SEATTLE – With five top-10 finishes in the last six years, it’s no surprise to find the Husky women’s cross country team near the top of the national preseason rankings, released today by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. Washington is ranked No. 5 and second in the West Region, while the Husky men’s team begins its season ranked fifth in the West.
The women’s distance crew is coming off a ninth-place finish at last year’s NCAA Championships, and returns four of its top-five scorers, and five of its top-six overall from the national meet. Three seniors, Katie Flood, Justine Johnson, and Liberty Miller provide veteran leadership along with eight-time All-American junior Megan Goethals, who had two top-five finishes in the 5k and 10k at the most recent NCAA Outdoor meet. Flood and Goethals will look to return to their cross country success from 2011, when they were 7th and 18th, respectively, at nationals.
Providence, last year’s runners-up, is the preseason No. 1 on the women’s side, earning 11 of 12 possible first place votes. Florida State is No. 2, followed by defending champion Oregon at No. 3. Duke comes in fourth, followed by the Huskies. Oregon and Washington go 1-2 in the West Region rankings
On the men’s side, the Huskies will have to replace graduated senior Joey Bywater, who made it to NCAAs as an individual last year, but Coach Metcalf has some returners coming off career-best track seasons, including junior Aaron Nelson and sophomore Tyler King, and a deep and talented freshman class to make a run. The men are fifth in the loaded West Region, the top four teams of which are ranked in the top-20 nationally, led by No. 8 Portland. Oklahoma State is the national preseason No. 1.
The Husky women’s team has been a consistent presence at the top of the USTFCCCA rankings since 2008, when it achieved the No. 1 ranking for the first time en route to the NCAA title. Washington was the preseason No. 1 in 2009 before finishing third at Nationals. In 2010, the Huskies ranked third to start the year before finishing 16th. The Dawgs were the NCAA runners-up in 2011 after starting the season ranked No. 11. Last season the women were No. 3 to start the year, finishing ninth.
UW opens its season with the UW-Seattle U Open Meet this Friday at Magnuson Park at 4 p.m. The annual Sundodger Invitational then comes up on Saturday, Sept. 14, at Lincoln Park in West Seattle.