Third-Ranked Huskies Chase Podium Spot
Nov. 17, 2011
NCAA CROSS COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIPS
ON THE COURSE: This coming Monday in Terre Haute, Indiana, the gun will be fired at the NCAA Cross Country Championships and the next half hour of racing will sort out the 2011 national champions. The third-ranked Husky women's team has already enjoyed another fantastic season, but will be aiming to run its best race of the fall on November 21, and see if that effort will be enough to earn it a spot on the podium for the third time in four years.
Washington won the NCAA title in 2008 and placed third in 2009. The top-four teams earn a trophy and a podium spot. Last year the Huskies placed 16th but this year's squad has been much more consistent from day one, winning the Wisconsin Invitational against the largest field in years, then capturing a fourth straight West Regional title after taking second at the Pac-12 Championships. The team has been steady but also steadily improving, and the Huskies will look to put the lessons learned from last year's NCAA meet into practice.
Indiana State University hosts the meet once again at the LaVern Gibson Championship Course. The women's 6,000-meter race will be run at approximately 9:58 a.m. Pacific time, following the men's 10k race. A free live video stream will be provided by NCAA.com.
The field is comprised of 31 teams, 18 of which earned automatic entry from NCAA Regional meets, and 13 at-large selections. More than 250 total women will stand on the starting line come Monday morning. Florida State heads into the meet with the No. 1 ranking it has held for much of the year. Villanova, the two-time defending champion, is ranked second, followed by the Huskies. Georgetown, the preseason No. 1, is ranked fourth, followed by No. 5 Vanderbilt and Pac-12 Champions Colorado at No. 6.
The Huskies will take the same eight runners that rolled to the West Region title in Palo Alto last weekend. Sophomore Katie Flood has been UW's top runner since her season began in Wisconsin. Early in the fall Flood was diagnosed with mono, and it looked as if she might redshirt, but she proved to be a quick healer, and just a few weeks later Flood won the first ever Pac-12 Championship individual title, becoming the third conference champ in UW history. She followed that up with a fifth-place finish at Regionals, running conservatively as UW was well on its way to the team win. Flood was 78th at nationals a year ago to end her rookie season, but if she continues her recent pace she should be in the mix up front chasing her first All-America honor.
The most experienced Husky over the national course is senior Christine Babcock, the only senior on UW's roster. A two-time All-American, Babcock is the only Husky remaining who ran on UW's NCAA title team as well as the 2009 third-place squad. As a freshman, Babcock placed seventh at NCAAs and she was 34th as a sophomore. This will be her sixth time running over the LaVern Gibson course, including two Pre-National races. After a challenging two years with a foot injury and achilles issue, Babcock is in her best shape since early in her sophomore season, and has improved throughout the fall. She was 12th at the Pac-12 meet and 14th at Regionals, earning a fourth All-West Region honor.
Along with Flood, three more Huskies are making their second NCAA appearances, after gaining valuable experience last year. Junior Lindsay Flanagan has enjoyed her best season, with top-25 finishes at the Roy Griak and Wisconsin Invites, and then a 10th-place effort at Regionals for her first All-West Region honor. Sophomore Justine Johnson has put together another excellent fall, finishing 23rd in the huge Wisconsin race and taking 13th at Regionals for a second career All-West Region honor. Johnson was just outside the top-100 a year ago at 102nd, but could make a big leap this year as well. Sophomore Liberty Miller has had to run through a few minor injuries this fall but got to rest up at Regionals and could step up on Monday.
Taking on the national course challenge for the first time will be sophomore Megan Goethals, redshirt freshman Chelsea Orr, and true freshman Eleanor Fulton. Goethals had a slow start to her fall but has gotten stronger in each race, placing 16th at the conference meet and then improving to eighth at Regionals as Washington's number two finisher. She will be looking to add an All-America honor in cross to the ones she earned last year in both indoor and outdoor track. Fulton has been one of the top newcomers in the West this year, highlighted by a 21st-place finish at the Pac-12 Championships as Washington's No. 4 finisher. The seventh spot will likely be between Miller and Orr, the 2011 NACAC Junior Cross Country Champion.
EXPECTED TO RUN: Following is a list of the Huskies who will travel to Monday's NCAA Championships in Terre Haute. Teams are allowed to enter seven runners, so one runner will not compete. The top five finishers score points for the team with the sixth and seventh finishers able to displace top-five finishers from competing teams.
HOW WE GOT HERE: Nine regional championships were held around the country last Saturday, with the top two teams earning automatic berths to the NCAA Championships. The Husky women won the West Region for the fourth year in a row to take the automatic spot. An additional 13 men's and women's teams were added to the field via an at-large selection process. Selections are based on regular season wins, or "points", accumulated against teams already in the NCAA field. The top four individual finishers from each region not on a qualifying team were also added to the field.
UW WOMEN AT NCAA'S: Washington's recent run of success at the NCAA Championships has been unmatched in the history of the program. The Huskies have four-straight top-20 finishes, three top-10 finishes in the past four years, and podium finishes in 2008 (1st-place) and 2009 (3rd-place). The women have reached the national meet now in 13 of the past 15 years. After a rare two-year absence in 2005-06, the Huskies responded with the best three years in program history. The 2007 squad's 8th-place finish was a program best, then trumped by the national championship team in 2008 that rewrote the recordbooks with five All-Americans. The 2009 team was back on the podium again with a third-place finish and four All-Americans. Last year the Huskies finished 16th, with four runners making their NCAA debuts. From 1997-2004, the women's team made NCAA's every season, with five top-20 finishes, including a 9th-place finish in 1998. From 1994-1999, the women finished in the top-15 five different times, with Tara Carlson leading the team in three of those races. UW had never had multiple All-Americans in the same season until 2007, when six different Huskies earned All-America honors over the next three years, led by Katie Follett, who earned three-straight from 2007-09. Christine Babcock was the nation's top finishing freshman in 2008, placing seventh overall, the best finish since UW legend Regina Joyce placed second in 1982. Joyce was sixth two years prior in 1980, leading UW to 12th at the AIAW meet, and she also finished 11th competing as an individual in 1981. Kendra Schaaf then matched Joyce's finish with a runner-up effort in 2009 as UW took third. Tara Carlson is Washington's only other top-10 finisher, as she placed 8th in 1995.
HUSKIES IN THE RANKINGS: With their victory at the NCAA West Regional, the Husky women moved up three spots in the USTFCCCA national rankings to No. 3 heading into the NCAA Championships. Florida State remains number one heading to nationals, followed by two-time defending champs Villanova. Georgetown, which was the preseason No. 1, is fourth, then Vanderbilt and Pac-12 Champion Colorado in sixth. The Huskies have been ranked as high as No. 2 this year after winning the Wisconsin Invite. The number two ranking was the highest 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 received votes in the polls this season but did not crack the top-30 and finished the season unranked. Wisconsin and Oklahoma State go in as the top two teams on the men's side. The West Region on the women's side produced a number of NCAA qualifiers, including No. 8 Arizona, No. 13 Stanford, No. 16 Oregon, No. 16 Arizona, No. 23 California, No. 26 San Francisco, and an unranked Arizona State squad.
WOMEN MAKE IT FOUR-STRAIGHT REGIONAL WINS: The Husky women's cross country team cruised to another NCAA West Regional championship on Saturday at the Stanford Golf Course, the fourth consecutive Regional title for the Dawgs. The sixth-ranked Huskies distanced themselves from the other thirty teams in the field, including five ranked teams, to secure an automatic bid to NCAAs. The Husky men came up short in their NCAA bid, placing 11th, but will return everyone that ran. The Husky women's Regional title streak started in 2008. The four-meet run is the third-longest in meet history. Washington placed all five of its scoring runners in the top-14 in a field of more than 200, to win with a very impressive 50 points. 16th-ranked Arizona was second with 98 points, then No. 8 Stanford was third with 111. With the Huskies well on their way to the team win, Head Coach Greg Metcalf had sophomore Pac-12 Champ Katie Flood let the leaders go, saving as much energy as possible for Nationals. Flood coasted across the line in fifth-place, in a time of 20-minutes, 14-seconds. Right behind her was sophomore Megan Goethals, who had her best run, finishing eighth in 20:17. Junior Lindsay Flanagan bounced back in a big way Pac-12s, as she had a career-best 10th-place finish. Sophomore Justine Johnson had her second-straight top-15 Regional run, placing 13th in 20:38. And senior Christine Babcock was a step behind Johnson top cap UW's scoring with a 14th-place finish. The men were coming off their best effort at the Pac-12 meet, and were hoping to make another step up at Regionals, but they did not get the run they needed today, and their season will come to a close although the future looks bright as UW did not have any seniors competing today. The men had a new frontrunner, as redshirt freshman Aaron Beattie led the team for the first time. Beattie was 43rd overall in a time of 30:23 over 10,000-meters. Junior Rob Webster, Jr. was a few seconds back in 48th-place, and another newcomer, true freshman Aaron Nelson, was third for UW in 67th-place in 30:49. Junior Joey Bywater was 71st and Gareth Gilna suffered a fall early on and that dropped him back, as he finished 113th, with the places combining to produce 329 team points, which put the Huskies in 11th-place overall.
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.
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: It's the indoor track season for the Husky distance runners. January 14 marks the start of indoor track in the Dempsey, as UW hosts the UW Indoor Preview that Saturday. That starts a series of six indoor meets in the Dempsey.
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.