NEW ORLEANS--For the first time since the 2009 season, the University of Washington men's and women's cross country squads are ranked in the national top-30, according to the USTFCCCA pre-season poll released Tuesday.
The Washington women, who return three runners from their 2013 team that finished 17th in the NCAA meet last year--Katie Knight (left/photo by Paul Merca), Maddie Meyers, and Amy-Eloise Neale--begin the season ranked #15 in the national poll.
On the other hand, the Washington men, which did not qualify for the national championship meet last year, but saw Aaron Nelson finish 20th to become the school's first All-American since Christian Belz turned the trick in 1998, were selected #27 in the national coaches' poll.
The Michigan women begin the 2014 season ranked #1, as the Wolverines, who return all seven runners from its fourth-place team last year, was selected by the coaches as the preseason favorite.
Oregon, Florida State, Stanford, and Georgetown round out the top five in the national women's poll.
Other Pac-12 teams ranked in the preseason poll include #8 Colorado and #30 Arizona State.
On the men's side, reigning national and Pac-12 champ Colorado begins the season ranked #1, receiving all 12 first place votes.
Others in the national men's top five include Northern Arizona, Oregon, Oklahoma State and Stanford.
Besides Washington at #27, UCLA is the other Pac-12 school ranked in the top 30 at #24.
The Husky women's team has reached the NCAA championship meet seven years in a row, and 17 of the last 19 years, while the men look to reach the national championship meet for the first time since 2009.
Besides All-American Nelson, the Dawgs return their entire top-10 runners from the Pac-12 meet last season, adding some redshirt freshman firepower as well. Izaic Yorks and Nick Harris earned All-America honorable mention in the 1,500-meters on the track last spring, and Colby Gilbert should give UW a lift after winning the U.S. Junior Championship at 5,000-meters over the summer and competing at the IAAF world junior championships.
Washington opens its season Friday with the UW-SeattleU Open meet at Magnuson Park.
NOTE: The USTFCCCA and the University of Washington sports information office contributed to this report.