowledged as the Ohio Cross Country Gatorade Player of the Year recipient. The senior will be heavily favored to repeat as the individual state champion and she should be a contender at any national level meets she elects to attend.
2) Mia Robillard / Centerville -- Under-the-radar to some due to the fact that the Elks competed solely against GWOC teams (prior to the playoffs) last year because of Covid-19 restrictions, Robillard outlasted an incredible field to win the OHSAA Division I state title as a sophomore. Now well known state-wide, she'll look to pick up this cross country season where she left off during the outdoor track campaign. Her most recent outing was a 5th place finish in the 1600 meter contest at the OHSAA Division I State Championships, where she clocked 5:01.16.
3) Alyssa Shope / Gahanna Lincoln -- Shope, the Lions No. 1 on their depth chart, placed fifth at last year's state meet following victories at District - Hilliard Darby and Region 3. If recent track success is any indication, she's poised to have a huge 2021 cross country season. Shope claimed the OHSAA Division I 3200 win with her outstanding 10:32.42 effort at Hilliard Darby to cap off her junior year.
4) Katie Clute / Olmsted Falls -- Along with the aforementioned Hartman and Robillard, Clute is the third and final Ohio-based returner who has a sub-18 minute performance on her resume. The junior went 17:59.40 during her 2020 opener and rode that momentum all the way to the OHSAA State Championships, where she finished 7th in the Division I race. Clute also won her Northeast District meet and placed 3rd at the Midwest XC Challenge in Springfield.
5) Caleigh Richards / Maplewood -- Richards burst onto the scene last year as a freshman winning seven of her nine race starts, including the OHSAA Division III state meet. She served notice early by taking a runner-up finish in her high school debut at Salem and then tamed the notoriously difficult Billy Goat Challenge course during her second outing with a 1st place finish in 18:51.50. Richards success during her first year of prep competition was not limited to cross country, however. She stacked more hardware on her trophy case in June at Westerville North, where she earned the Division III state title in the 3200.
6) Sarah Reinhart / Carey -- In ten races during the 2020 XC season, Reinhart produced an impressive eight victories along with a pair of runner-up finishes. She went 18:24 flat at the Division III state meet, which trailed champion Caleigh Richards by less than two seconds. Reinhart raced extensively during the '20 outdoor campaign and punctuated an outstanding overall year by taking third in the 1600 and seventh in the 3200 at OHSAA Division III - Westerville North.
7) Julia Isham / Strongsville -- Isham was the 2020 Northeast District - Lorain champion and the eleventh place finisher at the OHSAA Division I state meet. She set her career best mark of 18:23.52 in winning the Greater Cleveland Conference Championships and took third at the Boardman Regional. Despite racing sparingly during the winter and spring track seasons, Isham added to her experience bank with an OATCCC state finale appearance in the 3200 meter event.
8) Taylor Spencer / Waynesfield-Goshen -- Spencer crossed the line first in eleven of her fourteen cross country races in 2020. Included in said victories was a fast 5k outing in Kalida, where she went 18:17.20 at the Wildcat Invitational. Spencer continued her success on the oval during the winter and spring seasons, where she doubled at both state meets. At the OATCCC Finale, she took second in the 800 and 1600 races. Spencer wrapped up her spring campaign by earning runner-up honors in the 1600 and by claiming sixth place in the 3200 at OHSAA Division III - Westerville North.
9) Savannah Dennison / Mentor -- Dennison notched victories last year at Northeast District - Madison and the Boardman Regional before placing 16th at the OHSAA Division I state meet. The former Ohio middle school state cross country champion is a proven winner. Dennison was an integral member of the formidable Cardinals team that captured gold at the 2021 Division I State Track and Field Championships.
10 (tie) Caitlyn Jones / Hilliard Davidson -- Jones returns as the No. 1 for the 2020 state meet runner-up team from Hilliard Davidson. After competing as a freshman for Hilliard Bradley, Jones' transition to the Wildcats went flawlessly. She earned four individual victories last season and posted an impressive career best 5k mark of 18:28.08. Her season culminated with a top 20 showing at the OHSAA Division I State Championships. On the track this past winter, Jones placed fourth in the 3200 at the OATCCC Division I State Finale.
10 (tie) Kailey Zagst / Massillon Jackson -- Zagst was a model of consistency in 2020 by collecting top 3 finishes in eight of her ten race starts. Known for taking the pace out hard from the onset, she established a career best time over the 5k distance of 18:16.49 at the Federal League Championships. Zagst finished inside the top 25 at the OHSAA Cross Country Championships and then gained more elite level racing experience with appearances at both the indoor and outdoor state track and field meets.
10 (tie) Bella Graham / Marlington -- Graham's exceptional 2020 XC season was highlighted by half a dozen race wins, including District GlenOak, and second and sixth place finishes, respectively, at the regional and state meets. The former Division II middle school state champion produced a career best 5k mark of 18:20.16 during her triumph at last year's Stark County Championships. On the track this past spring, Graham excelled in 3200 meter competition. She set her PR of 10:47.37 during a runner-up finish at Division II Region 5 and then placed 9th at OHSAA Division II - Pickerington North.