First Pac-12 Titles On The Line In Tempe
Oct. 26, 2011
» Live Webcast
ON THE COURSE: The sport of cross country gets the honor of deciding the first conference champions in the Pac-12 era this weekend, as Washington heads to Litchfield Park, Arizona for the Pac-12 Championships, hosted by Arizona State. The second-ranked Husky women's team will be aiming for its third conference title in the past four years, while the UW men's squad looks to have its best day of the season and get in the mix for NCAA qualification.
Arizona State is hosting the meet at the Wigwam Golf Course this Saturday, October 29. The men's race is up first at 9 a.m. Pacific time, followed by the women's race at 10 a.m. The Pac-12 website will have a live chat during both races to follow developments.
The addition of Colorado to the men's and women's races and Utah to the women's races just adds further depth to what was already widely considered the toughest conference races nationally. The women's race features all 12 conference teams, six of which are currently ranked by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. Washington is ranked second, followed by No. 5 Arizona, No. 8 Stanford, No. 10 California, No. 11 Oregon, and No. 16 Colorado. The men's field is now nine teams deep, with No. 4 Stanford and No. 6 Colorado expected to battle for the title, and No. 20 UCLA, No. 22 Washington State, No. 23 Oregon, and No. 25 Arizona State looking for an upset.
The Husky women won Pac-10 titles in 2008 and 2009, then tied for third last year in Seattle in what was the closest conference race in history. The Stanford women won the title last year by three points over Arizona, with Oregon and Washington tied just another three points back. This year's race could be just as close up front. The Stanford men are looking for a third-straight conference title. They had the top three individual finishers last year.
The Husky women will try to back up their impressive upset win at the Adidas Wisconsin Invitational two weeks ago with a conference title. After dropping to 24th in the national polls after a disappointing Roy Griak Invite run, the Huskies bounced back in a big way by outracing seven Top-10 teams including then-No. 1 Villanova to claim the Wisconsin title, one of their biggest regular season wins ever.
Sophomore Katie Flood led the Huskies with a seventh-place finish at Wisconsin, and she'll be expected to run up front for the Dawgs on Saturday. Flood was sixth in her first conference meet a year ago, earning Pac-10 Freshman of the Year honors. Another sophomore, Justine Johnson, was 15th a year ago in a breakthrough performance. She has picked up where she left off last year, having taken 23rd overall at Wisconsin, second on the team. Junior Lindsay Flanagan also has two-straight Top-25 finishes this year and will be looking for her best conference finish.
The only senior running for the Huskies is Christine Babcock, a two-time All-Pac-10 First Team performer. Babcock was third overall in 2008 when the Huskies swept to the title, and fifth in 2009 as UW took the title again. Babcock finished 19th last year in her first race in nearly a year, coming back from a foot injury.
Four Huskies will be making their Pac-12 race debuts this weekend, and the group could have a huge impact. Sophomore Megan Goethals, the 2011 Pac-10 track runner-up at 5,000-meters, has improved as the fall has gone on. The same goes for redshirt freshman Chelsea Orr, the 2011 NACAC Junior XC Champ, who made her season debut at Wisconsin. True freshman Eleanor Fulton placed in the top-100 at Wisconsin and has been progressing well in practice. Another true freshman, Erin Johnson, has grabbed a spot on the travel squad after winning the Mike Hodges Invite two weeks ago in Clackamas, Oregon.
Last year the men were led at Pac-10s by Rob Webster Jr., who made his season debut at Wisconsin and has proven his toughness in championship meets. Webster had a late start to the fall but will look to peak over the next few weeks. Junior Joey Bywater has led the Dawgs at the past two races, placing in the top-25 at Roy Griak and in the top-50 at Wisconsin. He'll be looking to break into the top-25 at the conference meet for the first time.
UW's two seniors, Max O'Donoghue-McDonald and Cameron Quackenbush, have both endured highs and lows already this fall, but will give it their all in their last conference race. O'Donoghue-McDonald won the season-opening Sundodger Invite but has dealt with a knee issue since. Quackenbush has coped with illness but won the title at the Mike Hodges Invite during the Wisconsin weekend.
Gareth Gilna, Michael Miller, and Taylor Carlson are all returning for their second shots at the conference championships. Gilna was the second Husky at Wisconsin, placing 88th, and making major strides from the two weeks prior. Another two weeks of improvement should have the sophomore mixing it up with the lead group. Miller scored at Pac-10s a year ago and has been working himself into form this fall after some early injuries. Carlson could also make a big leap from last year's 54th-place finish.
Making their Pac-12 Championship debuts are true freshmen Aaron Nelson and Meron Simon, both of whom have run in UW's top-five at the past two meets. Redshirt freshman Aaron Beattie will also be one to watch, as he could jump into UW's top-seven for the first time this Saturday despite the big stage.
EXPECTED TO RUN: Following is a list of Huskies expected to make the trip to Saturday's Pac-12 Championships. Teams are allowed to enter up to ten runners. The top five finishers score points for the team with the sixth and seventh finishers able to displace top-five finishers from competing teams.
HUSKIES AT THE PAC-12 CHAMPIONSHIPS: The Huskies have four Pac-10 team championships to their credit, as the Husky men captured the team title in 1993, and the women came out on top in 1989, 2008 and 2009. The 2008 title rewrote the recordbooks, as Washington swept the top six spots for the first perfect score in Pac-10 history. Regina Joyce won the first conference women's title in 1982 when it was known as the NorPac. It was 26 years until Kendra Schaaf won UW's second individual crown, leading the 2008 sweep. Washington posted its first back-to-back titles with a repeat win in 2009. The women's team has placed in the top-five at the conference meet every year since 1988, a span of 22 races, and were fourth or better on 20 of those occasions. Individually, the women have also had a Top-10 finisher in the past 17 races, while the men have placed a runner in the Top-10 in five of the past seven years. Remarkably, the women have been led by a different runner in 13 of the last 14 championships, with that lead Dawg placing in the top-10 on every occasion.
LAST YEAR AT THE PAC-10 CHAMPIONSHIPS: The first Pac-10 Cross Country Championships in Seattle in 10 years was a memorable one last year, as the Husky women's cross country team tied 2nd-ranked Oregon for third overall in the closest finish in conference history. Held at the Jefferson Park Golf Course, the women's race delivered all the drama that the several thousand fans in attendance hoped to see. Ninth-ranked Stanford squeaked out the upset victory with 62 points. Arizona was barely behind with 65 points, and the Ducks and Huskies were right behind them with 68 points apiece. The three-point winning margin was the smallest in Pac-10 history, and never had such a small margin separated four teams at the top. Freshman Katie Flood took a huge step in just the second race of her college career, placing sixth overall to lead the Huskies in a time of 20-minutes and 13-seconds. Senior Mel Lawrence earned her third-straight Pac-10 Top-10 finish, taking 10th. The breakout performance of the day may have been redshirt freshman Justine Johnson, who looked like a season veteran in her first Pac-10 run, taking 15th overall. Running fourth for UW was senior Kailey Campbell with an 18th-place finish. Closing out the scoring was junior Christine Babcock, back on the starting line for Washington for the first time since the 2009 NCAA Cross Country meet. The two-time All-American came in just behind Campbell in 19th-place. No. 1 Stanford won the men's race with 25 points, while the Huskies finished seventh, with three sophomores and a redshirt freshman as their top four finishers. For the first time in his career, Rob Webster Jr. led the Huskies on the grass, placing 27th overall in a time of 24:15. That was up 17 spots from his Pac-10 finish in 2009. James Cameron placed 35th and Joey Bywater was 39th. Michael Miller and Cameron Quackenbush capped the scoring.
HUSKIES IN THE RANKINGS: Washington's victory at the Adidas Wisconsin Invitational catapulted the Dawgs from 24th nationally all the way up to No. 2. It's the highest ranking for the Dawgs since they were ranked No. 1 during the 2009 season. The top spot is now held by Florida State. The Seminoles were ranked third and went to Pre-Nationals instead of to Wisconsin. FSU had a comfortable win at Pre-Nats to earn all 12 first place votes. The Huskies are second, followed by No. 3 Vanderbilt, which was a surprise runner-up behind UW at Wisconsin, and then two-time NCAA Champ Villanova at four and Arizona at No. 5. The women began the year ranked 11th, but dropped to 20th after the Roy Griak Invitational, then lost four more spots while being idle. The men have received votes in the polls this season but are currently unranked. They are currently 10th in the West Region poll. The men's poll is led by Oklahoma State, last year's champion. The Pac-12 is easily one of the deepest conferences in the nation on both the men's and women's sides. There are six Pac-12 women's teams in the top-16, with UW followed by No. 5 Arizona, No. 8 Stanford, No. 10 California, No. 11 Oregon, and No. 16 Colorado. Fourth-ranked Stanford and No. 6 Colorado are the highest of six ranked Pac-12 men's teams.
WOMEN CAPTURE WISCONSIN INVITE OVER ELITE FIELD: Not many outside spectators were considering the 24th-ranked Husky women's cross country team among the contenders in one of the largest and strongest fields in years on Oct. 14, but when the dust settled at the Adidas Wisconsin Invitational, it was the Huskies that landed on top, overcoming 17 of the Top-30 teams in the nation, including seven Top-10 teams and the first- and second-ranked teams in the country. Washington won with 199 points over the 6,000-meter course. Unranked Vanderbilt was also a surprise, placing second with 211 points. 14th-ranked Arizona was third (230), then two-time defending NCAA Champion Villanova, the nation's top-ranked team, was fourth with 232. Sixth-ranked Stanford rounded out the top-five with 256 points. Katie Flood made her 2011 debut and made a massive impact, as she ran to a seventh-place finish in 20-minutes and 14-seconds. Washington then got key Top-25 finishes (in a field of 300 runners) from sophomore Justine Johnson and junior Lindsay Flanagan, who crossed within seconds of each other in 23rd and 25th places, respectively. Senior Christine Babcock finished in 50th-place as UW's number four finisher, and sophomore Megan Goethals capped the scoring with a 94th-place finish, just ahead of freshman Eleanor Fulton who was 98th overall. It was a tougher day for the Husky men's squad, despite another solid run from junior Joey Bywater. The Lake Stevens, Wash. native was 46th overall in a time of 24:28 over the 8,000-meters to lead Washington for the second race in a row. Sophomore Gareth Gilna also showed a lot of progress since his season debut three weeks ago, as he finished 88th as UW's number two runner. But there was a sizeable gap until true freshman Aaron Nelson came across as the third Husky finisher in 170th-place. He was followed by junior Rob Webster Jr. in his season debut in 186th, and another true freshman, Meron Simon, in 204th to cap the scoring with 694 points, placing the Huskies 31st out of the 39 team field.
UP AND DOWN DAY FOR DAWGS AT ROY GRIAK: Juniors Joey Bywater and Lindsay Flanagan each turned in Top-25 finishes to lead UW, as the Huskies ran at the Roy Griak Invitational in Minneapolis for the first time since 2001. The Husky women outpaced a trio of ranked opponents to finish sixth overall, while the men finished 14th out of 24 teams. The 11th-ranked women were in great shape early on, but had some travails late in the race that dropped them out of contention. Still, they scored an even 200 points to place sixth and beat out the likes of 18th-ranked Penn State, No. 21 North Carolina State, and No. 23 BYU. The Husky men wound up with 309 points. The story for the women was junior Lindsay Flanagan, whose grandfather passed away the week before the race. She honored him in her own way, by leading the Huskies with a 14th-place finish in 21:04 over the 6km course. Following Flanagan was sophomore Justine Johnson, who made her season debut with a 26th-place effort in a time of 21:20. Senior Christine Babcock took 35th in 21:29, but was running in the top-15 before taking a fall and losing thirty places. Sophomore Megan Goethals was also in the top-15 early before dropping back to finish 56th in a time of 21:50. Sophomore Liberty Miller rounded out the scoring in 69th place, clocking 22:02. Bywater gained fourteen spots over the final 3k to wind up 24th in a time of 24:40 over the 8,000-kilometer course. Senior Max O'Donoghue-McDonald was right behind, placing 34th in a time of 24:47. Aaron Nelson and Meron Simon, running attached for the first time in their careers, came through for the Dawgs when a couple other returners had off-days. Nelson, a Walla Walla native, was as far back as 121st through 3k, but charged past dozens of runners over the next few miles to wind up 67th in 25:18. Simon, out of Federal Way, also moved up well throughout and placed 87th as UW's fourth finisher. Senior Cameron Quackenbush then capped the scoring in 101st place out of a field of 220.
SEASON STARTS WITH SUNDODGER SUCCESS: A West Seattle native that ran in Lincoln Park with his middle school team, senior Max O'Donoghue-McDonald became the first Husky ever to win back-to-back Sundodger Invitationals, as he led the men to the victory at UW's annual home meet. The 11th-ranked Husky women were also victorious, both teams finding victory for the fifth year in a row. O'Donoghue-McDonald got the win in 24-minutes, 8-seconds over the 8 kilometer course. Washington scored 28 points to hold off a good challenge from Idaho, which scored 34 for second-place. Junior Joey Bywater was the second Husky across in fifth-place, clocking 24:21. Right behind was senior Cameron Quackenbush in sixth, and sophomore Taylor Carlson in eighth-place. Sophomore Michael Miller finished the scoring in 16th-place, though UW also had three true freshmen running unattached in the top-15. Meron Simon was 11th, Dyland Morin 13th, and Aaron Nelson 14th, all within five seconds of each other. The Husky women were led by a freshman, Eleanor Fulton of Lone Tree, Colorado. Fulton took third in 21:02 as the Husky women went on to score 28 points as well. Behind Fulton in fourth-place was sophomore Phoebe Merritt in 21:16, and sophomore Liberty Miller was fifth in 21:19. Redshirt freshman Megan Morgan was ninth in 21:28, and another true freshman, Erin Johnson, was the fifth Husky scorer crossing in 12th-place in 21:43. Running unattached, freshman Joelle Amaral was just a second behind Johnson in 13th.
UP NEXT: Just one race in two weeks time will sort out the NCAA Championship fields, as the Huskies compete at the NCAA West Regional Championships on Saturday, November 12, in Palo Alto. The top two placing teams in the men's and women's races earn automatic bids to the NCAA meet on Nov. 21. The race will be run on the Stanford Golf Course, where the UW women won their first of three consecutive West Regional titles in 2008.
MEET THE COACHES: Former Husky All-American Greg Metcalf is in his tenth year as Washington's head coach of track and field and cross-country, and his 15th year overall at the University. Metcalf's work with the men's and women's cross country teams have developed each into national powers in recent years, capped off by the women's team claiming its first ever NCAA Championship in 2008, when Metcalf was named Pac-10 and National Coach of the Year. The 2008 women won every race in dominant fashion and boasted five All-Americans. The Huskies followed in 2009 with a second Pac-10 title and a third-place trophy at the NCAA meet, and the 2010 squad won a record third-straight West Regional title. The UW women have reached NCAAs in 12 of Metcalf's 14 years with nine Top-20 finishes. The UW men, meanwhile, have competed for national titles five times in the past eight years, including a 12th-place finish in 2006 and back-to-back 18th-place efforts in 2008 and 2009. Metcalf's distance runners have combined for three individual NCAA track titles, 12 Pac-10 titles, 65 All-America awards, 152 NCAA Championship bids and 29 school records in 14 years with the program. Metcalf has led a renaissance in the track program as a whole, as UW was one of just six programs that placed both its men and women in the 2009-10 USTFCCCA Program of the Year Top-10 Rankings, with the men finishing fifth overall and the women 15th. A 1993 UW graduate, Metcalf was an All-American in the steeplechase and ran at the Olympic Trials. Metcalf is joined on the coaching staff by third-year assistant Jason Drake, a Colorado alum that spent seven years as an assistant at his alma mater, taking part in two NCAA team titles, before moving on to become the head cross country coach at Washington State for seven years. Entering her second season is assistant coach Lauren Denfeld, an Oregon State alum who moved on to coach the Beavers after graduating in 2008. Denfeld helped revitalize the OSU women's track and cross country program from its reinstatement in 2004, set the school record in the steeplechase, and was a multiple Pac-10 All-Academic First Team selection.