SEATTLE – For the Husky cross country teams, it won’t get any bigger than Saturday, at least in terms of body count, as the largest field of the year lines up at the Wisconsin adidas Invitational in Madison, Wisc. for the final race before championship season heats up. Beyond sheer size, the race is also a huge measuring stick for many of the nation’s top teams, and the postseason positioning will already begin on Saturday as teams vie for points that will apply towards NCAA qualification.
The fourth-ranked Husky women’s team is one of five top-10 teams that will be racing on the women’s side, and 18 of the top-30 teams will be in the mix. The men’s race is no less loaded, with five top-10 teams and 20 of the top-30 teams in attendance, giving the Husky men a big chance to score some upsets and earn some points.
The race is held on one of the few cross country specific courses, the Thomas Zimmer Championship Course, opened in 2009. The men’s 8,000-meter race will be up first at 9 a.m. Pacific time followed by the 6,000-meter women’s race at 10 a.m. Pacific. Flotrack.org will provide a live stream of the races for a subscription fee.
In fields that each typically stretch past the 300 runner mark, the Huskies will look to continue to progress from the Bill Dellinger Invitational two weeks ago in Oregon. The Husky women’s team got the win at the Dellinger, moving up to fourth in the rankings. But UW won’t come in to Wisconsin as the favorite, as No. 1-ranked Providence and No. 3 Arizona lead the way. Also among the 36 teams in attendance are No. 8 Arkansas, No. 9 Michigan State, and No. 10 San Francisco plus several more ranked teams and Pac-12 rivals Arizona State and UCLA.
Washington won the women’s team title back in 2011 led by a seventh-place finish from Katie Flood, who aims for another strong effort on Saturday. Last season the women finished fourth in another excellent field. Seniors Justine Johnson and Liberty Miller will be on board, both looking to get rolling after missing some time with some aches and pains. Sophomores Eleanor Fulton, Maddie Meyers, and Baylee Mires will travel, along with freshmen Katie Knight, Kaylee Flanagan, and Amy-Eloise Neale, who led UW at Dellinger two weeks ago in her collegiate debut.
The men’s team will have plenty of available targets as it looks to knock off some ranked squads. No. 3 Northern Arizona, No. 5 BYU, No. 6 Arkansas, No. 7 Portland, and No. 8 Columbia will be among the favorites, and Pac-12 squads, Arizona, No. 30 Arizona State, and UCLA will also be on hand.
One big storyline will be junior Aaron Nelson, winner of his first two races of the season, and how he fares against one of the deepest and most talented fields of the year. Nelson won the Dellinger two weeks ago, leading UW to a third-place finish, after opening the year with a win at the Sundodger. In the past two years, Nelson has not finished among the top one hundred at Wisconsin, so he could be in line for a major leap.
Along with Nelson, the Huskies will run a lineup of junior Aaron Beattie, sophomores Tyler King, Meron Simon and Jacob Smith, redshirt freshman Blake Nelson, and true freshmen Andrew Gardner and Sumner Goodwin. Also suiting up for the first time will be sophomore Izaic Yorks, who has run unattached at the past two races. The transfer from Portland would have been UW’s No. 2 finisher at the Dellinger two weeks ago, as he finished 15th overall.