SPRINGFIELD, Ore. – With four runners in the top-10 and their fifth just a few spots back, the seventh-ranked Husky women’s cross country team rolled to an impressive victory at Oregon’s Bill Dellinger Invitational today at the Springfield Country Club. But the Top Dawg of the day was Aaron Nelson on the men’s side, as the junior from Walla Walla pulled away for the biggest win of his career.
Having gone three weeks since their last time on the course, the Husky cross country teams were eager to face their first big challenges of the season. Both of the host Oregon squads are ranked in the top-10, the men fourth and the women fifth. The eighth-ranked Portland men were also in the mix, and the Husky men wound up deadlocked with Portland in a tie for third-place with 87 points, behind Oregon and a strong Boise State squad.
“Aaron Nelson, shoot, today was a huge win for him,” said Head Coach Greg Metcalf. “To come down to Eugene and get a win in front of the hall of famer Bill Dellinger was fantastic. He had a really nice track season and that tied into a nice summer, and it’s rolled into the fall. The most important thing in distance running is just being consistent over time. He’s running incredibly well and there’s more to come.”
The UW women earned their first ever Dellinger Invite win, scoring 30 points, with fifth-ranked Oregon second with 52 points followed by Boise State and Portland. Leading the women today was freshman Amy-Eloise Neale as the Snohomish native finished third in her collegiate debut.
The win continues the great streak of success that the Husky women’s team has had at Oregon’s home course, as Washington has now won its last four appearances there, the 2008 Pac-10 Championships and the 2009 and 2010 NCAA West Regional Championships.
“Any win in Eugene is a good day,” said Metcalf.
In the men’s race, despite his season-opening win at the Sundodger three weeks back, Aaron Nelson would have been a dark horse at best to take the team title today. Yet after sticking with the lead pack throughout, Nelson pulled away from heralded Oregon freshman Edward Cheserek, and multiple All-Americans Trevor Dunbar and Parker Stinson to win in a time of 23:55 over the 8,000-meter course.
The next group of Huskies all came across in a pack between the 25th and 30th spots. Junior Aaron Beattie was first up in 25th-place in 24:48. Sophomore Tyler King was four seconds after Beattie in 26th. Sophomore Meron Simon was 28th in 24:56, then the freshman duo of Andrew Gardner and Sumner Goodwin finished 29th and 30th in 24:57 and :58. Redshirt freshman Blake Nelson (33), sophomore Jacob Smith (35), and sophomore Tim Cummings (37) all had top-40 finishes as well.
Washington’s depth was even more impressive than its final score indicated, as two unattached Huskies also finished in the top-20. Sophomore Izaic Yorks was 15th overall in a time of 24:36, and true freshman Colby Gilbert was 20th in 24:43.
The women’s race played out much like the Sundodger did three weeks ago, with the Huskies up front early, led by senior All-American Katie Flood and this time joined by Neale. The 10-time state champion from Glacier Peak High School made about as impressive a debut as any Husky ever has, closing strong to take third overall in 16:48 over the 5,000-meter course. Flood was close behind in fifth-place, running 16:54.
For the second straight race, freshman Katie Knight and sophomore Maddie Meyers crossed right alongside each other. Both ran 17:06, with Knight getting credited with ninth-place and Meyers taking 10th. Sophomore Eleanor Fulton secured the team win as the No. 5 Husky to cross, as she finished 13th in 17:18.
“Out of our front five, Eleanor Fulton had the best cross country race of her career to this point. She was steady and ran well start to finish,” said Metcalf. “Obviously it was a great debut from Amy-Eloise. The plan was for her to go run with Katie Flood and they executed that perfectly, and Maddie and Katie ran great together as well.”
Running sixth for the Huskies today was freshman Kaylee Flanagan as the Illinois native was 25th in a time of 17:40. Rounding out the top-seven, in her first ever college cross country race, was Baylee Mires, as the 800-meter standout finished her longest competitive run in college in 17:55, placing 34th overall. Erin Johnson was just seconds behind Mires in 38th-place, and junior Megan Morgan finished 52nd out of the 102-woman field.
Next up for the Huskies will be a trip to Wisconsin for one of the toughest fields of the year at the Wisconsin adidas Invitational on Oct. 19.