No. 7 Dawgs Bound For National Championships
Nov. 15, 2012
SEATTLE - Having put in thousands of miles as a team to get to Louisville, the Husky women’s cross country team now gets to line up this Saturday for one more race, as the NCAA Championships will be decided over 6,000-meters out of the 31 teams remaining. The seventh-ranked Huskies are hoping to put together their best race of the fall, and reach a top-four podium spot for the fourth time in the last five years.
Joining the Washington women is senior Joey Bywater, who will represent the Husky men’s team, running as an individual. The Washington men were by many accounts the last team to miss out on the NCAA field, but Bywater will still be the first Husky men’s runner in the NCAA meet since 2009, when he was a redshirt freshman on a UW team that finished 18th.
The University of Louisville hosts the meet this year at the E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park, the first time since 2003 that the championships have moved from Terre Haute, Indiana. The women’s championship race will go off at 9 a.m. Pacific time and be streamed live on NCAA.com. The men’s 10k race follows at 10:15 a.m. Pacific with Bywater looking to hold his own in the field of over 200 runners.
The Husky women’s team previewed the course earlier this season at the Greater Louisville Classic, placing second overall in a strong field even without junior Megan Goethals, who rejoined the lineup at the Pac-12 meet.
The Huskies return five of their top-seven runners from last year’s NCAA Championships, where they finished second overall in a tight battle with Georgetown. Junior Katie Flood and Goethals earned All-America honors last year, finishing seventh and 18th, respectively, in Terre Haute.
Despite some individual ups and downs common to every team, the Huskies have been very consistent this season. They have consistently run against multiple top-10 teams every time out. At Pac-12s, and West Regionals, the women placed fourth behind Oregon, Arizona, and Stanford, three teams sitting ahead of UW in the rankings. Washington will look flip the tables come Saturday. Florida State enters the race ranked No. 1 nationally, and No. 3 Iowa State, No. 6 Michigan, and No. 8 Providence are teams outside of the Pac-12 with podium designs of their own.
Flood has led the Huskies in three of her four races this season, bouncing back from a disappointing Pac-12 race to place 15th at West Regionals as the Huskies ran a very close pack that could bode well for the huge NCAA field. Goethals, who missed the first half of the season while recovering from a leg injury, has been getting back to form. The Rochester, Mich. native led UW at Pac-12s in her first race back, finishing 12th, followed by a 17th-place Regional finish.
Senior Lindsay Flanagan and junior Justine Johnson have both finished within a second of each other at the past two races. At Pac-12s, Flanagan was 14th and Johnson was 15th, and at Regionals it was Johnson who finished just ahead in 18th while Flanagan was 21st. The two are running in their third-straight NCAA Championships and look to help get UW another trophy.
Junior Liberty Miller could be poised for her best NCAA meet yet, running in her third in a row. Miller finished 25th at both the Pac-12 and West Regional Championships, earning her first All-West Region honor in the process. She was UW’s No. 7 finisher last year but has been in the top-five in every race this fall for UW outside of the season-opening Sundodger.
The success story for Kayla Evans is nearly complete, as the senior is returning to the NCAA Championships as part of Washington’s top-seven for the first time since 2009, following two injury-plagued years. The Tacoma, Wash. native and Bellarmine Prep grad persevered through stress fracture limbo and will certainly be going all out in her last cross country race on Saturday. The lone Husky making her NCAA debut is freshman Maddie Meyers, the Seattle product who has been a consistent top-seven presence in her first fall.
This will be Washington’s sixth consecutive NCAA appearance and 14th in the past 16 years. The Huskies started the current run with an eighth-place finish in 2007, setting the stage for the program’s first NCAA title in 2008. A third-place finish in 2009 and a second-place finish last season followed, with a 16th-place finish in 2010 being the only time out of the top-10 for the Dawgs since 2007.
Bywater, a fifth-year senior, earned an individual bid by being one of the top-four finishers at West Regionals from a non-qualifying team. The Lake Stevens, Wash. product was eighth overall last Friday in perhaps the best race of his impressive career. As an individual goal, Bywater can shoot for All-America honors, given to the top-40 finishers. Despite a number of excellent team finishes over the past decade, the Husky men have not had a top-40 individual finisher since Christian Belz was 17th in 1998.