Updated July 11 to include Allison Linnell
SEATTLE - With the conclusion of the 2008 track and field season producing another slew of All-Americans for the Huskies, head coach Greg Metcalf has shifted focus to the future of the program with the announcement of an outstanding recruiting class.
Several elite local athletes and standouts from up and down the west coast have signed on to be Huskies, with the women's team stockpiling talent in the middle distance and distance events and the men addressing key needs in several areas.
The women's group is headlined by prep superstars Christine Babcock (Woodbridge, Calif./Irvine HS) and Kendra Schaaf (Regina, Saskatchewan/Valley Royals TC). The pair should be next in line in UW's burgeoning distance dominance, which has seen Amy Lia win the NCAA 1500m title in 2006, Katie Follett win the Pac-10 1500m crown this season, and Follett, Michelle Turner, and Amanda Miller all earn All-American honors in the mile run this year.
Babcock recently lowered her own National Federation of High Schools record in the 1600-meters to 4:33.82 in winning the California state title for the third time. Babcock was also the California state cross country champion as a junior and senior.
"Our class of women's distance runners is arguably the best assembled anywhere," said Metcalf. "In Christine Babcock and Kendra Schaaf, I think we signed two of the finest distance runners in all of North America. Christine's high school track season from a historical perspective, any high school girl that's run four laps before her hasn't done it as well as she has. She's broken the national high school record at 1600-meters, she's an Olympic Trials qualifier, she's the state champion and she's taken it all in stride. She's just a great young woman and we couldn't be more excited about adding her to our group."
Schaaf is the top junior distance runner in all of Canada, winning the Canadian Junior Cross Country Championships in 2007 and finishing 20th at the 2008 World Junior Cross Country Championships in Edinburgh, Scotland. She holds the Saskatchewan provincial junior records at 1500m, 3000m, and 5000m.
"We are extremely happy that Kendra has chosen to be a Husky," said Metcalf. "Kendra was a Top-20 finisher at a World Championships meet, as well as the Canadian junior national champion. She's run fast on the track. She walks onto our campus with high expectations for herself, and will make an immediate impact for sure."
Metcalf credits assistant coach Kelly Strong with the brunt of the work in compiling the well-rounded class. Several of the eight women's distance runners could be competing for a spot in UW's top-10 for cross country this fall. The Husky women's cross country team lost only one senior from its all-time best eighth-place 2007 squad, and expects to contend for the national championship this fall.
Also jumping on board for the fall are Ellie Bonner (Snohomish, Wash./Snohomish), Kayla Evans (Tacoma, Wash./Bellarmine Prep), Courtney Lightfoot (Oak Park, Calif./Oak Park), Allison Linnell (Colts Neck, N.J./Colts Neck), and Adrienne McGuirk (Lake Oswego, Ore./Jesuit).
"Christine and Kendra are the marquee names but singling out any others from the group is tough because everyone has the potential to be great," said Coach Strong.
Evans was the Washington state 4A cross country runner-up as a senior and placed fourth as a junior, as well as finishing third at the 2007 Nike Border Clash Meet. McGuirk is one of the best preps to come out of Oregon, winning the 2008 6A state title at 3000-meters and placing second at 1500m while leading Jesuit to the team title. She was also second at state in cross country in the fall, leading Jesuit to its fourth-straight team title. Linnell is a multiple All-American and state champion, and recently placed 5th at Nike Outdoor Nationals in the 2K steeplechase.
"Kayla Evans is a state runner-up and comes from a really good program," said Metcalf. "Adrienne also comes from a program that produces great distance runners every year. The Jesuit kids have all been part of great teams and they know how to win. She brings that quality to our group and she walks in with a certain level of expectation that helps to make us better. Allison, meanwhile, brings experience in the steeplechase that few girls have and should be able to help us right away."
The Huskies have also signed Spokane native and Ferris High grad Kelly McNamee, one of the top high jumpers in the nation. McNamee has a personal-best clearance of 5-10 which would have led the Huskies this year and placed in the top-10 at NCAA's.
While UW is still looking to add depth to its women's sprinters, the first signee towards that goal is Seattle's Bianca Greene, a Garfield graduate and the 2008 4A Washington state champion at 100-meters and 200-meters. Her title winning 200m time of 24.20 would rank sixth all-time at Washington if duplicated.
"Kelly McNamee has a chance to come in and immediately contend and score at the national championship and win a Pac-10 title and that's her own personal expectation," said Metcalf. "Bianca Greene, I really believed after watching the state meet, was the best sprint talent in the state of Washington. She will run both relays for us, as well as the 100, the 200, maybe the 400, and will be a great addition to our team."
The men's track team is coming off a 16th-place NCAA finish, scoring its most points at the national meet since 1983. The majority of the squad will be back in 2009, and will be supplemented by four new recruits, the first part of a class that figures to grow as the fall approaches.
The biggest challenge for the Huskies will be dealing with the graduation of Norris Frederick, who dominated UW's jumps unit for the past four years, earning nine All-American honors. Bellevue's Jeremy Taiwo (Newport) could be just the person to take up Frederick's torch, and was identified long ago by UW's coaching staff as a potential star. Taiwo's father, Joseph, competed for Nigeria in the 1984 and 1988 Olympic Games and still holds the Pac-10 triple jump record of 57-0 ½ set in 1984 for Washington State. This year Taiwo was the Washington state decathlon champ and placed second in both the triple and high jumps at the 3A state meet.
"Trying to replace a guy like Norris Frederick is nearly impossible, but we sat down as a staff and asked ourselves who was the guy we had to have and it's Jeremy Taiwo. He's personable, he's a leader and he's charismatic. His dad to this day is the Pac-10 record holder in the triple jump, so he's got huge potential and could do lots of things for us."
Another recruit with a storied lineage is Rob Webster, Jr. (Puyallup, Wash./Puyallup), son of Rob Webster, who held UW's 800-meter school record for 24 years until Ryan Brown broke it in 2006. Webster was an All-American for UW in 1982. The younger Webster placed second in the 2007 Washington State 4A Cross Country Championship.
"Rob had a great cross country season then was a little banged up this track season but I think he's a determined young man," Metcalf said. "He's talented, he's tough, and I think a few years down the road he's going to be a very good distance runner for us. I think he's got a lot of range."
Joining Webster in the distance unit is Joey Bywater (Lake Stevens, Wash./Lake Stevens), another local star staying close to home.
"The state of Washington has annually produced great distance runners, and we feel Joey Bywater is as good a kid that has come out of the state in a long time. He's run 9:01 for 3200-meters and 4:10 for 1600-meters. He's a multi-time state champion, he knows how to win. He's going to be a great teammate and is already wearing purple and gold at Lake Stevens. We're incredibly excited about his potential and what he brings to our team."
The men's throwing unit could be poised for a breakout season in 2009 if David Nyland returns healthy and Zack Midles and Kyle Nielsen continue to improve. Adding depth to that group will be Angus Taylor (Vancouver, British Columbia/Vancouver College).
"Angus' best events are the hammer and the discus. He's already thrown close to 190 feet in the discus and over 200-feet in the hammer. He was a participant at several of our indoor meets and from watching him throw the weight we saw someone who would add a lot of skill to our throws group."
Check back throughout the summer to keep up to date on Washington track and field recruiting.