Friday, September 12, 2008

Cross country preview: UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON's cross country series previewing this state's top college and university cross country teams continues, as we finish up in Seattle.

Today's cross country preview features the University of Washington Huskies, coached by Washington alum Greg Metcalf.

There are very high expectations for the Dawgs, with perhaps one of the best recruiting classes in recent history on the women's side.

One person who deserves special mention is assistant coach Kelly Strong. You've read about her on this site for her running accomplishments, but her rapport with the young women on the Washington squad is a very key component to their success.

Washington hosts the Sundodger Invitational on September 20th, featuring all of the state's NCAA D-I schools.

Next week, we will focus on the state's small colleges.

Coach Greg Metcalf’s Huskies return on the women’s squad six of their top seven runners from the 2007 team that finished eighth at the NCAA championships, including junior Katie Follett and senior Anita Campbell, who were 19th & 20th in Terre Haute.

Seniors Amanda Miller and Michelle Turner will end their college careers with a final cross country season. Miller was UW’s No. 3 finisher at NCAA’s last year. Miller, Turner, and Follett all ended their seasons at the U.S. Olympic Trials, running in the 1500-meters.

In addition, the Huskies return sophomores Mel Lawrence & Lauren Saylor, both of whom competed as recent members of the US junior cross country teams.

Heading the incoming group of freshmen are Canadian Kendra Schaaf, who competed at the IAAF World Junior Cross Country and Track championships this year, and the Californian Courtney Babcock, who set the national high school federation record in the 1600 meters, and competed in the US Olympic Trials at 1500 meters.

Additions to the freshman class are Kayla Evans of Tacoma, who was the runner-up at the Washington state cross meet last year, while Adrienne McGuirk was the Oregon state champ at 3000-meters. Allison Linnell from New Jersey was a prep All-American, and Courtney Lightfoot had two Top-10 finishes at the California state cross country meet.

On the men’s side, the Huskies who finished sixth in the Pac-10, and missed a berth in the NCAA meet for only the second time in the last five seasons, return their top runner, senior Jon Harding from Issaquah, along with past NCAA 10000 meter track competitors Jake Schmitt, who transferred to UW from Cal and senior Jeremy Mineau.

The biggest challenge the Husky men’s squad faces entering the 2008 season is keeping healthy, as injuries during the 2007 season kept Mineau on the sidelines, and made Harding ineffective at the end of the year.

To that end, the Husky distance program took a page from the Nike Oregon Project and purchased an Alter-G anti-gravity treadmill for its runners, as a way for its runners to stay healthy, and to aid in injury rehabilitation.

While 2007 frosh sensation Max O’Donoghue-McDonald is sitting out the 2008 season with an injury, incoming freshmen Joey Bywater from Lake Stevens and Rob Webster, Jr. from Puyallup will have the opportunity to crack the Huskies’ top seven.

Summing up his expectations of the Huskies, Metcalf said, “Making the national meet is always the expectation, and I see great potential in these athletes. Realizing that potential depends on our group working together and having a great collective attitude, staying healthy, and firing on all cylinders once the calendar turns to November.”

NOTE: The University of Washington sports information office contributed to this report.

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