Thursday, October 15, 2009

Pre-Nationals in Terre Haute await Cougars and Huskies...

The cross country season takes another step up in intensity for both the University of Washington and Washington State University with the Pre-National Meet this Saturday, held on the same Lavern Gibson course that will host the NCAA Championships next month in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Already considered the final regular season race, Pre-Nationals attracts the largest and highest-quality field outside of the national championships, and is the final tune-up before conference championships take center stage in two weeks.

With over 70 Division-I teams on both the men's and women's side traveling to Terre Haute, the fields get split into two races each and the teams are evenly distributed based on rankings.

The top-ranked Washington women, the defending Pre-National Champions, along with cross state rival Washington State, are in the White Race set for 12:55 p.m. Eastern time while the 14th-ranked men will run in the Blue Race at 11:00 a.m. Eastern, along with the Cougars.

The UW women's top challenges will come from 5th-ranked Princeton, No. 8 Minnesota, and No. 9 Florida. The Huskies cruised to wins over both Princeton and Florida just two weeks ago at the Notre Dame Invitational, but Washington won't quite be at full strength this week as junior All-American Mel Lawrence and junior All-Pac-10 Lauren Saylor will be resting up this weekend, thus putting UW's depth to the test.

Sophomores Kendra Schaaf and Christine Babcock were third and fourth, respectively, at this meet last year and should each be considered among the favorites for the individual title, along with senior Katie Follett who was eighth last year and second to Schaaf at Notre Dame last time out. Juniors Kailey Campbell and Kenna Patrick, and redshirt freshman Allison Linnell and freshman Lindsay Flanagan round out UW's seven competitors.

Washington State counters with seniors Lisa Egami, who finished 48th at the Pre-Nationals last year, Marisa Sandoval and Chelsea VanDeBrake, juniors Amanda Andrews and Ashlee Wall, sophomore Emily Farrar as well as freshman Caroline Austin.

The Husky men meanwhile also bring a great deal of momentum into this weekend as they captured the Notre Dame Invitational title for themselves two weeks ago, defeating a large group of ranked opponents. They will be hard-pressed to win their third-straight meet this season, as the No. 14 men go up against four Top-10 teams in the Blue Race, but Washington will certainly be a factor come Saturday and look to continue their upward trajectory through the rankings. Lining up along with UW will be No. 2 Northern Arizona, No. 3 Alabama, No. 7 Oregon, No. 9 William & Mary, and four additional top-30 teams.

Washington should certainly be capable of improving on its 11th-place finish from a year ago. Seniors Kelly Spady (above/file photo by Paul Merca), Colton Tully-Doyle, and Jake Schmitt give the Huskies a reliable presence at the top of the lineup. They were UW's top-three at NCAA's last year in Terre Haute when the men placed 18th. Sophomore Max O'Donoghue-McDonald and redshirt freshman Joey Bywater rounded out the top-five at Notre Dame as UW put all five of its scorers within a 21-second gap. Also competing on Saturday will be sophomore Cameron Quackenbush and redshirt freshman Rob Webster, Jr., both running on the NCAA Championship course for the first time.

The Cougar men will be represented by seven runners including seniors Sam Ahlbeck, Mark Moeller, and Dominic Smargiassi, junior Dan Geib, sophomores Jono Lafler, Peter Miller, as well as true freshman Andrew Kimpel, who is coming off an impressive 19th place finish at the Roy Griak Invitational.

Here's a complete listing of the teams Washington & Washington State will see Saturday:

Men Blue (35 Teams) Air Force, No. 3 Alabama, Arizona, Auburn, Brown, No. 19 Butler, Cal-Berkeley, No. 29 Cal-Poly, Florida, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Harvard, Illinois State, Indiana State, Iowa, IUPUI, Kansas, Loyola (MD), Marquette, Miami (OH), Michigan State, Montana, Montana State, No. 21 NC State, No. 2 Northern Arizona, No. 7 Oregon, Toledo, No. 27 Tulsa, UNC-Charlotte, Utah State, UTEP, No. 14 Washington, Washington State, Western Kentucky, No. 9 William & Mary

Women White
(37 Teams) Akron, Alabama, No. 17 Arizona State, No. 12 Baylor, Brown, Cal-Berkeley, Cincinnati, Colorado State, Columbia, Eastern Michigan, No. 9 Florida, Georgia, Georgia Tech, No. 18 Illinois, Illinois State, Jacksonville, Kansas, Loyola (MD), No. 8 Minnesota, Montana, No. 21 New Mexico, No. 27 Northern Arizona, North Carolina, No. 20 Notre Dame, Ohio State, No. 5 Princeton, No. 15 Syracuse, Texas, UC-Santa Barbara, UNC-Charlotte, Utah State, Wake Forest, No. 1 Washington, Washington State, Western Michigan, Wichita State, William & Mary


For more information and results, visit www.gosycamores.com.

INLAND NORTHWEST CROSS COUNTRY CLASSIC

Washington State will also run a squad at Saturday's Inland Northwest Cross Country Classic in Moscow, Idaho, where they will face Idaho, along with Gonzaga and Eastern Washington.

The men's race will begin at 4:30 p.m. following the women at 4:00 p.m. Eastern and Gonzaga last raced Oct. 3 when they competed at the Montana Invitational.

"Our athletes are chomping at the bit to race again," said Eastern Washington head cross country coach Chris Zeller. "We will again be without Alex Smyth, who is nursing a strained muscle. He's backing off this week so that it can heal and then he can prepare for the conference Championships."

At Montana, the Eagles finished fourth, while the Bulldogs of Gonzaga were fifth.

Gonzaga's women's squad continues to make strides, coming off a second place team finish at the Montana Invitational, led by Corrina O'Brien and Kayla Lloyd as the Zags finished second with 52 points. Eastern finished fifth in the five-team race at Montana.

NOTE: The sports information offices of Eastern Washington, Gonzaga, University of Washington and Washington State University contributed to this report.

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