SEATTLE - Washington kicked off the 2014 season on Saturday weekend with the annual UW Indoor Preview in the Dempsey, the first of five home indoor meets and the first chance to test where long months of training have brought the Husky track and field athletes. Coming off the fall cross country season, many of the Husky distance runners won’t get their track seasons started until the UW Invitational in two weeks, but several runners took to the track from everything from the 600-meters up to the 3,000-meters. Before the meet, GoHuskies.com talked to All-Americans Katie Flood and Aaron Nelson, and Head Coach Greg Metcalf, about how the distance group is progressing since the fall.
Washington has a great returning corps of women’s distance runners with NCAA Championship experience on the track, led by eight-time All-American Megan Goethals and 2012 NCAA Champion Katie Flood. Goethals, now a senior, is one point shy of matching the UW school record for career points scored at NCAAs. She was fourth in the 10k finals at NCAAs last year and double back for fifth in the 5k, to go along with a Pac-12 title in the 5,000-meters, the first in Husky history. Flood only ran two races indoors last year and redshirted the outdoor season, so the fastest miler in school history has plenty left to prove after the time away.
Juniors Liberty Miller and Baylee Mires each scored at Pac-12s in the steeplechase and 800-meters, respectively, and advanced to the NCAA semis last year. Eleanor Fulton was one spot shy of an NCAA bid in the 1,500-meters, and Lindsay Flanagan is back for the outdoor season after taking third in the Pac-12 10k last year. And talented freshmen Amy-Eloise Neale and Katie Knight are both looking to build on solid first cross country runs.
Nelson took his career to another level with a 20th-place finish at NCAA Cross Country, as he became the first Husky men’s All-American in cross country in fifteen years. A Pac-12 scorer in the steeplechase last year, Nelson will look to continue his great year on the track. Also returning are NCAA prelim qualifiers Derrick Daigre (800m) and Tyler King (5,000m), and transfers Izaic Yorks and Jacob Smith should jump right in after running in the top-seven in the fall. The Huskies remain very young on the men’s side, with a large sophomore and freshman class, but have veteran leaders in James Cameron and Meron Simon back on the track after to help drive the group.
GoHuskies.com: Since coming back from break, what is the impression you get of the group looking around at practice each day?
Katie Flood: I think there’s a lot of energy. I think that everyone went home during break and did some good training, and even the first week back it seems like there’s a lot of excitement and a lot of energy. And this being a race week I think people are excited to get after it and get the indoor season rolling.
Aaron Nelson: When I go into the lockerroom and I see the guys, all of them are so excited for this first meet of the indoor season. Everybody’s full of energy, and everyone’s pretty excited. All these other guys on our track team have been working hard all fall, and they kind of have to get through the dark ages, but now they’re really excited to compete and I think there are some individuals that look like they’re ready to have a good season.
GoHuskies.com: Coming off the cross country season, was there anything you think needed to be tweaked as a group or that just needs to be continued?
Katie Flood: I think the cross season there were some high points and also some low points. It’s important to just put it in perspective and realize that not everything is going to go the way that you want it to, but the way to get to where you need to be is just to stay consistent and continue what you’re doing and keep working hard.
Aaron Nelson: I think as a distance group as a whole everybody’s just focusing on being collaborative, and supporting, and everyone’s going out and getting their runs in. We have a good team atmosphere going on right now, everyone’s working hard and doing the little things.
GoHuskies.com: It’s hard to talk about everyone on such a big group, but who do you see standing out a bit after the break?
Katie Flood: It’s always exciting to have Megan (Goethals) back at practice, because she’s such a force. I think some of the younger girls, Katie (Knight) and Amy-Eloise (Neale), seem like they’re in really good form right now. Eleanor Fulton looks great. That’s just four people, but I think we’ll have some good surprises this season. In the 800, Baylee (Mires) having the experience she had last year is super important and I think she’s just going to build on it and I think she’ll be a superstar this year.
Aaron Nelson: I see some of our milers are looking really strong this year. I saw some of our guys doing a workout the other day and they looked pretty smooth. Not to overlook anyone, but I think that Izaic (Yorks), James (Cameron), and Meron (Simon), they all look great right now. I think there’s potential for them running under four minutes in the mile this year, I know that is one of their goals, and that would be exciting. I also think Blake (Nelson’s) looking really good as well. Then Derrick (Daigre), I think he’s doing well, he’s definitely going to be one of the leaders on that mid-distance group, and Izaic, he’s kind of on the mid-distance side, that’s where his specialty is even though he ran cross.
Another thing is it’s good to see Nick Schippers back healthy. I’m really excited to see him run. It’s been a year and a half since he ran a race, so it’s good to see someone go through a very long process of injuries, and to fight back. He’s still here on the team, he didn’t leave or quit, and it’s cool to see him run; he has a good time and has a smile on his face.
GoHuskies.com: What races are you specifically looking forward to or what are some of your goals this season?
Katie Flood: I’m really looking forward to racing in the Dempsey, because it’s been a while and it’s so much fun. I think I’m probably going to focus on the mile this year, but we’ll see, I think I’ll be racing in two or three weeks. Probably a DMR in the future. I hope so.
Aaron Nelson: Right now I’m taking it slow because I had a knee problem that was keeping me from building up my training, so we’ll see what happens for indoors, but we’re focusing on being able to make it through the full track season, and run well late in the season. Steeple is definitely in my plans for this year. I’m looking forward to it; I think I can do some big things with it so it will be fun.
GoHuskies.com (for Nelson): There were so many freshmen on the men’s side, and many of them just now will get to run their first official races after redshirting the fall. How do you see them coming along?
Aaron Nelson: They’re excited. I think the general vibe from the freshmen is they’ve been at college for a while, they’ve adjusted, and they’re ready to finally make an impact. When they come in here, it’s a completely new system, and it can be hard for them to be ready to go in the fall. A couple of them ran like Andrew and Sumner, but it’s tough. But now they’ve been here for a while, and they’re really excited to put on a Husky uniform for their first race.
Questions With Coach Metcalf
GoHuskies.com: What were your impressions after the cross country season and what would be needed to have the most success here in the track season?
Coach Metcalf: On the men’s side, we just need to collectively get older. We just had so many young guys running this fall, each day was an adventure. The youngsters have been college students now for a quarter, they’ve gone home and recharged their batteries, and our group I think has good energy right now. There are a few bumps and bruises, but our group gets excited about track, and running fast in the Dempsey. I think our group is just geared a little more towards success on the track. I’m excited about our group of men and where they are headed.
Our women, they walked away from the fall, and I think our goals for our program are to be better than 17th at the NCAA Championships. But having said that, I see a lot of positive developments since November. Eleanor Fulton, she had some issues in the fall, but I think she’s one woman based on our intrasquad meet and what we’ve seen in workouts, Eleanor is chomping at the bit. Amy-Eloise Neale and Katie Knight I think are better than they were in the fall. I think with Katie Flood the fire has been lit after the frustrating way NCAAs went with her falling down. We have Megan Goethals back every day, and so I think the group, they’re training at a high level right now. The goal is to get a DMR team to the National Championships and have a couple other women at the meet ready to contend and I think that is within our control and our ability.
GoHuskies.com: Aaron Nelson obviously set the tone for the men in the fall. Who else is looking good on the men’s side?
Coach Metcalf: Right now guys that really I’m excited about, James Cameron is healthy and running as well as I’ve seen him. Izaic Yorks came here to a new situation, ran well for us in the fall even though he’s really more of a mid-distance guy, and I think now Izaic is just bursting with confidence. Those guys I think will assault our mile school record this season. I’m excited about Meron, who redshirted last track season, Blake Nelson, who also redshirted last track season, I think those guys are ready to go. I think we have a really nice group of guys who are ready to run fast indoors.
GoHuskies.com: How are some of the other top-seven runners on the women’s side doing heading onto the track? Liberty Miller, Maddie Meyers, or Baylee Mires?
Coach Metcalf: Baylee had a little hip problem, so we’ll use the first few weeks to see how she does, but she’s back running and Baylee is as gifted and talented as any woman on our team, and her goal is to be in the NCAA final at 800-meters. Maddie will redshirt indoors for sure, just a little lingering issue from the fall, and it’s the same with Libby where the big goal indoors is just to get her ready to run the steeple outdoors. I wish that wasn’t the case, I wish that Maddie and Libby were firing on all cylinders and ready to go but we’re just going to be very patient with them.
GoHuskies.com: How might the long distances play out during the outdoor season? Lindsay Flanagan will be back and she and Megan obviously have great 10k ability.
Coach Metcalf: Lindsay came back with a goal of making NCAAs in the 10k for sure, and her younger sister, Kaylee, is someone who I believe can run at the Pac-12 Championships this year. She’s even ahead of where her sister was as a freshman I think, and she went home in December to do tempo runs in negative-15 degrees which says you’re pretty tough. I’m excited about where she’s headed. For the men, Aaron Nelson had success in the steeple, but he’ll run some 5ks, and I think down the line at some point 10k could be his event. Tyler King and Jacob Smith might gravitate toward that distance, that remains to be seen.