Friday, October 24, 2008

Greg Metcalf interview, courtesy Runner's World...

After the successful run by the University of Washington women's cross country team on October 18th at the Pre-Nationals meet in Terre Haute, Indiana, University of Washington track and cross country coach Greg Metcalf (back turned in white shirt/photo by Paul Merca) talked to Runner's World magazine's Peter Gambaccini about the season so far.

The Huskies' next meet is on Halloween at the Pac-10 Conference cross country championships in Springfield, Oregon, where they will meet the pre-season #1 ranked team in the Oregon Ducks, featuring Olympic Trials qualifier Nicole Blood, and a trio of fifth-year senior transfers in Lindsay Scherf (Harvard), Melissa Grelli (Georgetown), and Mattie Bridgemon (Eastern Washington).

Runner's World: Washington’s performance at Pre-Nationals was obviously very impressive. How close to full strength was your team in terms of personnel?

Greg Metcalf: We left a couple of bodies home. One, in particularly, was Amanda Miller. Amanda was an NCAA finalist last year, indoors and out, the mile and 1500 meters. She was an Olympic Trials qualifier and has run in our top five (in cross country) the last couple of years. She’s a middle distance runner. The way our schedule’s been laid out, we made a conscious decision to leave her home. And Michelle Turner and Kenna Patrick, three young women who could potentially run in our top seven. But, for the most part, on that day, we were essentially at full strength, just minus Amanda Miller.

RW: And it’s a season that has three important meets left. Can you assess how far along your runners were compared to where you want them to be for the NCAA Championships (on November 24)?

GM: Looking at our team, people ask did we expect to go score 36 points. I didn’t really give the point total that much thought as much as I did, in the pre-race conversations with the athletes on our team, about being in the hunt to go win a cross country race. And when you have those conversations, your point total ends up being really low, I guess. But looking especially at our returners and Katie (Follett) and Anita (Campbell), they’re just going to continue to make progress. Last year, Katie ran 21:06 (for 6K) in the Pre-National meet. I think she finished in the 30s, and she was 19th at the NCAA Championships. I thought it (the Pre-Nationals last Saturday) was a very solid day but it’s not the best day we’re going to have this fall, for sure.

RW: But it’s all good news for now, it seems. You are ranked #1, you beat Villanova by 90 points, and you measured up extremely well against teams in the other ("White") race like Florida State. And you’ve been coaching for awhile and doing very well, but is it scary at all to suddenly be at this position at this stage of the season?

GM: Not for one second. It’s not an accident. One year ago, we were at the NCAA Championships. We were sitting in a tent. We’d just finished eighth place, which is our best finish in program history. And I honestly believe we walked away just a little bit disappointed. Three weeks earlier at the Pac-10 Championships, we were two points behind Oregon for second and tied Arizona State for third and they both won trophies at the NCAA Championships (Oregon took second and Arizona State fourth). We had a couple of girls who were sick and didn’t have a great meet, but I think we had kind of missed an opportunity. So we sat there and had a conversation, "it was great, it was positive for eighth place, but this what could have happened, and ultimately, where are we going to be one calendar year from that moment?" I told our women "we can contend to win the NCAA Championship." So being ranked #1 midway through the season, it’s great for our program, great for our young women, but at the same time, it’s just a number. It’s a big compliment of course. And the very, very coolest thing about our sport is that on November 24 (at the NCAA Championships), we all figure it out. It’s as great as any other sporting event out there. There’s no room for discussion. It’s reality.

To read the full article, click here…

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