Friday, October 30, 2009

It wasn't pretty, but Dawgs repeat as Pac-10 champs...

LONG BEACH, Calif. - It may not have been perfect as it was in 2008, but in the end the No. 1-ranked Washington women's cross country team was crowned Pac-10 Conference champions for the second year in a row.

Several Husky runners had their share of adversity today, but after being dead-even with the 8th-ranked Oregon Ducks with 400-meters to go, Washington poured it on down the homestretch and scored the win, accumulating 35 points to Oregon's 42. The Huskies have now won back-to-back titles for the first time in program history, and ran their undefeated streak to 10 races.

Sophomore Kendra Schaaf (left/photo courtesy Randy Miyazaki/, the defending Pac-10 individual champion, went out fast and led for much of the race in the same style that resulted in a meet record last year. Schaaf, though, began fighting a slight knee twinge and on the final loop of the 6,000-meter course she was overtaken and dropped back to fifth. But the 2008 Pac-10 Athlete of the Year dug down over the final stretch and surged back up to finish second in 19-minutes, 46-seconds.

Oregon senior Nicole Blood, a former USA junior cross country champ, won her first Pac-10 title in 19:41, as she put on a burst of speed with 1000 meters to go to overtake Schaaf.

Earning top-five finishes for the second-straight year was junior Mel Lawrence and sophomore Christine Babcock. Lawrence took fourth in 19:49 with Babcock a few seconds back in 19:58. Senior Katie Follett, battling illness, gutted out an eighth-place finish that was a factor to the Husky win.

The key to the win may have been junior Kailey Campbell's 16th-place finish to cap UW's scoring. Campbell, who dropped out of last year's Pac-10 race in Springfield, reinjured an ankle midway through the race and at one point actually stopped running for several seconds, but she refused to call it quits and passed a number of runners down the stretch, including sprinting past Oregon's No. 5 runner at the finish. Redshirt freshman Allison Linnell also had an excellent Pac-10 debut, placing 19th, and junior Lauren Saylor took 25th to complete UW's top-seven.

"The women's race was high drama today," said head coach Greg Metcalf. "The last thousand meters was kind of like the fourth quarter in a college basketball game and we couldn't call timeout. In the last 60 seconds of the meet our girls rallied. Katie off the sick bed caught three people in the last 200-meters. Kendra was very selfless and she battled back to get second-place. Mel it's her first race after being out a month and she ran great and Christine was very solid as well."

The Washington State women's team scored 251 points to finish a disappointing tenth place behind senior Lisa Egami (Coquitlam, B.C.) who finished 24th with a time of 20:40.4. The rest of the Cougar scorers included senior Chelsea VanDeBrake, 47th (21:30.0), junior Amanda Andrews, 65th (21:59.3), sophomore Emily Farrar, 70th (22:14.2), and junior Ashlee Wall, 76th (22:34.7). WSU women competing but not scoring included freshman Caroline Austin, 80th (22:56.1) and senior Marisa Sandoval, 83rd (23:24.8).

The Husky men were led to a fourth-place finish by senior Kelly Spady, who had a career-high 10th-place finish, covering the 8,000-meter course in 23:25. Fellow senior Colton Tully-Doyle also had his best-ever Pac-10 run, placing 23rd in 23:50. Washington's third, fourth, and fifth runners all crossed together with senior Jake Schmitt, junior Jordan Swarthout, and redshirt freshman Joey Bywater placing 29th through 31st.

"We train through the Pac-10 meet and for us the goal is Regionals and beyond but I thought Kelly Spady was awesome today with the best Pac-10 performance of his career finishing 10th in an awesome field. Jordan Swarthout kind of saved our butts today running fourth for us. So we'll circle the wagons and go be better in two weeks."

The Washington State men's squad finished sixth, scoring 163 points and were led by senior Mark Moeller (Spokane) who finished 17th in the 8,000m race in a time of 23 minutes, 39 seconds. Other Cougar scorers included senior Sam Ahlbeck, 26th (24:00.8), sophomore Justin Englund, 38th (24:27.6), freshman Andrew Kimpel, 47th (24:42.3), and junior Dan Geib, 49th (24:44.9). WSU men competing out of the scoring were sophomore Jono Lafler, 57th (25:00.0), sophomore Peter Miller, 59th (25:04.5), and senior Dominic Smargiassi, 63rd (25:32.3).

Mark Moeller's 17th place finish is the highest for a Cougar in the men's Pac-10 Championships since Danny Wolf placed ninth in 2004.

Stanford's Chris Derrick, a member of the USA junior team this spring in Amman, Jordan, was the individual winner with a time of 22:35.0 while leading the nation's number-1 ranked squad to a victory in the eight team race with 28 points.

"It was a really disappointing day. About as disappointing as it could have been as far as execution and the way we raced," Cougar coach Pete Julian said. "The team is pretty down right now and we know we are a lot better (than today's finish). We will run much, much better in two weeks time. We are going to put this race behind us and move forward. I'm confident that the team will respond and run incredibly well in two weeks. The women are tremendously disappointed. This is not indicative of what the team is doing. We are extremely disappointed with the outcomes of both men's and women's races. We weren't ready to run today."

Bellingham's Jake Riley finished sixth in 23:13, and was Stanford's fourth runner across the line, while Auburn's Jordan McNamara finished eighth in 23:22, helping #2 ranked Oregon earn a second place team finish.

Needless to say, there will be some reshuffling in the following week's USTFCCCA cross country polls with the performances of both the UW & WSU men's squads.

Complete women's results can be accessed here, while complete men's results can be accessed here.

NOTE--The sports information offices of the Pacific-10 Conference, the University of Washington, and Washington State University contributed to this report.

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