Three different girls' cross country runners have won the past three national cross country championships, and all three are returning this season for what is shaping up to be one of the greatest high school seasons of all time.
This is not to say, however, that these three girls are the only ones capable of claiming top honors at the 30th annual Foot Locker Cross Country Championships (or, for that matter, the first annual Nike Cross Nationals individual championship race, depending on where the nation's elite runners elect to compete). A number of girls have excellent credentials and could steal the spotlight from the big three. But the spotlight this season will be on the three former national champs as they race for another shot at a national title.
1. Ashley Brasovan, Wellington (Wellington, Fla.), Senior
The defending national champion had a solid résumé even before qualifying for -- and winning -- last year's Foot Locker Cross Country Championships. The three-time Florida state champ will first have her sights set on completing her stranglehold on state titles, and then it's down to the true task at hand -- defending her national title. Brasovan also won the 5,000-meter track title at the Nike Outdoor Nationals in June.
2. Jordan Hasay, Mission College Prep (San Luis Obispo, Calif.), Senior
Hasay won the 2005 national title when she was just a freshman. There hasn't been any drop-off in her talent since then. Instead, other runners in the country have caught up. But Hasay should still be regarded as one of the greatest high school girls' runners of all time, and her performance in July's U.S. Olympic trials -- she qualified for the finals in the 1,500, setting a national high school record in the process -- echoes her continued progress.
3. Kathy Kroeger, Independence (Thompson's Station, Tenn.), Senior
Kroeger won the 2006 national title and was the runner-up at last year's championship race, finishing eight seconds behind Brasovan and three seconds ahead of Hasay. She also was one of the only runners in the nation to beat Brasovan last year when she won the Foot Locker South Regional. Kroeger is the owner of three consecutive state titles and will look to add a fourth crown this season.
4. Emily Sisson, Parkway Central (Chesterfield, Mo.), Junior
Sure, Sisson might be tired from packing and unpacking, changing schools and meeting new people three times in the past three years, but it doesn't seem to be affecting her running career much. Sisson is a two-time qualifier for the Foot Locker nationals meet and finished as high as third as a freshman. She slipped to 23rd last season but could really thrive at Parkway Central -- especially if she gets to stay for a while.
5. Emily Lipari, Roslyn (Roslyn Heights, N.Y.), Junior
Despite finishing sixth at last year's Foot Locker Northeast Regional, Lipari had a phenomenal race at the national title meet in San Diego to finish sixth overall and second among the same Northeast competitors who had beaten her just two weeks before. The competition doesn't appear to be as fierce in the Northeast this year, but Lipari still will be ready to make a run at the big three and contend for national title honors.
Here are 10 more to watch as the season progresses
Katie Flood, Dowling Catholic (West Des Moines, Iowa), Junior
Shelby Greany, Suffern (Suffern, N.Y.), Senior
Kayla Hale, Holy Trinity (Melbourne, Fla.), Senior
Emily Jones, Bromfield (Harvard, Mass.), Senior
Madeline Morgan, Mountain Brook (Mountain Brook, Ala.), Senior
Stephanie Morgan, Barnesville (Barnesville, Ohio), Senior
Laura Roesler, Fargo South (Fargo, N.D.), Junior
Jillian Smith, Southern Regional (Manahawkin, N.J.), Senior
Chelsey Sveinsson, Greenhill (Addison, Texas), Sophomore
Jessica Tonn, Xavier Prep (Phoenix), Junior