SEATTLE - For the seventh straight season and the 15th time in the past 17 years, the Husky women’s cross country team will send seven women to the starting line to race against the nation’s elite at the NCAA Championships, returning again this season to the LaVern Gibson Championships Course in Terre Haute, Indiana. This Saturday, Nov. 23, Washington will be aiming to unwind its best race of the fall and see where that takes them at the always unpredictable national meet.
Joining the women’s team will be junior Aaron Nelson, representing the Husky men’s team as an individual. It will be the first NCAA experience for the Walla Walla native, who has had a breakout season, running in the top-10 at every meet this year including eighth-place finishes at the Pac-12 and West Regional Championships. Nelson opened the year with wins at the Sundodger and Dellinger Invitationals.
Nelson will be on the course first on Saturday, as the 10,000-meter men’s race begins at 9:00 a.m. Pacific time, followed by the women’s 6,000-meter run at 10:15 a.m. The race will be live streamed on NCAA.com.
In addition to the national team and individual crowns, runners will be keeping their sights set on the top-40, which earns All-America honors.
Ranked as high as fourth this season, the women’s team has had its depth tested in an up and down season which has seen several women step up with great performances, but putting them all together on the same day has been the challenge. The most consistent performer has been senior Katie Flood, who knows what it takes to race well at nationals in Terre Haute, having placed seventh two years ago to lead the Huskies to a second-place finish. Flood has led UW at four of five races this year, and is coming off perhaps her best race of the season, a fourth-place finish at West Regionals last Friday.
Also competing at their fourth-straight and final NCAA Championships are seniors Liberty Miller and Justine Johnson. Miller was banged up midseason, but then turned in a great day at West Regionals, finishing 23rd to earn All-West Region honors. Conversely, Johnson had an impressive 19th-place finish at Pac-12s, but struggled at Regionals after coming back from an illness. As Head Coach Greg Metcalf often says, timing is everything, and for the seniors there’s no better time than Saturday.
Junior Megan Goethals, an All-American two years ago along with Flood, is another looking to hit the timing just right. Goethals has been looking to regain her form after starting her year halfway through the season due to a stress fracture that hit right at the start of the year. The determined Michigan native can never be counted out.
Expected to make their NCAA Championships debuts are freshmen Katie Knight and Amy-Eloise Neale, who have both consistently run in Washington’s top-five this season. Washington will travel nine athletes, leaving the seventh spot on the starting line to be filled by either freshman Kaylee Flanagan, sophomore Baylee Mires, or sophomore Maddie Meyers.
Last year the women’s team took ninth at the NCAA meet held in Louisville, Kentucky, with Goethals leading the way in 48th-place. That was the fifth top-10 finish for the Huskies in the past six years, another streak they would like to build upon.