Oct. 29, 2011
LITCHFIELD PARK, Ariz. - Katie Flood became the first ever Pac-12 Women's Cross Country Champion today, pulling away for a stunning upset win in one of the fastest times in the history of the race. Flood, last season's Pac-10 Newcomer of the Year, showed just how much better she has become one year later, as she becomes the third individual conference champion in Washington history.
The Des Moines, Iowa native led the second-ranked Husky women's team to a second-place finish, as the new Pac-12 members from Colorado got the upset win with a very impressive 50 point score in the loaded field. Washington scored 73 for second, edging out eighth-ranked defending champ Stanford which had 75. 11th-ranked Oregon was fourth with 89, and fifth-ranked Arizona was fifth in its own tough conference with 104.
In the men's race, the Colorado men also helped themselves to the Pac-12 title in their first conference race, scoring 46 points for the victory and unseating two-time defending champion Stanford, which was second with 53. A great run from junior Joey Bywater resulted in a career-best 16th-place finish, as the Husky men finished seventh overall with 153 points, knocking off 25th-ranked Arizona State and finishing just a few points behind 22nd-ranked Washington State, which was sixth with 148.
At the start of the cross country season, it was thought that Flood might be out of commission this fall with mononucleosis. She did not make UW's first trip of the year to the Roy Griak Invite in Minnesota, but soon after she was back to feeling fully healthy, and she jumped right back into the mix two weeks ago, leading the Huskies to a win at the Wisconsin Invitational.
Still Flood was not expected to contend for the title today, as Oregon's Jordan Hasay returned as the defending champion and was the 2010 NCAA third-place finisher. Hasay is also the defending NCAA Champ indoors in the mile and 3,000-meters. But Flood hung with the favored Duck all race, and with 500-meters to go she made a move and left Hasay and Stanford's Kathy Kroeger in the rear view mirror.
"It was pretty even up until 4K and 5K. Some girls started to surge, so I went with what I had and tried to run it in," said Flood. "The course was as flat as can be, so I don't mind that at all. It seemed like it went by pretty fast.
"Going into the race, my game plan was to put myself in a good position up at the front and go with the flow as it went. I think we went a little harder than we were expecting, but it was good."
Flood's winning time of 19-minutes, 32-seconds over the 6,000-meter course is the second-fastest winning time in conference history for that distance, second only to former Husky Kendra Schaaf's 19:24 win back in 2008. Prior to Schaaf, the last UW conference champ was Regina Joyce in 1982. Kroeger of Stanford was second, eight seconds behind Flood in 19:40, and Hasay took third in 19:50.
"Last night I really believed Katie Flood would be the Pac-12 Champion," said Head Coach Greg Metcalf. "She ran smart and just kept hanging in there. Then she got to this long straightaway to the finish and she took the lead and just pulled away. To go from being the Pac-10 Newcomer of the Year as a freshman to the Pac-12 Champion the next year, that's a great accomplishment.
Husky senior Christine Babcock came up with her best run of the season today, as she placed 12th as the second Husky finisher in a time of 20:23. Babcock placed in the Top-20 all four years, and looks to still be improving as UW heads toward Regionals and potentially Nationals.
Washington's third and fourth finishers were pleasant surprises. Sophomore Megan Goethals ran the best cross country race of her career, to place 16th overall in 20:27. True freshman Eleanor Fulton then came across in 21st place in 20:38. Sophomore Justine Johnson capped the scoring with a 23rd-place finish in 20:41. Rounding out the top-seven was junior Lindsay Flanagan and Sophomore Liberty Miller, placing 30th and 47th, respectively.
"We ran the best cross country race we've run so far to this point in the season, but Colorado was just that much better today," said Metcalf. "The last half of the race was the best Christine has run this year. Megan Goethals was engaged and ran much better, and Eleanor really closed well today. Justine and Lindsay were solid but they can both be better. So I think in another three weeks at Terre Haute we can be better than we were today for sure."
Metcalf expected Flood's victory to have a ripple effect on the squad moving forward. "It's a big deal for our program and a big day for her. She's the first Pac-12 Conference Champion. It's great for what our young women are doing. Having a frontrunner in our sport, it matters, and I'm excited for what the year holds for Katie Flood."
Leading the men once again, Joey Bywater clearly is running with confidence after fronting the Dawgs at the Roy Griak Invite and the Wisconsin Invite over the past several weeks. In the past two years, Bywater had not broken the top-30 at the Pac-10 meet, and he placed 39th a year ago. But today he put himself in the mix early on, and sprinted to the finish in a time of 23:43 over the 8,000-meter course.
The rest of the Husky men had a solid day despite their two seniors, Max O'Donoghue-McDonald and Cameron Quackenbush, both being unable to finish the race as their up and down seasons took a tough turn today.
But stepping up with a big effort was sophomore Gareth Gilna, who was 27th overall in 24:03 as the No. 2 Husky across. Gilna climbed 22 spots from his run a year ago. Junior Rob Webster Jr., in only his second race of the season, looked much stronger than his first run in Wisconsin as he was 35th today in 24:22.
Then the four and five scorers were both freshmen in their first Pac-12 race. True frosh Aaron Nelson of Walla Walla was right behind Webster in 37th overall in a time of 24:26. Redshirt freshman Aaron Beattie was running in his first official race, and he capped the scoring with a 41st-place effort out of the field of 74.
"I was proud of our top-five guys today," Metcalf said. "They're a bunch of youngsters. That was easily the best conference run for Joey. Gareth continues to have a very solid cross country season, and Robby Webster continues to make progress every race. Then two freshmen did a great job for us. Aaron Nelson must have passed thirty guys in the last half of the race. He's got great race savvy for a youngster."
Although UW's seventh-place finish was equal to its placing a year ago, Washington's score was nearly 30 points better, indicating the Dawgs are in a better spot today than last year's squad, which still nearly made NCAAs with a sixth-place Regional finish.
Metcalf concluded, "I know we only got seventh today but the reality is that Regionals is the big goal and has been this entire season. We got closer to the teams we'll need to beat there to get to the big meet on the schedule."
Washington will next head to the NCAA Regional Championships on November 12 in Palo Alto, the final race before the NCAA meet on Nov. 21. The Husky women are the three-time defending Regional champions, and will just need a solid effort to move on to nationals. The Husky men, however, will need to continue to progress and pick off a few ranked teams at Stanford to get into the mix for NCAAs.
Washington Cross Country
2011 Pac-12 Championships
Litchfield Park, Ariz. - Wigwam Golf Course
Hosted by Arizona State
Team Results: 1. Colorado 50; 2. Washington 73; 3. Stanford 75; 4. Oregon 89; 5. Arizona 104; 6. Arizona State 168; 7. California 190; 8. Utah 205; 9. Oregon State 249; 10. UCLA 288; 11. Washington State 291; 12. USC 384.
Individual Champion: Katie Flood, Washington, 19:32.
Husky Finishers: 1. Katie Flood 19:32; 12. Christine Babcock 20:23; 16. Megan Goethals 20:27; 21. Eleanor Fulton 20:38; 23. Justine Johnson 20:41; 30. Lindsay Flanagan 20:56; 47. Liberty Miller 21:22; 65. Chelsea Orr 21:49; 82. Erin Johnson 22:17; 95. Allison Linnell 22:49.
Team Results: 1. Colorado 46; 2. Stanford 53; 3. Oregon 93; 4. UCLA 122; 5. California 140; 6. Washington State 148; 7. Washington 153; 8. Arizona 190; 9. Arizona State 195
Individual Champion: Lawi Lalang, Arizona, 22:37.
Husky Finishers: 16. Joey Bywater 23:43; 27. Gareth Gilna 24:03; 35. Rob Webster Jr. 24:22; 37. Aaron Nelson 24:26; 41. Aaron Beattie 24:31; 56. Taylor Carlson 24:57; 62. Michael Miller 25:10; 67. Meron Simon 25:28.