Friday, October 17, 2008

Huskies and Cougars head to Terre Haute; Zags at EWU Invite; Cascade Conference preview on tap at Lincoln Park...

The biggest challenge to date awaits the Washington men's and women's cross country teams as they converge on Terre Haute, Indiana along with dozens of highly-ranked and highly-regarded opponents for the Pre-National Meet this Saturday, Oct. 18. The No. 1 ranked Husky women's team will be looking to fend off several Top-10 schools and confirm their top seed, while the men's team could make a statement in a deep field that features 12 of the top 30 teams according to the latest USTFCCCA Rankings.

The meet is run over the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course, the same course that will host the NCAA Championships just over one month later, on Nov. 24. Indiana State hosts the meet and earliest results will be posted to www.GoSycamores.com.

With over 80 teams entering the meet, the field is split into two races, and seeded evenly based on the USTFCCCA rankings and taking some considerations as to separating conference teams. Thus, Pre-Nationals features a White Race and Blue Race for both the men and the women. The Husky women are in the Blue Race, while the men are in the White Race.

Washington's women, who hold the No. 1 ranking for the second-straight week, will be tested by 11 teams ranked in the Top-30, led by No. 4 Minnesota, No. 6 Stanford, No. 9 Michigan State. Also running with the Dawgs will be Villanova (No. 13), Florida (15), Wisconsin (16), North Carolina State (18), Providence (21), Rice (24), BYU (26), and New Mexico (27). This will be the first of what will likely be four-straight meetings between UW and Stanford, the three-time defending NCAA Champions. The Huskies and Cardinal will meet next at the Pac-10 Championships, followed by NCAA West Regionals, and potentially the NCAA Championships back in Terre Haute.

Leading the Huskies is freshman Kendra Schaaf, winner of her first two college races by a combined 41 seconds. She will face a field loaded with NCAA All-Americans and will get to gauge where she ranks with the nation's best at this early stage in her career. Freshman Christine Babcock and sophomore Mel Lawrence, the second and third-place finishers at the recent Tiger Invite, will also look for breakout showings against an elite field.

The Husky men's team is one of 40 schools competing in the Blue Race, with 12 of those teams appearing in the Top-30. Currently receiving votes but residing outside the Top-30, Washington has an opportunity to gain respect as well as wins over potential NCAA Championship teams that factor into NCAA at-large bids. The Blue Race features third-ranked Colorado and seventh-ranked Iona, as well as three ranked Pac-10 teams in No. 10 Stanford, No. 23 UCLA, and No. 25 California, therefore a strong showing at Pre-Nats could give the Huskies a boost going into the conference meet at the end of the month.

Washington State will also send their teams to Terre Haute to gauge how the Cougars match up against the rest of the nation.

"I am excited to see both teams compete at the Pre-National meet in Indiana," WSU Head Coach Jason Drake said. "On the men's side there are 32 of the top 37 teams in the country, and 29 of the top 38 in the country on the women's side. This meet is a fantastic measuring stick to see where we stack up on the national scene."

Washington State will be represented by seven runners at the Pre-Nationals meet...juniors Sara Trané, Chelsea VanDeBrake, Lisa Egami and Marisa Sandoval lead the Cougars...also competing in Indiana are sophomore Amanda Andrews and freshmen Michelly Foley and Emily Farrar.

On the men's side, representing WSU this weekend will be senior captain Drew Polley and senior Evan Blanshan along with juniors Sam Ahlbeck, Dominic Smargiassi, and Mark Moeller...also competing will be freshmen Jono Lafler and Justin Englund...

Those Huskies not traveling to Terre Haute will be out in West Seattle running on UW's home course, but as a visiting team. Washington will send several runners to compete in the Cascade Conference Preview Meet hosted by Northwest University at Lincoln Park, the site of the Huskies' annual Sundodger Invitational. The meet begins at 10:30 a.m. with the women's 5000-meter run, followed by the men's 8000-meter race at 11:15 a.m.

Sophomores Stephanie Sipes and Ashlee Wall and freshmen Mietra Smollack and Sarah Dunn will head to Seattle for the Cascade Conference Preview. Sophomores David Hickerson, Luke Lemenager, Peter Miller and Jeremy Swenson will also travel to Seattle, for the Cascade Conference Preview.

Seattle University will also send athletes to the Cascade Conference Preview meet, as will Seattle Pacific University.

EASTERN HOSTS INVITE FEATURING GONZAGA

The Eastern Washington University cross country teams will compete Saturday (Oct. 18) in Cheney, Wash., as the Eagles host the sixth annual EWU Cross Country Invitational.

The women will begin at 10 a.m. on a 5,000-meter course, followed by the men's 8,000-meter race at 10:30 a.m. Both races take place on campus at the EWU Sports and Recreation Center.

On the men’s side the Eagles are led by senior Paul Limpf, who finished sixth at the Notre Dame Invitational on Oct. 3. He finished the five-mile course with a time of 23:42, trailing the winner by just 10 seconds.

That race earned Limpf Big Sky Conference Athlete of the Week honors for the third time this season. He also won the honor after winning and setting the new course record at the Sundodger Invitational on Sept. 20 with a time of 23:33 in the 8,000-meter race to help give his team a third-place victory over Gonzaga and Idaho. He also was honored at Eastern’s first meet at the Clash of the Inland Northwest (Sept. 6).

On the women’s side, the Eagles are led by senior Amber Nickelson, who finished 10th at the Montana Invitational on Oct. 4. She had a time of 18:52 in the 5,000-meter race, just 42 seconds behind first-place finisher Sara Trane of Washington State.


NOTES: WSU junior Dan Geib has suffered a stress fracture to his femur and will miss the remainder of the cross country season...the University of Washington is close to naming a new sprint & hurdles coach to replace LaMonte Vaughn, Jr., who resigned a few weeks ago. Coach Greg Metcalf said that an offer's been made to a candidate. It's expected that an announcement will be made after the Huskies return from the Pre-Nationals.

The sports information offices of the University of Washington, Washington State, Seattle University, Seattle Pacific, Gonzaga, and Eastern Washington all contributed to this report.

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