Huskies Seek NCAA Title Defense; Men Look To Go Top-10
Nov. 21, 2009
2009 NCAA CROSS COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIPS
ON THE COURSE: The months of training and hundreds have miles have all built to this for the Washington cross country teams, as they are just days away from the season's final run at the 2009 NCAA Cross Country Championships held in Terre Haute, Indiana. This Monday morning, the No. 1-ranked Husky women will look to defend their 2008 NCAA Championship over the LaVern Gibson Championship Course, and the 15th-ranked Husky men are in position for potentially their best finish in over 15 years.
The men's 10,000-meter race will be up first, scheduled for a 9:08 a.m. Pacific start time. The women's 6,000-meter run will follow at 9:58 a.m. Pacific. The Championships will be televised live by the Versus Network, also available in high definition. NCAA.com will also provide a live internet stream. An official watch party for all Husky fans will be held at The Ram restaurant in University Village at 9 a.m.
WOMEN'S PREVIEW: Last November 24th, on the same LaVern Gibson course, the UW women captured the program's first ever national title. They returned to Terre Haute once since then, winning the Pre-National Meet back on October 17. The top-four women from last year's title team all return to shoot for another title and repeat All-America honors. But Washington will need to rely on at least one fresh face competing in their first national meet to score.
The women have won 11 consecutive races dating back to the season-opener in 2008. That includes consecutive wins at Pre-Nationals, the Pac-10 Championships, and the West Region Championships.
At last year's NCAA meet, the Huskies easily claimed the trophy with 79 points, defeating runner-up Oregon by 52 points. This year's meet, however, is expected to be an extremely heated battle between Washington and second-ranked Villanova. The Wildcats of Villanova also have not lost a race this year and have chipped away two first-place votes from UW's total. While any team could surprise on Monday, Washington already has two wins apiece this year over 3rd-ranked Princeton, 4th-ranked Oregon, and 5th-ranked Florida.
Leading Washington's pack this year has been Kendra Schaaf. The sophomore has won three races this year and placed second in her other two outings. She is coming off a big win at the NCAA West Regional Championships, and this week was named West Region Athlete of the Year. Schaaf was 12th at this meet a year ago. Fellow sophomore All-American Christine Babcock had her best career run at NCAAs last season, placing seventh to lead the team. Babcock has never finished worse than 10th in any race in her two year career.
Washington's only senior is Katie Follett, who has earned All-America honors the past two years, placing 19th in 2007 and 26th in 2008. She could join Regina Joyce (1980-82) as the only three-time cross country All-Americans in UW history. Junior Mel Lawrence, 25th last season, has finished in the top-five in every race she's run this year, and completes UW's returning All-American quartet.
Looking to make their mark on Monday will be junior Kailey Campbell, redshirt freshman Allison Linnell, and either redshirt freshman Kayla Evans or true freshman Lindsay Flanagan. Campbell has shot into UW's top-five of late, and is coming off the best race of her career, as she placed fourth at Regionals. Campbell was also 15th on this course at Pre-Nationals. Linnell has enjoyed a breakout season as well, placing 19th at the Pac-10 Championships as the second-highest freshman finisher. Flanagan and Evans were both top-30 at Regionals.
A win on Monday would make the women the first Washington program to earn back-to-back NCAA titles since women's crew in 1997-98.
MEN'S PREVIEW: The 15th-ranked men's team has relied on sturdy pack running throughout the year to climb up the polls after beginning the season at No. 24. Three seniors have led the Dawgs in nearly every race this year. That group of Jake Schmitt, Kelly Spady, and Colton Tully-Doyle will be chasing their first career All-America honors, but more importantly are striving for a Top-10 team finish, something the men's team hasn't achieved since 1993.
That senior trio all scored in UW's top-five at last year's NCAA Championships, as did junior Jordan Swarthout who will also run on Monday. In 2008, despite losing No. 1 runner Jeremy Mineau to a recurring foot injury on the day of the race, the men still went out and finished 18th, outpacing their No. 21 ranking going in. Schmitt led the way in 58th place with Spady also running in the top-100 at 86th. This will be the fifth appearance in the last seven years for the men, following a nine-year drought prior.
Washington has been led by a different runner at each of the past three meets. Schmitt was the top Husky finisher at Pre-Nationals in 22nd-place as the team placed fifth. Spady led the Dawgs to a fourth-place finish at Pac-10s with a 10th-place run. Then Tully-Doyle guided UW to fourth at Regionals with an 18th-place finish. The senior trio were all in the top-30 at Pac-10s and Regionals, two of the deepest fields in the country.
Swarthout is the only other Husky with NCAA Championships experience, but his run in Terre Haute last year stands as one of his best. The Pac-10 All-Academic First Team member was 108th overall and was UW's third finisher. Breaking the top-100 this year would be a huge achievement for Swarthout and likely mean good things for the team's finish.
Running well all season in his first full cross country campaign has been redshirt freshman Joey Bywater. He earned All-West Region honors with a 23rd-place finish last weekend in his first career 10k. Sophomore Cameron Quackenbush is also coming off a great first 10k at Regionals where he was 34th and completed UW's point total. Sophomore Max O'Donoghue-McDonald rested up at the Regional meet but was a regular scorer early in the year and could play a big role. Redshirt freshman Rob Webster Jr. and true freshman James Cameron are also on hand and could see action.
EXPECTED TO RUN: Following is the group Huskies traveling to Terre Haute, Indiana for the NCAA Championships. Seven runners per team will be chosen from the following groups. The top five finishers on each team contribute to the team score while the sixth and seventh runners can displace other team's finishers to bump up their score.
Women 2008 NCAA
Men 2008 NCAA
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 while the men placed fourth. 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 UW men were secure thanks in large part to a win at the Notre Dame Invitational and a fifth-place finish at the Pre-National meet.
WOMEN REMAIN NO. 1; MEN MOVE UP TO NO. 15: The Husky women's cross country team continues to hold down the No. 1 ranking in the country, pulling in 10 of the 12 first place votes for 358 points in the final poll released by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) prior to the NCAA Championships. Washington was the unanimous No. 1 for much of the season until a close call at Pac-10s led two voters to put Villanova on top. The Huskies were the unanimous preseason No. 1 and have held the top spot since last October 7th, following their win at the Auburn Invitational. After UW and Villanova, No. 3 is held by Princeton, No. 4 by Oregon and No. 5 by Florida. The Huskies have already defeated all three of those teams twice. Other ranked Pac-10 teams include No. 10 Stanford, No. 17 Arizona State, and No. 28 Arizona. The Husky men's team is currently 15th heading into Nationals, up two spots after their fourth-place Regional run. The men started the year at 24th, then climbed to 22nd after the Sundodger, and made a big leap up to 14th following their Notre Dame victory. Three West Region teams are in the Top-10, led by unanimous No. 1 Stanford and followed by No. 4 Portland and No. 8 Oregon which is the two-time defending champs.
UW WOMEN AT NCAA'S: The Huskies will look to add another chapter this Monday to an increasingly storied NCAA tradition. The women have reached the national meet now in 11 of the past 13 years, and 13 of the past 16. After a rare two-year absence in 2005-06, the Huskies have 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. 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. The last two seasons were the first time UW had multiple All-Americans in the same season. Five different Huskies have finished in the top-25 at NCAAs the last two years, including Christine Babcock (7th, 2008), Anita Campbell (20th, 2007), Katie Follett (19th, 2007), Mel Lawrence (25th, 2008) and Kendra Sschaaf (12th, 2008). Undoubtedly the greatest individual NCAA performances in Husky history were turned in by Regina Joyce. In 1982, Joyce finished 2nd overall, leading the Huskies to 13th. Joyce was sixth two years prior in 1980, leading UW to 12th, and she also finished 11th competing as an individual in 1981. Babcock's seventh-place finish last year was the best by an individual since Joyce. Tara Carlson is Washington's only other top-10 finisher, as she placed 8th in 1995.
UW MEN AT NCAA'S: Washington's men will be making their 12th NCAA Championships appearance all-time. Head coach Greg Metcalf has reignited the program, leading the men to NCAA's in five of the past seven seasons, after Washington had been absent from nationals for nine consecutive years. The men have placed in the Top-20 in two of the past three years, finishing 12th in 2006 and 18th last year. The 2006 squad's finish was the best of Metcalf's tenure and featured a veteran roster similar to this year's version. Senior Jake Schmitt led the team at NCAAs last year and if he is the first Husky across the line again Monday, he'll join Jeremy Mineau (2005, 2006) and Bruce McDowell (1987, 1988) as the only Huskies to lead the team at two NCAA Championships. Despite some very strong team finishes, the Huskies are still looking for their first top-50 individual finisher and first All-American this decade. From 1987 to 1991, the Huskies had a string of five-straight NCAA appearances which included an all-time best 4th-place finish in 1989 in Annapolis, Md. The all-time best individual NCAA performance came from Simon Baines, who placed 10th overall in 1993.
LAST YEAR AT NATIONALS: WOMEN MAKE HISTORY: Washington women's cross country capped off a season for the ages by winning the first NCAA Championship in program history in 2008. Washington put five runners in the Top-40, led by freshman stars Christine Babcock and Kendra Schaaf. The Huskies overcame second-ranked Oregon for the third race in a row, posting 79 points while Oregon came in with 131 for second-place. Florida State took third with 163, West Virginia was fourth with 198, and Princeton took fifth with 220. The Husky men took 18th-place despite running without top senior Jeremy Mineau. The Huskies racked up an incredible five NCAA All-American honors, and just missed a sixth. Babcock led the Huskies in 7th-place, finishing the 6,000-meter race in 20-minutes and 1.7-seconds. Schaaf, the Pac-10 Champion, was close behind in 12th overall in 20:17.3. Mel Lawrence was 25th in 20:32.3 and Katie Follett was right by her side in 26th-place in 20:32.5, earning her second-consecutive cross country All-American honor. Senior Amanda Miller, already a four-time track All-American, got the fifth overall honor and first of her career in cross country in her final collegiate race. Miller placed 34th in 20:37.0. Just missing the top-40 cutoff for All-America honors was Lauren Saylor, who was 41st overall and missed 40th-place by one tenth of a second. Rounding out UW's top-seven was senior Anita Campbell, who was making her fourth-straight NCAA Championship appearance. Campbell did not have her best day of the season, but still placed 51st overall in 20:50.4. Her finish would have been in the top-five for every other team in the meet. The day was also a success for Washington's men's team but their 18th-place finish was made somewhat bittersweet by the fact that they had to run without senior Jeremy Mineau, UW's top finisher at Pac-10's and Regionals. Mineau had a foot problem flare up over the past few days and was just unable to go. Junior Jake Schmitt paced the Huskies in 58th-place, running the 10,000-meters in 30:32.6. Schmitt was followed by Kelly Spady (86th-place; 30:47.2), Jordan Swarthout (108th; 30:58.0), Jon Harding (142nd; 31:11.7), and Colton Tully-Doyle (154th; 31:19.0). Chris Ahl was UW's sixth finisher in 234th, and Alec Bromka stepped in for the injured Mineau to place 236th. Schmitt's finish capped an outstanding first season for the former transfer from California. His 58th-place run was the second-best finish for a Husky male since 1998. This was the second Top-20 finish for the men's program in the past three seasons, after not cracking the Top-20 from 1994 all the way up until 2006.
HUSKIES TAKE CARE OF BUSINESS AT REGIONALS: The No. 1-ranked Husky women's cross country team turned in a dominant performance at the Springfield Country Club, running away with the NCAA West Regional Championship title, led by sophomore Kendra Schaaf who crossed the line first for the sixth win of her career. The women clinched an automatic back to Nationals while Washington's 17th-ranked men's team also had a sterling run, placing fourth behind three Top-10 teams to put themselves in position to earn a second-straight at-large NCAA bid. It was the 11th-straight victory for the UW women and their second-straight Regional victory. After defeating 5th-ranked Oregon by just seven points two weeks prior at Pac-10s, Washington put its entire top-five in the Top-10 to score a scant 25 points which was well ahead of second-place and meet host Oregon's 66 points. 14th-ranked Stanford was third with 94 and No. 16 Arizona State was fourth with 119. The men tallied 120 points to take fourth, matching their best team finish since 1994. Colton Tully-Doyle led the Dawgs with an 18th-place finish, just one year after taking 100th at this same race. The top-ranked Stanford men won the 10-kilometer run with 27 points, outpacing 7th-ranked Portland which was second with 84 points and No. 3 Oregon was third with 109, just 11 points ahead of UW. Schaaf becomes Washington's first individual Regional Champion since Regina Joyce in 1980. Her time of 20-minutes and 41-seconds was 11 seconds ahead of Oregon's Jordan Hasay who was second. Junior All-American Mel Lawrence was third overall for the Dawgs in 20:58. One of the performances of the day went to Kailey Campbell, who was fourth overall in 21:00, her first race ever in UW's top-three. Katie Follett was seventh in 21:02, and Christine Babcock placed 10th in 21:12 to round out the scoring. This is the fourth Regional title for the Husky women all-time, as they won last year and in 1989 and 1992. Backing up Tully-Doyle for the Husky men was Kelly Spady who had his best Regional run with a 20th-place finish in 31:14 for the 10k course. Joey Bywater had a fantastic final kick to move up to 23rd in 31:21. Jake Schmitt placed 30th and Cameron Quackenbush completed UW's scoring with a 34th-place finish in 34:37.
WOMEN DEFEND PAC-10 CHAMPIONSHIP: It may not have been perfect as it was in 2008, but in the end the No. 1-ranked Washington women's cross country team was crowned Pac-10 Conference Champions for the second year in a row in Long Beach on Oct. 30. The 13th-ranked men's squad placed fourth. After being dead-even with the 8th-ranked Oregon Ducks with 400-meters to go, Washington poured it on down the homestretch and scored the win, accumulating 35 points to Oregon's 42. The Huskies have now won back-to-back titles for the first time in program history, and ran their undefeated streak to 10 races. Kendra Schaaf, the defending Pac-10 individual champion, went out fast and led for much of the race. Schaaf, though, began fighting a slight knee twinge and on the final loop of the 6,000-meter course she was overtaken and dropped back to fifth. But the 2008 Pac-10 Athlete of the Year dug down over the final stretch and surged back up to finish second in 19-minutes, 46-seconds. Oregon senior Nicole Blood won her first Pac-10 title in 19:41. Earning top-five finishes for the second-straight year was Mel Lawrence and Christine Babcock. Katie Follett, battling illness, gutted out an eighth-place finish that was key to the team win. The final points of the win came from Kailey Campbell's 16th-place finish to cap UW's scoring. Campbell reinjured an ankle midway through the race and at one point stopped running for several seconds, but she refused to call it quits and passed a number of runners down the stretch, including sprinting past Oregon's No. 5 runner at the finish. Redshirt freshman Allison Linnell also had an excellent Pac-10 debut, placing 19th, and junior Lauren Saylor took 25th to complete UW's top-seven. After the Huskies and Ducks, Arizona State placed third with 110 points, ahead of No. 12 Stanford which had 111. The Husky men were led to a fourth-place finish by senior Kelly Spady, who had a career-high 10th-place finish, covering the 8,000-meter course in 23:25. Fellow senior Colton Tully-Doyle also had his best-ever Pac-10 run, placing 23rd in 23:50. Washington's third, fourth, and fifth runners all crossed together with senior Jake Schmitt, junior Jordan Swarthout, and redshirt freshman Joey Bywater placing 29th through 31st. Top-ranked Stanford justified its top billing with a 28-point victory. The second-ranked Ducks were second with 45, followed by 16th-ranked Arizona State with 88 points and the Huskies with 119. Washington outpaced UCLA (122) and 21st-ranked Washington State (163), California (180) and Arizona (193).
WOMEN DEFEND PRE-NATIONAL TITLE; MEN RUN FIFTH: Yet another dominant performance was authored by the No. 1-ranked Washington women's cross country team, as they churned to a big win at the Pre-National Meet at the LaVern Gibson Championship Course. The 14th-ranked men's team also had one of its best Pre-National finishes in years, taking fifth behind four top-10 teams. The women ran their winning streak to nine-straight races, and captured the Pre-National title for the second year in a row. Three Husky All-Americans placed in the top-five of the women's white race, led by the second-place finish of sophomore Kendra Schaaf, and Washington easily handled three top-10 teams and 10 teams ranked in the top-30. The UW posted 59 points, outpacing 9th-ranked Florida, which was second with 89 points. No. 5 Princeton was third with 126, No. 15 Syracuse took fourth with 191, No. 18 Illinois was fifth with 206, and eighth-ranked Minnesota came in sixth with 214. Schaaf led for much of the 6,000-meter race, but was caught by Illinois' Angela Bizzarri, the NCAA 5,000-meter champion, near the finish. Schaaf completed the course in 20-minutes, 29-seconds, just two seconds behind Bizzarri. Katie Follett took fourth in 20:37, a split-second ahead of sophomore Christine Babcock who was fifth. Junior Kailey Campbell had the best day of her cross country career with a 15th-place finish in 21:03. Redshirt freshman Allison Linnell rounded out UW's scoring with a 33rd-place finish in her first run through the championship course. The men's team held serve effectively, defeating four ranked teams in No. 19 Butler, No. 21 North Carolina State, No. 27 Tulsa, and No. 29 Cal Poly. Washington's 183 points was good for fifth in the Blue Race behind 7th-ranked Oregon, which got the win with 79 points. Senior Jake Schmitt stepped up to lead the Dawgs, placing 22nd in a time of 24:16. Fellow senior Colton Tully-Doyle was 25th in 24:19, a huge improvement over his 68th-place finish in this same meet one year ago. Senior Kelly Spady took 32nd in 24:27. Redshirt freshman Joey Bywater was 46th in his first run in Terre Haute, and sophomore Cameron Quackenbush rounded out the scorers with a 58th-place finish.
DAWGS SWEEP TEAM TITLES AT NOTRE DAME; WOMEN GO 1-4: Washington's top-ranked women's cross country team continued to steamroll, and the 22nd-ranked men made a major statement of their own, as both Husky teams claimed the titles at the Notre Dame Invitational on Oct. 2. The Husky women went one through four, led by sophomore Kendra Schaaf, who won her second race of the season and fifth of her young career. Schaaf crossed the line first in 16-minutes, 31-seconds, and was followed across the line by three more UW All-Americans; senior Katie Follett taking second in 16:33, junior Mel Lawrence third in 16:36, and sophomore Christine Babcock fourth in 16:39. Junior Lauren Saylor's 23rd-place finish completed Washington's scoring with 33 points. The Husky women left nine Top-30 teams in their wake. No. 6 Princeton was second with 68 points, followed by No. 15 Florida (104), No. 22 Penn State (152), and No. 13 Arizona State (170). The win was reminiscent of UW's Pac-10 sweep last year, as the top-four today were all a part of Washington's one through six run to the league title. While the women were certainly the prohibitive favorites coming in, Washington's men's team had three higher-ranked teams to contend with out of eight total Top-30 programs. The Huskies ran to the title thanks to their impressive depth and had just a 21-second gap between their first and fifth finishers. Senior Kelly Spady, who won the season-opening Sundodger, continued his great early season with a ninth-place finish to lead the Dawgs. Spady ran 24:05 over the 8,000 meters. Close behind was senior Colton Tully-Doyle, taking 13th in 24:09. Senior Jake Schmitt and redshirt freshman Joey Bywater then crossed side-by-side in 24:22 to take 28th- and 29th-places, respectively. Sophomore Max O'Donoghue-McDonald capped the scoring with a 34th-place finish in 24:26. O'Donoghue-McDonald's 34th-place finish was by far the best of any No. 5 runner on the day. Second-place Providence's fifth-man came in 49th. When the scores were added up, the men came out ahead of 15th-ranked Providence, 113-119. 24th-ranked New Mexico and No. 20 Butler tied for third with 151 points. Arizona State took fifth (158), No. 26 Florida State was sixth (187), and 11th-ranked Tulsa took seventh (232). Wins over so many ranked teams could go a long way to helping the Huskies reach the NCAA Championships come November 23.
MEET THE COACHES: Former Husky All-American Greg Metcalf is in his eighth year as Washington's head coach of track and field and cross-country, and his 13th 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. In 2009, Metcalf has once again been named Women's West Region Coach of the Year. The 2008 women won every race in dominant fashion and boasted five All-Americans. The national title season marked UW's 10th NCAA appearance in Metcalf's 12 years and was the seventh Top-20 finish. The UW men, meanwhile, have competed for national titles four times in the past six years, including a 12th-place finish in 2006 and 18th-place showing in 2008. Metcalf's distance runners have combined for three individual NCAA track titles, 12 Pac-10 titles, 51 All-America awards, 126 NCAA Championship bids and 26 school records in 12 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 inaugural USTFCCCA Program of the Year Top-10 Rankings in 2008-09. A 1993 UW graduate, Metcalf was a two-time All-American in the steeplechase. Metcalf is joined on the coaching staff by five-time All-American Kelly (MacDonald) Strong, a three-time Pac-10 champion at Arizona State now in her eighth year at Washington, and first-year assistant Jason Drake. Strong has earned a reputation as one of the nation's best young assistants and recruiters, helping assemble the talent that produced UW's 2008 national title. Drake is 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.