Thursday, September 17, 2009

Dawgs set to host Sundodger Invite Saturday at Lincoln Park...

SEATTLE--The 2009 season opens this Saturday as the Huskies host their only home meet of the season, the annual Sundodger Invitational, at West Seattle's Lincoln Park. The top-ranked Husky women will be setting off on their first ever national title defense, while the No. 24 men's team is seeking its third NCAA trip in the past four years.

Hundreds of athletes will be running the trails at Lincoln Park with eight races taking place. The day's first race will be the women's 6,000-meter open race, set for 9 a.m., and featuring many local college and club teams. The open men's 8,000-meter race is scheduled for 9:40 a.m. Following that will be the first race for the Huskies, the 6,000-meter women's invitational at 10:25. The UW men will then compete in the 8,000-meter invitational at 11 a.m.

For the first time the Sundodger will include a high school invitational meet as well, with top area high schools such as Bellarmine Prep, Seattle Prep, Eastlake, Juanita, Mt. Rainier and others running in 5,000-meter varsity and junior varsity races beginning at 12 p.m.

Challenging the Huskies on Saturday will be a collection of local universities including Oregon State, Seattle Pacific, Seattle U., Idaho, Portland State, Western Washington, and Alaska Anchorage.

At least four 2008 All-Americans – including Seattle Pacific’s Jessica Pixler (two-time defending D-2 champion) and Jane Larson (12th at nationals last year), along with UW’s Kendra Schaaf (above/photo by Paul Merca) who was 12th at D-1 nationals and Mel Lawrence (25th) are expected to be on the Lincoln Park trails at the same time.

Additionally, Western Washington's Sarah Porter, the GNAC cross country athlete of the week last week and a NCAA D-2 All American will be in the field.

"This will give us a glimpse of where our team is right now," said head coach Greg Metcalf, beginning his 13th season. "We want to go out and give a solid effort and nothing more than that. It's fun to run in front of the home folks and you get a chance to sit down as a coach and see what we did last year and what we did this year to compare where we are. It's the first time in a while that the athletes gets to go through the routines, the stresses, getting up and putting the uniform on, and it's nice to do that at home."

“This being her senior year, I know (Pixler) really wants to put her stamp on this course,” SPU head coach Erika Daligcon said. “And why not? It’s a great one to run on and race on. Jane, too -- she’s really excited and is feeling better and better every day.”

Beyond SPU’s established standouts, Daligcon sees Sundodger as an opportunity for the rest of the Falcons to get a real feel for what postseason meets will be like when October and November arrive on the calendar.

“When we were asked to move our entire (women’s) team to the D-1 meet, I met with the runners and said, ‘This is an honor and a testament to your hard work. You deserve to be there, and you’re going to be challenged.’"

“Being in a big meet like Sundodger is great because you learn to race with people around you, and that’s critical down the road,” Daligcon added. “The men are excited to get in there and see what they can do. It’s really fun to watch them race and moving as a pack. It’s only going to continue to get better as they learn how to race together.”

The Husky women, ranked a unanimous No. 1 in the USTFCCCA preseason poll released this week, will send a trio of women to the starting line that competed at the 2008 NCAA Championships when the Dawgs won the program's first national title. 2008 Pac-10 Champion and defending Sundodger Champion Kendra Schaaf is expected to compete, as is All-American junior Mel Lawrence, second at this meet a year ago, plus junior Lauren Saylor, an All-Pac-10 Second Teamer last year.

Most of the returning men are expected to run, though as always lineups can change during the week. The Huskies have a number of seniors eager to make the most of their final season. Senior Jake Schmitt, UW's top finisher at NCAA's last year and an All-American on the indoor track at 5,000-meters, should get the start as will senior Kelly Spady, an All-West Region performer last year. Redshirt freshman Joey Bywater will compete in his first official cross country race after an excellent first track season in the spring, and sophomore Max O'Donoghue-McDonald should get on the course after redshirting in 2008.

Washington also has seven freshmen on both the men's and women's sides that will get to show what they can do over the longer distances. The plan is to redshirt most of the large group at least through the early races, but one exception will be Lindsay Flanagan, a native of Roselle, Illinois and a Top-10 finisher at the Foot Locker National Championships last year.

NOTE: The sports information offices of the University of Washington, Western Washington, Seattle University, and Seattle Pacific all contributed to this report.

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