SEATTLE - The first ever Pac-12 Cross Country Championships in the state of Colorado are set for this Saturday, and the Husky men’s and women’s teams are looking to take their seasons to new heights to match the elevation. For the first time since 2009, both Husky squads are ranked heading into Pac-12s, and they will look to climb higher as the postseason road starts here.
Colorado hosts the meet in the town of Louisville, just outside of Boulder. The Coal Creek Golf Course will be the site of Saturday’s races, the men’s 8,000-meter run going at 9:40 a.m. Pacific time and the women’s 6,000-meter race starting at 10:40 a.m. Pacific.
Tape-delayed coverage of the championships will air on the Pac-12 Networks for the first time on Monday, Nov. 4, at 6:30 p.m. Pacific. Jim Watson and Dwight Stones will call the action.
Saturday begins the three-pronged postseason schedule for the Huskies, with Pac-12s followed by the NCAA West Regionals on Friday, November 15 in Sacramento, where teams will punch their tickets for Terre Haute and the NCAA Championships, set for November 23.
Both the men’s and women’s races feature a heavy favorite as the No. 1-ranked teams in the country hail from the Pac-12, but UW will be one team looking to pounce if the top-ranked squads leave an opening. Colorado is the No. 1 men’s team and will look to use the home altitude to its advantage. No. 4 Oregon, No. 13 Stanford, and the Huskies at No. 25 will look to unseat the Buffs, who have won two-straight conference titles.
Oregon won the women’s title last year, but top-ranked Arizona has won all four races this year and enters as the favorite. The Ducks are ranked 12th and the Huskies are 13th, despite UW defeating Oregon earlier this year at the Bill Dellinger Invite. The very deep women’s field also features 16th-ranked Colorado, 20th-ranked Stanford, and 26th-ranked Arizona State. Washington has finished fifth or better at every Pac-12 meet dating back to 1989, including titles in 2009, 2008, and 1989.
The women’s team should receive a boost this weekend as All-American Megan Goethals is entered to race for the first time this season, having made her way back from a stress fracture right at the start of the season. Her injury and comeback have followed a similar timetable as a year ago, when Goethals also ran her first race at Pac-12s, and finished 12th overall. Senior Katie Flood will also be among the individual favorites, as she won the title in 2011, and led UW with a top-25 finish in Wisconsin two weeks ago.
Also expected to compete for the women is senior Justine Johnson, 15th at this race a year ago, and senior Liberty Miller, 25th last year. Sophomore Maddie Meyers, Colorado native Eleanor Fulton, and Baylee Mires will run along with first-timers Kaylee Flanagan, Katie Knight, and Amy-Eloise Neale.
Leading the charge for the men is junior Aaron Nelson, who has another chance to prove himself as one of the best in the Pac-12, which his first three races have indicated. A winner at the Sundodger and at the Bill Dellinger Invite, Nelson took fourth in the elite Wisconsin Invite field to establish himself as one of the individual favorites to challenge defending champion Lawi Lalang of Arizona and several All-Americans from Colorado and Oregon. Nelson was 25th a year ago at Pac-12s but will enter with totally different expectations on Saturday.
Aside from Nelson, only one other Husky making the trip this week ran at Pac-12s in 2012. That’s Tyler King, who has battled illness this fall but was 22nd last season as the No. 2 Husky finisher. Sophomore Meron Simon ran at the meet as a freshman in 2011 before redshirting last season. He was second on the squad at Wisconsin two weeks ago.
The seven other Huskies expected to run are making their Pac-12 debuts. Sophomore transfers Izaic Yorks and Jacob Smith, sophomore Tim Cummings, redshirt freshmen Blake Nelson and Nick Harris (another Colorado native), and true freshmen Andrew Gardne and Sumner Goodwin will all be eager to see how they stack up in their first run at one of the oldest and most storied conference championships.