Updated: Aug 22, 2021
Contributor: Nerd the Third
The Class A girls return 11 medalists, and at least four are legitimate contenders for the gold medal:
Conversely, Elli Dahl entered the 2020 XC season with an injury, finished 11th at State XC after just four weeks of training, and then was fully healthy in sweeping the 1600 (5:00) and 3200 (10:47) at State track. Assuming she's had a healthy summer, she's probably the slight favorite this season.
Bri Rinn of Lincoln Southwest had a monster track season, winning the state 800 (2:13) and placing 4th in the 1600 (5:10). She led the 2020 State XC race until the final 100 meters and will likely be looking for a big year in her year senior season to bolster her recruiting profile.
Claire White of Westside, now a sophomore, saw huge improvements as the 2020 XC season progressed and finished 5th at the State meet. Her XC success didn't translate into a fast start to the track season, but she finished strong in track with two 5th place finishes at State (5:13/11:31).
Jaci Sievers of Elkhorn South and Kaylie Crews of Papio South/Alabama were the only two Class A girls to qualify in all three distance events at State track, and Jaci medaled in all three (2:19, 5:13, 11:32). Given the tight schedule at State, Jaci's fitness level was exceptional, and this could be a launching point for a great fall season.
Unfortunately, the defending champion and sophomore Stella Miner won't be in the mix for a 2021 state title. After a dominating freshman XC season where she won her last five meets - including taking the lead in the final 100 meters at State - Stella has decided to transfer from Omaha Marian to Omaha Westside this fall. Due to NSAA transfer rules, she'll be ineligible to compete in varsity meets, but we may get to see her in JV meets. Stella had spring PRs of 2:17, 5:05 and 10:56 before contending with a stress reaction that limited her training in the last month of track season. She's training again but she may have to wait for Nike Regionals or the spring season to face off against the top talent.
In addition to these athletes, I never count out the crews from Lincoln East and Millard West. While they didn't have top 5 performances from last year, there are so many good runners and great coaches at those schools that at least a few athletes are likely to compete for the top 5 spots this year at State.
Since the spring 2020 track season had been cancelled, we had no hints how impactful the incoming freshman class (Miner, Whiter, Svehla, Muller) would be. Some school districts cut back on spring 2021 meets, so there will still be an element of surprise this fall in regards to freshmen.
The top returners from 2020:
Stella Miner, So, Omaha Marian (1st, 18:11) - sitting out the 2021 XC season
Brianna Rinn, Sr, Lincoln Southwest (2nd, 18:15)
Claire White, So, Omaha Westside (5th, 19:01)
Jaci Sievers, Jr, Elkhorn South (7th, 19:06)
Izzy Apel, Jr, Lincoln East (9th, 19:15)
Emily Gilbert, Sr, Millard West (10th, 19:17)
Elli Dahl, Sr, Fremont (11th, 19:18)
Kylie Muma, Jr, Lincoln East (12th, 19:19) - xfer to Norris, not running due to injury
Peyton Svehla, So, Lincoln East (13th, 19:21)
Berlyn Schutz, Jr, Lincoln East (14th, 19:24)
Sydney Beaudin, Sr, Millard West (15th, 19:25)
Zarah Blaesi, Jr, North Platte (16th, 19:26)
Kara Muller, So, Bellevue West (18th, 19:33)
Isabelle Hartnett, Jr, Millard West (19th, 19:37)
Emma Bonsall, Sr, Kearney (20th, 19:39)