Fastest 4th Runners Returning in 2020 - Girls

Above: Olivia Thatcher (Desert Vista), Sidney Stevens (Perry), Makena Thornton (Hamilton)

Fabulous 4th Runners 

Today we look at our fastest 4th returning girl runners in the state of Arizona.

Some caveats on how we come up with these rankings; obviously, incoming freshmen can throw a wrench into these rankings, but we don't have high school times for these teens yet, so they are left out. Two, these rankings are based on these athletes' best cross country 5K times in 2019. We understand that different courses lend themselves to faster times than other courses, but this is just to give us a rough estimate of how the team's runners 1-7 rank against other teams' 1-7. The key here is we are talking about returning runners and not who was your 4th runner in 2019. After we account for seniors graduating, we are making an educated guess who will be your number 1-7 runners in 2020. So your expected number four runner in 2020 may have been your number 5, 6, or 7 runner in 2019, depending on how many athletes you graduated. 

Today we are focusing on the girls' fourth-person returning runners. We had 175 teams who have at least 4 runners who were juniors or younger last year. Teams without at least 4 runners who were juniors or younger last year did not make this list.

We are going to focus on the returning fourth runners who ran a PR of sub-20:00 for their teams in 2019.

Olivia Thatcher (Desert Vista): A junior in 2019, Olivia was DV's 4th runner at State and most of the season. Their top-five from 2019 are all returning, so there may not be many shake-ups for the Thunder in 2020 in terms of athlete positioning. Olivia was 16th overall at the Division I State Meet in 2019 and had a top finish of 3rd place at the Tempe City Championships. Olivia also notched another top-10 finish at Desert Solstice in the Blue Girls 5000 Meter division. Olivia's PR of 18:43 came at Nike Twilight and she ran primarily 18s and 19s for most 5K cross country courses last fall. Olivia has been a very good runner since middle school and should continue to bring consistency in her senior year.

Sidney Stevens (Perry): As a sophomore in 2019, Sidni was the Pumas' 3rd runner most of the season, but based on the best returning times from her team, we have put her in the 4th position. Sidney was 43rd overall at State, 10th overall at the Chandler City Meet (19:40), and 3rd at the Chandler Invitational in the girls' sophomore division. Pumas have a strong team returning in 2020 and we should see Sidney running more like low 19s to maybe breaking the 19-minute seal in 2020.

Makena Thornton (Hamilton): As a junior had a tremendous breakout year for the Huskies. As a sophomore Makena started her season running 28 and 29 minutes and ended up finishing the season with a season's best of 23:11 at Doug Conley. In 2019, Makena blew those times out of the water. She had a 21:42 right from the get-go at Desert Solstice and then held low 21s and high 20s for the rest of her races other than her PR at Nike Twilight of 19:48. Thornton was her team's 4th  runner for the entire season and had a top place of 8th at Desert Solstice in the Gold Girls 5000 Meter race. If Makena makes another huge jump in 2020 like she did in 2019, many other teams' 2nd and 3rd runners better start looking over their shoulders.

Lexi Lambert (Salpointe Catholic): Although Lexi didn't improve on her PR she had her sophomore year (19:46), she came darn close with 19:48 at Nike Twilight in 2019. But, Lexi ran mostly in the 21s in 2018 and in 2019 ran more in the 20s. She was the Lancers' 5th and 6th runner most of the season. She had two top-10 finishes in 2019. She was 5th overall at Glendale Showcase in the girls' varsity race (20:38). She was also 5th (20:58) at the Rio Rico Rattler Invitational in the Gold Girls 5000 Meter race. Salpointe does lose their #1 but with Lexi and the other girl Lancers stepping up they should be poised to make another go at a state championship, which they just missed reaching in 2019 by 4 points to eventual State Champion Prescott HS.

Other runners who broke 20 minutes and are looking to be their team's number 4 are Olivia Dalberg (Sunrise Mountain - 19:50) and Maria Benitez (Xavier College Prep - 19:54).