Sept. 15, 2012
SEATTLE - A gorgeous West Seattle day was the setting for the 21st annual Sundodger Invitaitonal, and the Husky cross country teams rolled through the Lincoln Park trails to a pair of team victories. Fifth-year senior Joey Bywater surged to the individual win in the men's race, and Christine Babcock, running unattached, won the women's race in her first ever Sundodger appearance.
While the women's team rested a number of its top returners, the men's group was nearly at full force, and looked the part with a large pack of purple leading the way early. Redshirt freshman Tyler King made a push for the lead late in the race, but it was Bywater, the indoor track All-American, who had the finishing kick to open up a nice lead and finish the 8,000-meter course in 23-minutes, 48-seconds to get his first cross country win. Bywater had finished fifth, ninth, and sixth in his last three Sundodgers.
An impressive run was turned in by sophomore Aaron Nelson, who crossed second for the Dawgs and fifth overall in 24:11, an improvement of 36 seconds over last year. King held on for seventh-place in 24:14 in his first cross country race in the Husky singlet. He led a run of five straight Huskies across the line, with Rob Webster Jr. in eighth, Gareth Gilna in ninth, and Aaron Beattie and Michael Miller Jr. in the 10th and 11th spots, all finishing under 24:30.
UW also had nice runs from junior Bryan Tibaduiza, who ran at the Sundodger for the first time since 2009, and finished 14th in 24:39. Junior Taylor Carlson was close behind in 24:50 to take 16th, and redshirt freshman Angelo Comeaux grabbed the 20th spot in 25:06.
The 22 points posted by the men was their lowest winning score in Sundodger history. Fresno State was second with 61, and Idaho took third with 73 points.
"Aside from missing James Cameron, that is our men's group right there," said Head Coach Greg Metcalf. "I think they're tired from training and camp so they were a little flat today, but all in all I thought today was successful. I liked the way they operated. They were aggressive, and I'm excited about what's in store for them. That was the best I've seen Joey look in a cross country race; he looked completely in control. Our two youngsters Aaron Nelson and Tyler King, we knew they were pretty good, but they asserted themselves today."
Babcock, a two-time cross country All-American who ran at NCAAs the past four years for UW, has exhausted her cross country eligibility but has a full year of track to come. That made today's run was more of a tune-up, and a last chance to run a cross country course. She finished the 6,000-meter course in 20-minutes, 25-seconds, which ranks sixth in the meet's history and is the fastest since 2009.
As an unattached runner, Babcock's score did not count for the No. 1-ranked Husky women, who still got the win with 45 points despite holding out a number of their top returners. Fresno State took second with 56 points and two-time defending WAC champion Idaho was third with 76.
After Babcock, sophomore Eleanor Fulton was the next Husky across, finishing sixth in 21:08, but she was competing unattached as well. The first Washington jersey across was worn by sophomore Chelsea Orr, who was seventh in 21:09.
Senior Kayla Evans ninth overall in 21:17, a career-best on the course by 22 seconds. True freshman Maddie Meyers, the Northwest School product, made her Washington debut and took 11th in 21:31. Also making her first cross country appearance for the Dawgs was sophomore Anna Dailey, who previously had run just one track meet for UW last spring since transferring from Stanford. Dailey was 14th in 21:46. Completing the top-five was sophomore Joelle Amaral, coming in 19th-place in 22:14.
Head Coach Greg Metcalf coined a new phrase by saying the women's team was a bit "under-womanned" today, but still impressive. "We chose to run just a small group, but I thought we still learned a lot from them," he said. "Chelsea ran some of the best cross country she has, and Eleanor is fit and I think just needed to get one done. That was also the best Kayla has ever run here so she's returned to form. Anna Dailey ran tough, and Joelle stepped up for us today when we needed someone to close it out. Also Maddie ran well today but knowing her and how her career has gone, she's always run better later in the year so I think she's going to be in the mix for sure."
As for the victor, Metcalf said, "(Babcock) needed a track season to get her legs back. Last track season wasn't perfect but it got her moving again. So she's had a great summer, she's as fit as she's been in three years. This is by design, that's the only race she'll run this fall, and now we'll build and get ready for track season. I'm excited about how she looked today."
The Huskies will run again in two weeks, though they will go their separate ways. On Sept. 29, the men will go down to Eugene to compete in Oregon's Bill Dellinger Invitational, while the women will get their first big test and run a full squad for the first time at the Greater Louisville Classic in Kentucky at the same course that will host this year's NCAA Championships.