SEATTLE - No longer confined to the Dempsey on warm, late summer days, the Husky cross country teams met at the nascent Husky Outdoor Track at 9:00 a.m. Tuesday morning for the year's first practice, just a few days out from the season's first official run at Magnusson Park this Friday afternoon.
Much has already been packed in to the first two days of the fall schedule, with the Huskies filling out compliance forms, taking physicals, collecting new gear, taking head shots, pumping some iron, and logging lots of miles on the track and the trails. The season is a highly-anticipated one for the athletes and coaching staff, and Head Coach Greg Metcalf is enthused by the early signs.
"The first thing that I take away is that our team has a great feel to it," he says. "I like the collective attitude of our young men. You can tell that the group has changed. We have great leadership from new guys that may not have been leaders in the past but have moved into that role. Then we have an incredibly exciting group of freshmen that I have a feeling will make this fall entertaining and exciting.
"The women's group has added some new pieces," says Metcalf of the preseason fifth-ranked ladies. "They have big time expectations of themselves and after two days you can see that's how they operate. I'm incredibly optimistic about what the fall can hold for them."
Tuesday's practice included a two-mile workout on the track, with senior Justine Johnson leading the line of women and Aaron Beattie leading the men. Then it was off to Ravenna Park for some hill repeats. Wednesday, the team drove to North Bend and had a lengthier run on the Snoqualmie Valley Trail, 10-15 miles for the men and 7-12 for the women.
"We will go for a light run Thursday, then go out to Magnusson in full force on Friday and run everyone on our team who is healthy, some people in uniform some people out of uniform," said Metcalf.
Although the track was taken out of Husky Stadium, expect Metcalf and the cross country athletes to be out in full force on Saturday.
"We'll take Saturday off in preparation of the opening of Husky Stadium and watch the Huskies beat Boise Sate, which is the priority for everyone around here," says Metcalf. Then the plan calls for a long run on Sunday at 60 Acres Park in Redmond. Then Monday, Washington gets away from it all with a trip to Seabrook for their week-long training camp, stopping for a run at Hurrican Ridge on the Olympic Peninsula.
Friday's UW-Seattle U Open will get underway Friday at 4 p.m.