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Houston Harriers Nationally Ranked
October 19, 2012By Matt Malatesta of VYPE MAGAZINE - North Houston
VYPE's Cross Country Beat
Houston Harriers in National Rankings
In their latest rankings released Oct 17, the National High School Coaches Association has three Houston-area teams and five Houston-area individuals listed among the best in the United States. The Woodlands Boys and Girls teams are both ranked 13th in the nation while District 14 rival College Park Boys team is ranked 31st.
The Woodlands Boys are led by Senior Brigham Hedges, who is ranked 15th in the nation as an individual. Hedges won four of the last four outings, including a big win at the Nike South Invitational against other nationally-ranked individuals from the Dallas area.
Senior Ryan Teel of Friendswood is ranked 21st in the nation. He most recently was third at Nike South and is favored to win the 4A state crown.
Senior Karis Jochen of A&M Consolidated is ranked 11th in the nation. She only ran in two meets during the pre-season but won both, including a dominating win at the McNeil Invitational.
Senior Sandie Raines of Kingwood is ranked 12th in the nation. She has won four of five meets in the pre-season including the Humble Region Preview and the Andy Wells Invitational, breaking two school records in the process.
Junior Madi McLellan leads the Woodlands Girls team and was second behind Jochen at McNeil. Madi is currently ranked 14th in the nation.
While it is common to have several Houston-area teams in the National rankings each year, it is unusual to have this many individuals at once, particularly on the girl’s side. Most states have been running their girls in 5K meets for many years, but prior to this year Texas girls were held to the two-mile distance in UIL competition. Therefore most cross country meets for girls were on two-mile courses. In years past Texas girls only had an opportunity to post marks for 5Ks a couple of times during the season and usually on tough courses such as the Nike South course at Bear Branch Park, which is notoriously “slow.”
Now that girls are running 5Ks at most of their invitationals, it gives the girls a many more opportunities to showcase their talent on a national stage by posting some fast times. But this only explains part of the change. There is no doubt the girls are getting faster, too. And Jochen, McLellan and Raines are the trailblazers.
The three Houston-area girls in the national rankings all hail from Region II and have been battling each other for three years, pushing the envelope each time they meet. McLellan burst onto the scene as a freshman winning the 3200m in track at the State Championships and thereby raising the bar for everyone. She won the Nike South Regional meet and qualified for Nike Cross Nationals last year, ending her season with a 13th-place finish in the elite race.
Jochen has been making waves since placing second in the Nike South Regional race as a sophomore. Last year she won the Cross Country State crown and qualified for both Nike Cross Nationals and Footlocker Nationals. She earned All American status and was Gatorade Texas Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year.
Raines was third in the 1600m at the State track meet as a sophomore. She was a top-ten finisher last year at the Nike South Regional race and has perhaps made the most dramatic improvement this year, besting McLellan in two out of three match-ups. She appears to have an affinity for the longer distance but attributes her improvement to the miles she put in during the summer break. “I really wanted my senior year to be special. I have fallen in love with the sport of distance running and wanted to do my very best this year,” said Raines. She has plans to run at the college level and is currently being recruited by Arkansas, Rice and Oklahoma State.