Gatorade Names Riley Chamberlain CA XC Runner Of The Year

Riley Chamberlain, right, was pushed by Abigail Fletcher during the Sierra Foothill League cross country championship race, which Chamberlain won in record time. (Dan Tyree photo)

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Riley Chamberlain, a junior distance runner at Del Oro High in the Sac-Joaquin Section, has been selected by Gatorade as the California High School Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year. 

Chamberlain, a two-time CIF-State cross country champion in Division III, went undefeated in her league races, setting a course record in winning a third consecutive Sierra Foothill League title. She also placed eighth overall at the AAU National Championships and fourth in the 15-16 age group.

"Riley has a commitment and dedication that few will ever understand," Del Oro coach Dustin Fee said as part of the Gatorade announcement. "Even in a year that shut everything down, she still stayed focused on what her goal was."

Chamberlain's accomplishments were highlighted in a strange cross country season that for most didn't launch until late January and included maybe four or five races. There were no major invitationals or championships beyond league competition allowed in California. Roughly a handful of girls went out of state to compete, some during the fall, the usual time of year for cross country. 

Chamberlain did that in December when she traveled to Tallahassee, Florida for the AAU National Championships, running 17:22.43 on the 5000-meter Apalachee Regional Park layout. 

Crescenta Valley's Mia Barnett, in the only cross country meet of her senior year, hit the road last fall for the Lubbock (TX) Christian University High School National XC Invitational where she ran an impressive third (17:08.86) in an elite field. 

Junior Samantha McDonnell of Newbury Park (SS) ran 21st at the XC Town Meet, a national competition held in Indiana, and also took the line in October at the Desert Twilight held in Arizona. 

Junior Stormy Wallace of Sage Creek (SD) ran an impressive fourth at that meet (17:17.15). 

For those who didn't travel, and most didn't as the COVID-19 pandemic surged around the holidays, the winter 2021 cross country season was limited to league duals and maybe a league championship cluster or a multi-dual finals meet where times were then merged and a champion declared.  

We highlight a sampling of those here:

  • Aislin Taylor of Monache (CS) was unable to test herself against the state's best in a season where she went undefeated in five races and won a second EYL championship in a three-mile PR of 18:06.76, finishing more than 97 seconds ahead of the runner-up.

  • Jadyn Zdanavage of Portola (SS), who ran 18th at Desert Twilight in October, and went undefeated in five races this winter culminating in a 20-second advantage in winning the merge at the Pacific Coast League Duals. It was a second consecutive PCL title for Zdanavage, who placed 12th at the 2019 State Meet.

  • Sophomore Jenna Justice of Etna (NS) went undefeated in four races, set 3-mile and 2.5-mile PRs, and won the SCL championship. 

  • Junior Madison Parrone of Oak Park (SS) went undefeated in four races and won the Coastal Canyon League title in a three-mile PR time of 19:10.60 a year after placing 12th.

  • While freshman Kyra Fisk of La Jolla (SD) was stellar in a 5-0 season and an Eastern League title, sophomore Mallory Asis of Mira Mesa (SD) was even more impressive, going 6-0, winning a second consecutive Western League title, and setting course standards on the 3.11-Morley Field layout in three consecutive races crossing in 18:00.00 in the final.

  • Freshman Denise Jie Yi Chen of Claremont (SS) went undefeated in five meets and won the Palomares League title by 27 seconds. 
  • Senior Brianna Weidler of Great Oak (SS) placed 10th at Desert Twilight and went on to go 5-0 in the winter XC season and win the Southwestern League title. 

Chamberlain and her stellar 18:23.50 romp over the 5K William Jessup College layout (with Oak Ridge senior Abigail Fletcher pushing her), breaking the course record by some 30 seconds, led the standouts.

"I'm ready for track, so it was a good last cross country race," she told MileSplit's Dan Tyree afterward.