NCAA Trips At Stake At West Regionals
Nov. 9, 2011
NCAA WEST REGIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS
ON THE COURSE: NCAA Regional week is at hand for the nation's cross country teams, where every men's and women's team will be running to try and extend their fall by one more race. The Huskies will be in Palo Alto this Saturday, Nov. 12, for the West Regional meet, looking to advance to the the NCAA Cross Country Championships which are now less than two weeks away on Nov. 21.
Stanford is hosting West Regionals at the Stanford Golf Course, with the men's race set for 10 a.m. and the women running at 11:15 a.m. Last year's field featured 25 men's teams and 31 women's teams making for approximatley 400 competitors overall. The women will run the standard 6,000-meters, but the men add on 2k, running 10,000-meters for the first time this season.
The West is one of nine Regional meets around the nation this weekend. Automatic entry to the NCAA Championships is awarded to the top-two finishing teams at every site, making for 18 auto qualifiers on the men's and women's side. Then there are 13 at-large bids available on each side, awarded with a system that factors in Regional finishes and "points" accumulated by teams during the season by beating NCAA qualifiers. Essentially, if a team wins a race, they would have one point for every team behind them that makes it to nationals.
The sixth-ranked Husky women have won the past three West Regional meets, including the last time it was hosted by Stanford in 2008. Stanford (1999-2007) and Oregon (1976-81) are the only other women's teams to have won three consecutive Regionals.
Based on a victory at the Wisconsin Invitational, and a second-place finish at the Pac-12 Championships, the women are in good position to qualify for a fifth-straight NCAA appearance should they need an at-large bid. The Husky men will need to knock off a couple teams ahead of them, but UW has traditionally peaked well at the 10k distance, and the Pac-12 race showed signs that their top-seven was starting to gel.
The front packs of both races figure to resemble the Pac-12 Championships, although Colorado, which won the men's and women's Pac-12 titles, is in a different region. That leaves the Huskies as the top-ranked team on the women's side, followed by No. 8 Stanford, No. 11 Oregon, No. 16 Arizona, and No. 26 California. San Francisco, at No. 27, is the only ranked West Region team outside the Pac-12. The men's field is headed by No. 6 Stanford, with No. 8 Portland challenging along with no. 17 Oregon, and No. 21 UCLA.
Leading the women will be sophomore Katie Flood, fresh off her surprising Pac-12 Championships victory. Last season Flood was sixth at the Regional meet, and right behind her was Justine Johnson, who will look for a repeat Top-10 effort on Saturday. Senior Christine Babcock had her best run of the year at Pac-12s, placing 12th, and has run well on this course. Sophomore Megan Goethals and freshman Eleanor Fulton also went Top-25 at Pac-12s with their best runs of the year and should be running with a lot of confidence. Rounding out the group is junior Lindsay Flanagan, sophomore Liberty Miller, and redshirt freshman Chelsea Orr.
Junior Joey Bywater has been the frontrunner all season for the Husky men, and he has been an All-West Region performer in the past. After making a lot of progress between Wisconsin and Pac-12s, Rob Webster, Jr. could be even sharper this week over the 10k distance. He led the Huskies at Regionals a year ago, placing 34th. Sophomore Gareth Gilna continued his strong season with a 27th-place finish at Pac-12s. Then running 10k for the first time on Saturday will be redshirt freshman Aaron Beattie and freshman Aaaron Nelson, who were impressive in their Pac-12 debuts. Michael Miller, Jr. was 49th at Regionals a year ago, and has been building towards this race. The last of the seven spots likely will go to either sophomore Taylor Carlson or freshman Meron Simon.
EXPECTED TO RUN: Following is a list of Huskies expected to make the trip to Saturday's NCAA West Regional Championships in Palo Alto. Teams are allowed to enter seven 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.
WASHINGTON'S REGIONAL HISTORY: The Husky women's current streak of three consecutive West Regional wins is the third-best streak in the meet's history. Stanford won nine in a row from 1999 to 2007, and Oregon captured the first six meets from 1976 to 1981. In 2008 and 2009 the Regional meet was a mere formality for the Husky women, and they cruised to dominating victories on their way to NCAA podium finishes. The 2008 win was the first Regional title for the women since 1992. Last year the Huskies won with a tight pack, with just twenty seconds separating their first runner, Katie Flood in sixth-place, from Kailey Campbell in 21st-place. The team title was the women's fifth all-time. The men last qualified for Nationals in 2010 with a fourth-place Regional finish, matching their best finish since 1994. Historically, the women have finished in the top-five every year since 1989. Husky legend Regina Joyce won UW's first Regional crown in 1980, with Kendra Schaaf adding another in 2009. The Husky men have never won Regionals, but have finished second six times, including five-straight seconds from 1987-1991. UW's best individual performance on the men's side was Simon Baines, who ran second in 1993.
LAST YEAR AT WEST REGIONALS: For the third year in a row, the Husky women's cross country team won the NCAA West Region Championship. After two years of runaway wins as the top-ranked team, the 11th-ranked Huskies had to upset three Top-10 opponents to defend their title at the Springfield Country Club. The Husky men's team also had its best race of the season, finishing sixth out of a field of 25 after coming into the race ranked just 15th in the West Region. The UW women posted 73 points, edging Oregon which scored 77. Stanford was third with 86 points and Arizona was fourth with 90 out of a field of 31 teams. Katie Flood led the way for the women, as she took sixth in 20:17. Crossing right alongside Flood was redshirt freshman Justine Johnson, who had a career-best run to take seventh-place finish also in 20:17. UW closed out its top-five before any other team, as junior Christine Babcock, senior Mel Lawrence, and senior Kailey Campbell all came across together from 19th to 21st place in that order. The UW men have traditionally run best late in the year when the distance moves up to 10,000-meters. They proved it again, as the Huskies placed sixth with 216 points, finishing ahead of the likes of UCLA and Washington State which beat UW two weeks earlier at Pac-10s. Rob Webster Jr. led the men, placing 34th overall in a time of 30:50 for the 10km. UW kept things close as a team. Joey Bywater was 40th in 30:57, James Cameron was 42nd in 31-minutes flat. Redshirt freshman Michael Miller was 49th and fellow redshirt frosh Gareth Gilna was 61st in 31:16, giving UW just a 26-second spread between its first and fifth scorers.
HUSKIES IN THE RANKINGS: Despite arguably their best run of the year at the Pac-12 Championships, the Husky women's team dropped in the national USTFCCCA rankings from No. 2 to No. 6. Colorado jumped from 16th to third in the polls after winning Pac-12s. Florida State remains number one, followed by Villanova, Colorado, Vanderbilt, Providence, then Washington. That's despite the Huskies beating Villanova, Vanderbilt, and Providence in Wisconsin. The previous number two ranking was the highest ranking for the Dawgs since they were ranked No. 1 during the 2009 season. 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 eighth in the West Region poll, rising two places after Pac-12s. The men's poll had a new No. 1 for the first time, as Wisconsin hopped Oklahoma State, last year's champion. The West Region currently has four men's teams representing in the national top-30. No. 6 Stanford leads, followed by No. 8 Portland, No. 17 Oregon, and No. 21 UCLA. Washington is the highest ranked women's team in the West, followed by No. 8 Stanford, No. 11 Oregon, No. 16 Arizona, No. 26 California, and No. 27 San Francisco.
FLOOD CAPTURES PAC-12 TITLE; BYWATER LEADS MEN: Sophomore Katie Flood became the first ever Pac-12 Women's Cross Country Champion, pulling away for a stunning upset win in one of the fastest times in the history of the race. Flood becomes the third individual conference champion in Washington history. She led the second-ranked Husky women's team to a second-place finish, as Colorado got the win with a very impressive 50 point score in the loaded field. Washington scored 73 for second, edging out eighth-ranked defending champ Stanford which had 75. 11th-ranked Oregon was fourth with 89, and fifth-ranked Arizona was fifth in its own tough conference with 104. In the men's race, the Colorado men also got their first Pac-12 title, scoring 46 points. A great run from junior Joey Bywater resulted in a career-best 16th-place finish, as the Husky men finished seventh overall with 153 points, knocking off 25th-ranked Arizona State and finishing just a few points behind 22nd-ranked Washington State, which was sixth with 148. Flood was not expected to contend for the title, as Oregon's Jordan Hasay returned as the defending champion and was the 2010 NCAA third-place finisher. But Flood hung with the favored Duck all race, and with 800-meters to go she made a move and left Hasay and Stanford's Kathy Kroeger in the rear view mirror. Flood's winning time of 19-minutes, 32-seconds over the 6,000-meter course is the second-fastest winning time in conference history for that distance, second only to former Husky Kendra Schaaf's 19:24 win back in 2008. Prior to Schaaf, the last UW conference champ was Regina Joyce in 1982. Kroeger of Stanford was second, eight seconds behind Flood in 19:40, and Hasay took third in 19:50. Husky senior Christine Babcock came up with her best run of the season today, as she placed 12th as the second Husky finisher in a time of 20:23. Babcock placed in the Top-20 all four years. Sophomore Megan Goethals ran the best cross country race of her career, to place 16th overall in 20:27. True freshman Eleanor Fulton then came across in 21st place in 20:38. Sophomore Justine Johnson capped the scoring with a 23rd-place finish in 20:41. Lindsay Flanagan and Liberty Miller placed 30th and 47th, respectively. Junior Joey Bywater improved 23 spots over his 2010 Pac-10 finish. He put himself in the mix early on, and sprinted to the finish in a time of 23:43 over the 8,000-meter course. Stepping up with a big effort was Gareth Gilna, who was 27th overall in 24:03 as the No. 2 Husky across. Junior Rob Webster Jr., in only his second race of the season, looked much stronger than his first run in Wisconsin as he was 35th today in 24:22. Then the four and five scorers were both freshmen in their first Pac-12 race. True frosh Aaron Nelson of Walla Walla was right behind Webster in 37th overall in a time of 24:26. Redshirt freshman Aaron Beattie was running in his first official race, and he capped the scoring with a 41st-place effort out of the field of 74.
UP NEXT: One race remains and that is the NCAA Championships, once again held in Terre Haute, Indiana at the LaVern Gibson Championships Course. Monday, November 21, is the date, with 31 men's teams and 31 women's teams running for the national championship.