Year In Review: Stewart, Michalak, And Prok Rise

Editor's Note: Over the coming days we'll be unleashing our Top Stories of 2020. 

While the year was somewhat abbreviated - with barely a track season - the majority of these stories are cross country heavy.

We have some exciting years ahead of us... 

While 2020 was definitely an odd one, it shed some light on what we've got to look forward to. 

Among the many highlights from the year has got to be the trio of Riley Stewart, Bethany Michalak, and Mia Prok, who appeared to be running on another level in 2020. All three ended the 2020 cross country season ranked within the Top-19 nationally

And this story starts last spring. 

WATCH: Stewart and Michalak Drop Fast Mile Time Trials

In what would have been her sophomore track season, Stewart dropped a 4:47.2 1,600 time trial, while then-eighth-grader Michalak ran 4:52.8.

Stewart's time is unofficially the second fastest 1,600 run over the past decade, only behind Katie Rainsberger's 4:44.31 (Jordyn Colter ran 4:47.22 in 2015). 

The result would be a glimpse of what we'd see this past fall, were both dominated their competition each time they toed the starting line. 

Stewart ran the fastest 5k in the state of Colorado this season - a 17:02 clocking on the Liberty Bell course, and went on to defend her 5A state title in the fastest time of the day - 17:33. The time was the third-fastest on the state course ever.

Additionally, Stewart broke 18 minutes all eight times she raced this fall, and cracked 17:30 six of those eight times. She was undefeated in the state, and capped her season ranked No. 8 in the country.

Michalak's resume through her freshmen year was nearly as impressive. She ran a Colorado-best of 17:27 at the Cheyenne Mountain Stampede on the state course. The time was the second-fastest clocking on the course, ever - only behind 2016 national champion Brie Oakley's 17:07. To add to Michalak's ridiculously impressive run, before the race only two had broken 18 minutes on the Penrose course - Katie Rainsberger ran 17:39 in 2015.

The Air Academy freshman capped her freshmen season with a 4A state title, running 17:59. She won seven of eight races, with her only loss being to Stewart at the AAU National Cross Country Championships in Florida. Michalak capped her season ranked No. 12 in the country

Looking back on that Penrose course - until this year only two had broken 18 minutes on it. Stewart and Michalak pushed that number to four. 

And as impressive as Stewart and Michalak were this year, we can't go without mentioning Niwot freshman Mia Prok, who had an incredible season of her own. 

Prok ran the fastest time by a Colorado girl - a 16:56 clocking at the RunningLane XC meet in Alabama, and was the 4A state meet runner-up to Michalak by three seconds.

Prok won four of six races in Colorado, with her only losses coming in races against Michalak. The Niwot freshman capped her season ranked No. 19 nationally

Stewart is a junior, while Michlak and Prok are freshmen. After looking at the past year, it's clear that 2021 could be even better. For their dominating performances, and sheer speed, Stewart, Michalak, and Prok earn the the No. 6 story of 2020.