Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Huskies earn #1 national ranking in latest USTFCCCA poll

Washington's women's cross country team (left/photo courtesy UW Sports Information) made history Tuesday as it moved into the top spot in the national rankings for the first time ever. The Huskies have captured their first two meets in dominating fashion and were rewarded by receiving 11 of the 12 first place votes in the current U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association poll.

The Huskies began the season ranked No. 3, then moved up one spot following their season-opening win at the Sundodger Invitational. Saturday, the Huskies placed seven runners in the top-nine at the Tiger Invite hosted by Auburn to win by a huge margin. The Auburn result was enough to convince the voters to move Washington ahead of previous No. 1 Oregon, who now sits second.

"Achieving the number one ranking is a great statement on where our program has come and it's a testament to the progress our student-athletes have made, but certainly it is not the ultimate goal," said 12th-year head coach Greg Metcalf. "Right now the ranking doesn't mean that much. Ultimately all that matters is what happens on November 24th in Terre Haute, Indiana (at the NCAA Championships)."

Washington has been led by freshman Kendra Schaaf (Lumsden, Saskatchewan) in its first two races. The reigning Canadian Junior National Cross Country Champion, Schaaf has won each of her first two college races, and done so by a wide margin. Schaaf won the Sundodger by 25 seconds and the Tiger Invite by 16 seconds.

Fellow freshman Christine Babcock (Irvine, Calif.) made her collegiate debut in Auburn, and was second only to Schaaf. Sophomore Mel Lawrence (Reno, Nev.) has also had an outstanding start, finishing second and third at the first two meets.

As the season wears on, the Huskies will also rely more and more on their two returning All-Americans: senior Anita Campbell and junior Katie Follett. The two placed in the Top-20 at last year's NCAA meet and are progressing well this season. Campbell was ninth at the Tiger Invite while Follett placed sixth in her first race since the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials where she made the semifinals of the 1500-meters.

Women's cross country becomes the seventh intercollegiate sport at the University of Washington to achieve a No. 1 ranking. The previous six were men's crew, women's crew, football, men's soccer, softball, and volleyball.

The Huskies' next meet will be Saturday, Oct. 18 at the Pre-National Race, held on the same course as the NCAA Championships in Terre Haute, Indiana.

The Women's Division I Cross Country National Poll:

Ranking Team (1st place votes) Totals Previous
1 Washington - (11) 359 2
2 Oregon - (1) 348 1
3 Florida State 336 3
4 Minnesota 315 4
5 Princeton 306 6
6 Stanford 299 5
7 West Virginia 281 9
8 Arizona State 277 7
9 Michigan State 276 8
10 Arkansas 249 11

Just for fun, the arguments over Washington's number one ranking over Oregon (including the contention that the Auburn course was 'short') has here to read.

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

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