Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Huskies and Cougars set to rumble in Ephrata Friday...

Normally, rivalry meets in cross country are generally positioned towards the middle of the season, or right before the championship season begins.

However in a minor twist, the University of Washington and Washington State University will face off against each other Friday in Ephrata in what's believed to be the first dual cross country meet between the two schools in over 40 years (both schools' sports information offices have been asked for any records of dual meets between the Cougars and the Huskies; in my years as a mediocre distance runner at the UW in the late 1970s, we never ran a cross country dual meet against the Cougars).

The Huskies will open their season two weeks sooner than usual this year, while still hosting the Sundodger Invitational on Sept. 18. The dual race will let the teams ease into the season with a slightly shorter than usual race, and also bring an exciting head-to-head component that is rarely seen in collegiate cross country.

Husky head coach Greg Metcalf is an Ephrata native, and the race will be run next to Ephrata High School, where Metcalf still holds school records in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs.
The women's race will be first, at 5 p.m., followed by the men's race at 5:30 p.m. The course will consist of one 2,000-meter loop, which will be very spectator-friendly. The women will run the loop twice for a 4,000-meter race while the men will make three circles for a 6km race.

"We're excited about the intimate atmosphere, and I'm excited to take my team to my hometown," said Metcalf. "It will be gratifying to put on a unique event like this for the community and hopefully we can grow this event over the years into something special."

WSU cross country coach Pete Julian said, "Former WSU coach and now UW coach Jason Drake, along with Huskies head coach Greg Metcalf, and I thought this would be a fun way to break the ice on the season. No pressure and very little travel considering the type of travel we usually do. This gives our athletes something to do to break up the early season monotony of training. Both teams are looking down the road at the bigger picture of the season but we hope this works out well and that we will be able to do this every year."

"We will compete: anytime you put the Cougs against the Huskies there are going to be some fireworks there and we are okay with that," Julian said. "We want to keep our eyes on the prize which is the Pac-10 meet (hosted by the UW on October 30th at Jefferson Park Golf Course in Seattle) and the NCAA West Regional meet down the line."

The Huskies will run nearly full squads in both the men's and women's races, except for their true freshmen, who will be held out of this meet, but are expected to race in two weeks at the Sundodger.

The UW women's team is ranked third in the nation and has won the past two Pac-10 Championships, in addition to the 2008 NCAA Championship, while the men are unranked but have placed 18th at the past two NCAA Championships. The Washington State men were sixth at Pac-10s a year ago while the women were 10th.

Leading the women's team are a number of Huskies that ran at the 2009 Pac-10 Championships. Senior Kailey Campbell and sophomores Kayla Evans and Allison Linnell all competed at the 2009 NCAA Championships as well where the Huskies placed third. Campbell and Linnell were top-20 finishers at the Pac-10 meet last year. Sophomore Lindsay Flanagan was a regular member of UW's top-seven last year as well, and was 27th at West Regionals as a freshman. Senior Lauren Saylor was 41st at the 2008 NCAA Championships when UW won the title, but may or may not compete on Friday.

The men will run four athletes with NCAA Championship experience. Senior Jordan Swarthout, juniors Max O'Donoghue-McDonald and Cameron Quackenbush, and sophomore Joey Bywater all ran for the Dawgs at the 2009 national meet in Terre Haute, Indiana, helping the Huskies to an 18th-place finish.

Washington State University will be led by Andrew Kimpel from Spokane, who was a member of Team USA at the IAAF World Junior Cross Country Championships in Poland this spring, and a strong freshman class, led by Redmond's Mack Young, who won the WIAA State 4A cross country title in 2008. On the women's side, the Cougars have two seniors in Amanda Andrews from Gig Harbor, and Ashley Wall Eskelsen from Walla Walla, while they lose NCAA qualifier Lisa Egami through graduation.

You can read the University of Washington's pre-meet release here, while Washington State University's release is available here. will cover Friday's meet in Ephrata.

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