Jan. 12, 2010
The 2010 track and field season goes off this coming Saturday, as Washington hosts the UW Indoor Preview, the first of five exceptional indoor meets that will draw thousands of competitors and produce hundreds of NCAA qualifiers. During the week GoHuskies will look at the prospects of the UW track squad as it competes both indoors and outdoors from now all the way until mid-June.
Women's Distance Runners
Washington women's track has one place and one time in mind. June 9, Eugene, Oregon. Day one of the NCAA Outdoor Championships on the familiar turf of Hayward Field, where the Huskies have designs on making a significant splash. The women bring back every scorer from last year's 19th-place finish outdoors, and think they can far exceed that effort. And it's not secret that driving the track team is the women's distance corps, comprised of the talented runners that are coming off back-to-back Pac-10 cross country titles, a third-place finish at the 2009 NCAA meet and a national title in 2008.
The Huskies were hoping for a title defense this fall, and won every race up until Nationals in Terre Haute. But despite four women repeating as All-Americans, the Huskies were unable to put it all together at the final race, settling for third. It goes to show how dominant the 2008 squad truly was. Illnesses and nagging injuries kept the Huskies from fully coalescing.
"This fall, trying to defend the NCAA Championship I think took a little toll on our group. I think we've taken a deep breath now and we'll be a little slow to get started in the indoor season but by the end of the indoor season I think we'll be rolling and ready," says Metcalf. "But the big goal with this group is to be ready to go to Eugene in June and take a shot at scoring lots of points on the track."
Although the cross country season ended without a title, the Huskies should actually be bringing even more to the table for this track season. Every NCAA track qualifier is back and a year stronger, two-time Pac-10 Cross Country Athlete of the Year Kendra Schaaf is set to run her first track season, and several Huskies coming off breakthrough falls should only add greater depth.
"Our women's group is pretty dynamic," Metcalf says. "We've got lots of interchangeable pieces and parts in that group. They are incredibly gifted and talented and battle-tested."
Three Huskies carry Pac-10 titles into the 2010 season, evidence of UW's depth across every event. Katie Follett won the 1,500-meter title for the second year in a row, becoming the first Husky track athlete ever to win back-to-back conference crowns. Mel Lawrence dominated the steeplechase as a redshirt freshman, breaking the Pac-10 meet record in the process. And Anita Campbell crushed the entire field by more than a minute to win the 10,000-meter run. Lawrence and Campbell each went on to placed third at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in their respective events, while Follett moved up to 5,000-meters and made the final.
In the fall, Follett and Lawrence added All-America honors in cross country to their trophy cases, while Campbell has been awaiting her first UW race since NCAAs as she was done with cross country eligibility but still has outdoor track. Campbell (Vancouver, B.C.) hasn't been idle, however, as she took fourth at the Canadian Cross Country Championships at the end of November, a race won by her teammate Schaaf.
"The goal is just to make good decisions with Anita, to get to Eugene healthy with a chance to go contend at 10,000-meters. She's capable, she's tough, she's as tenacious an athlete as we've ever had here," says Metcalf. "I'm excited to see what the next six months hold for her."
Follett, now a six-time All-American combining cross country and indoor track, will be looking for an outdoor All-America honor in her final year to cement her status as one of the top runners in Washington history. The Fort Collins, Colo. native has scored in the mile and 3k indoors the last two years, and anchored the distance medley relay. Outdoors she is expected to focus on the 1,500.
"Katie I think has a shot at our school records--4:10, 2:05--those are both within her grasp," Metcalf says. "Making the final in the mile indoors and 1,500 outdoors I think is the goal. Last year she ran 5k at the NCAA Championships and this year we're going in a slightly different direction with her. She's the two-time defending Pac-10 Champion at 1,500-meters. She's got great instincts and a nose for the finish line and we're going to give her every chance to finish her senior year running fast."
Lawrence (Reno, Nev.) was named the Pac-10 Women's Newcomer of the Year last season, and shattered the Pac-10 record in the steeplechase with a time of 9:40.98 at NCAAs last year. She then took fifth at the USA Championships. But an achilles injury slowed Lawrence at the end of the fall and limited her training. Metcalf will be patient with Lawrence indoors, keeping Eugene as the true goal, since Lawrence is the top returner in the NCAA in the steeplechase.
"The sole goal for Mel is to go to Eugene and compete for the national championship. She loves running in Eugene and has had a lot of success at Hayward Field. We need to keep her healthy so she can go run faster," Metcalf says.
Adding incredible potency to the mid-distance group will be Kailey Campbell (Seattle, Wash.) heading into her senior year and Irvine, California's Babcock, just a sophomore. Both women ran on the DMR at NCAA Indoors last year and competed in the 1,500-meters at NCAA Outdoors, with Babcock making the final and placing 11th. Seven women ahead of Babcock at NCAAs were seniors in 2009, so she will be one of the early top contenders, while Campbell's recent progress has been nothing short of amazing and can hopefully continue one more year.
"Kailey made tremendous progress last season and had a great, great cross country season. The big goal for her senior outdoor campaign is how do we go make the NCAA final at 1,500-meters? Based on what we saw from Kailey in cross country at the Regionals and Pac-10s and her ability to go close, I think she can run very fast at 800-meters and then make big time progress at 1500 meters and a mile right now," says Metcalf. "Christine might redshirt this indoor season. Last year she ran 800 at Pac-10s so we'll do some of that but 1500-meters is the big goal at the end of the track season--to go to Eugene Oregon with a chance to help our team hopefully do something special."
Then the Huskies have Schaaf, who many will view as a favorite for the 5,000-meter title though she still has yet to run even one track race attached for UW. Still, Schaaf ran 15:52 last summer in the Canadian Championships after a redshirt season, and obviously was phenomenal in the fall. The biggest challenge for Metcalf might be holding onto the reins with the Saskatchewan speedster.
"Indoors she'll probably try to run the 3k at the indoor championships then she'll go run the World Cross Country Championships in Poland. Based on what she did this fall, we want to make progress, be patient, not overdo it at 5k, and have her running her best in May and June," says Metcalf.
From that point Washington still boasts fantastic depth with several more women that should contend for points at the conference meets and potentially earn Regional and NCAA bids themselves.
Allison Linnell of Colts Neck, New Jersey was a Regional qualifier in the steeplechase last year, then made huge progress this fall, and was UW's fifth scorer at the NCAA meet.
"Allison had a phenomenal summer of training and a great cross country season. She'll probably steeple a little but we might move to the longer distances with her, we'll see how it plays out. She wants to run 10,000-meters, and with her training and what she's done I think she could be very good in the event."
Another 10k option is junior Lauren Saylor (Clovis, Calif.). Saylor was 41st at the 2008 NCAA Cross Country Championships and a Regional qualifier in the 5k last year, but came down with mononucleosis in the fall and was unable to run at Nationals. Getting all her strength back could definitely give UW another NCAA qualifier.
Veterans Kenna Patrick (Federal Way, Wash.) and Mo Huber (Acalanes, Calif.) have both competed at the Regional meet in the 5,000-meters and steeplechase, respectively, and will certainly have their sights set on getting to Austin for Regionals this year. Bailey Schutte is another upperclassman who was 12th at Pac-10s in the 5k two years ago and will move back to that distance this year after running the 1,500 last year.
Sophomore Kayla Evans (Tacoma, Wash.) and freshman Lindsay Flanagan (Roselle, Ill.) both contributed greatly to the cross country season during the fall and should have some big PRs in store on the track. Evans ran sparingly last year but was a completely different runner after a summer of training and wound up running sixth for UW at the NCAA Championships, while Flanagan was the only true freshman to run in the top-seven. She will run at the USA Jr. Cross Country Championships to try and make the junior world team and compete at the 5k and possibly the 10k down the road.
Several other true freshmen will get their first action during the indoor season after redshirting the fall. Laura Schmitt (Vancouver, Wash.) and Justine Johnson (Victoria, B.C.) both ran well in the Husky intrasquad meet in the 600-meters and could contribute mid-distance or relay depth.
Indoors and out there were 26 new Top-10 marks written into the school records from 800-meters and up by the Husky women in 2009. All told it will likely be another assault on the UW record books from the women's distance crew.