***The Pac-12 Championships will be televised on Monday, Nov. 4, at 6:30 p.m. on the Pac-12 Networks***
LOUISVILLE, Colo. – Solid top to bottom team efforts earned top-five finishes for both the Husky men’s and women’s cross country teams today at the Pac-12 Championships, the first ever held in the state of Colorado. Once again it was Aaron Nelson and Katie Flood leading the way for the Huskies, as the men finished in fifth-place and the women took third.
Both Husky squads improved one spot over their 2012 finishes, and the fifth-place finish by the men is their best since 2009. The men just missed out on fourth-place, as ASU finished with 140 points to UW’s 142. No. 1-ranked Colorado defended its home turf with a dominant win, scoring 28 points to beat No. 4 Oregon which had 54, and No. 13 Stanford was third with 79 points. After the Sun Devils and Huskies came Washington State in sixth (151), UCLA in seventh (152), and Arizona (194) and California (220) to round out the field.
The men’s race went off first and Nelson would go mix it up in the lead pack from the start. His outstanding season to this point included two victories and a fourth-place finish at the huge Wisconsin Invite, so he had no qualms about contending. Nelson was the leader after the first couple miles and still had the lead heading into the final loop around the course. But he faded a bit on the last lap and wound up eighth overall in 25:01. Oregon’s Edward Cheserek got the win in 24:36. Still, Nelson’s effort was the top individual finish for a Husky since Jeremy Mineau was seventh in 2006.
After Nelson, sophomore transfer Jacob Smith turned in his best run yet as a Husky, as he was 25th in 25:56 and sophomore Tyler King also had a good day with a 31st-place finish in 26:02. Yet another sophomore, Izaic Yorks, was 38th in 26:17 and freshman Andrew Gardner capped the Husky top-five in 43rd, making four of UW’s top-five runners freshmen or sophomores.
“It’s a challenge running at 5,000 feet, there’s lots of things that make it difficult,” said Head Coach Greg Metcalf. “Aaron was great, he ran solid, went to the front and felt pretty good but with a thousand meters they pulled away from him. Jacob had easily his best day as a Husky and Tyler bounced back from Wisconsin. All in all I thought our men competed well.”
Seven of UW’s ten entrants were running Pac-12s for the first time today. Redshirt freshman Blake Nelson and freshman Sumner Goodwin came through in 48th and 49th, respectively, in their first conference runs, and redshirt freshman and Colorado native Nick Harris was 53rd in 26:45. Sophomore Tim Cummings also finished 62nd. Sophomore Meron Simon was forced to drop out just over halfway through the race.
The Washington women were looking to upset No. 1-ranked Arizona today, but the Wildcats continued their undefeated season by taking the program’s first ever Pac-12 title today with 69 points. 16th-ranked Colorado used the home course advantage to get in for second with 75 points, while the 13th-ranked Huskies were third with 111, just edging out 12th-ranked Oregon as the Ducks scored 113 points. No. 20 Stanford was fifth with 129 and 26th-ranked Arizona State was sixth with 138 to finish the top-half of the conference.
A senior duo was followed by a freshman duo and then the comeback kid for the Huskies today. Flood and Justine Johnson, both running their final Pac-12 meets, paced UW, as Flood finished 11th and Johnson was 19th earning the fourth-straight top-25 finishes for both seniors. Flood covered the 6k course in 21-minutes, 57-seconds with Johnson crossing in 22:21. Stanford’s Aisling Cuffe pulled away late to win in 21:04.
Spokane’s Katie Knight was one of the top freshman finishers in the conference today as she came in right behind Johnson in 20th-place in a time of 22:25. Fellow freshman Amy-Eloise Neale was the fourth Husky across, taking 27th in 22:35.
Rounding out the top-five, and helping make sure the Huskies edged out the rival Ducks, was junior Megan Goethals, who ran for the first time this season after missing the first two months of the year with a stress fracture. Goethals capped the scoring for UW with a 34th-place effort in 22:49, and should only improve from here.
“Katie Flood had another solid effort and Justine had her best day of the year so far which was great,” said Metcalf. “It was tough out there so I think for Katie and Amy-Eloise as freshmen they battled well.
On the return of Goethals, Metcalf said the All-American “was engaged and she ran hard. I think she’s fitter than today showed, but we’ve got two more weeks to add some fitness before Regionals.”
Sophomore Baylee Mires was 58th in her Pac-12 debut, senior Liberty Miller was right behind her in 59th to round out the Husky top-seven.
“The group was all in the top-20 through 2k but after passing the start and heading up a hill we lost some ground after that but stuck with it, and third-place as good as this conference always is is a solid day,” said Metcalf.
Washington now looks ahead to the NCAA West Regionals in two weeks on Friday, Nov. 15, in Sacramento, where the qualifiers for the NCAA Championships will be settled.
2013 Pac-12 Cross Country Championships
Louisville, Colo. – Coal Creek Golf Course
Nov. 2, 2013 - Hosted by Colorado
Men’s Team Scores (8,000m): 1. Colorado 28; 2. Oregon 54; 3. Stanford 79; 4. Arizona State 140; 5. Washington 142; 6. Washington State 151; 7. UCLA 152; 8. Arizona 194; 9. California 220.
Individual Champion: Edward Cheserek, Oregon, 24:36.
Husky Finishers: 8. Aaron Nelson 25:01; 25. Jacob Smith 25:56; 31. Tyler King 26:02; 38. Izaic Yorks 26:17; 43. Andrew Gardner 26:20. 48. Blake Nelson 26:28; 49. Sumner Goodwin 26:31; 53. Nick Harris 26:45; 62. Tim Cummings 27:12; --Meron Simon DNF.
Women’s Team Scores (6,000m): 1. Arizona 69; 2. Colorado 75; 3. Washington 111; 4. Oregon 113; 5. Stanford 129; 6. Arizona State 138; 7. UCLA 173; 8. Utah 207; 9. California 213; 10. Washington State 260; 11. Oregon State 269; 12. USC 346.
Individual Champion: Aisling Cuffe, Stanford, 21:04.
Husky Finishers: 11. Katie Flood 21:57; 19. Justine Johnson 22:21; 20. Katie Knight 22:25; 27. Amy-Eloise Neale 22:35; 34. Megan Goethals 22:49; 40. Maddie Meyers 23:00; 58. Baylee Mires 23:41; 59. Liberty Miller 23:44; 90. Kaylee Flanagan 25:13; --Eleanor Fulton DNF.