Thursday, September 30, 2010

Huskies face first major test at Notre Dame, plus college preview...

SOUTH BEND, Indiana--The University of Washington men's and women's cross country squads get their first serious test at Friday's Notre Dame Invitational on the Notre Dame Golf Course, where they return as defending champs from 2009.

Both the Husky men and women won the Notre Dame Invitational in 2009, with the women sweeping the top four places, and the men winning in what was a surprise to some, though not to the Huskies themselves. This year, both the men's and women's fields feature a number of early-season contenders, and will provide a great measuring stick for both UW teams.

Much of the focus nationally will fall on the women's race, which starts at 1:15 pm, pacific time, where the third-ranked Husky women's team will be pitted against top-ranked Villanova, the defending NCAA Champs, as well as No. 2 Florida State, and Pac-10 rival and fifth-ranked Oregon. Seven additional teams ranked in the top-30 are also set to line up in the women's race, making this a postseason-caliber field, though the distance will be 5,000-meters instead of the typical 6,000 run at NCAAs.

UW All American Mel Lawrence (left/photo by Paul Merca), who has not raced so far this season, traveled with the team, according to the school's preview release; Lawrence, who finished third in this race last year, may make her season debut Friday.

The men's race, scheduled for 2 pm, pacific time, is not quite as top heavy, but does feature eight top-30 teams, led by No. 3 Oregon and No. 5 Alabama, as well as ranked Pac-10 squads from Arizona State (18th) and UCLA (30th).

In other action involving area schools, Western Washington travels to Louisville, Kentucky for a preview of the NCAA Division II championship course when they compete in Saturday's Greater Louisville Classic at E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park.

The Vikings are currently ranked sixth in the men's national D2 rankings, and seventh in the women's national poll. Western will run women's NCAA D2 cross country runner-up Sarah Porter, along with 2009 cross country All-Americans Lauren Breihof, Bennett Grimes, Blake Medhaug, and Jordan Welling.

Seattle University hosts the annual Emerald City Open at Upper Woodland Park Saturday, which will also have several UW runners who didn't make the travel squad to Notre Dame run. The women's 6,000-meter race will go off at 10:30 a.m., and the men's 8,000-meter run is set for 11:15 a.m.

Seattle Pacific, along with the nationally ranked squads from NCAA Division III Whitworth heads to Salem, Oregon for the Charles Bowles Invitational at Bush’s Pasture Park adjacent to Willamette University Saturday. The meet traditionally features teams from all three NCAA Divisions not only in the Northwest, but also from along the West Coast, as well as some NAIA schools.

Gonzaga, Eastern Washington, and Washington State will head to Missoula to compete in Saturday's Montana Invitational at the University of Montana Golf Course; while the Zags and the Eagles will send a full men's and women's squads, WSU coach Pete Julian will only travel a full women's team, plus freshman Mack Young from Redmond, opting to rest his men's squad until the Pre-Nationals meet in Terre Haute in two weeks.

NOTES: The November issue of Track & Field News has a feature story on former University of Washington standout Kendra Schaaf, written by senior writer Jon Hendershott.

In the article, Schaaf says that while there wasn't one main reason why she left the UW, "Seattle was too big for me. Chapel Hill is a smaller college town."

She also praised Tar Heel distance coach Peter Watson's approach to training.

Watson notes that Schaaf, who is picked by the magazine as the favorite to win the NCAA title, has given the Tar Heels a big boost, adding that, "Her presence has just raised the level in every way."

UNC head track coach Dennis Craddock adds, "Kendra is a great athlete and a great person and is developing into a great leader. It reminds me of the days when Shalane Flanagan was here."

Unfortunately, the article isn't posted online, so you'll have to either subscribe to the magazine or find a place that sells it.

In the same issue, the magazine picks the Husky women's team to win the NCAA title, and Megan Goethals (6th) and Christine Babcock (8th) to finish in the top ten.  Curiously enough, Mel Lawrence isn't picked by the publication to finish in the top 20.

Media partner Flotrack has a great interview up with Western Washington All-American Sarah Porter on its site, written by Cara Hawkins, who is one of the blog's five loyal readers.

You can read her interview here.

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