Friday is go time for both University of Washington cross country teams, along with Washington State's Abby Regan (left/photo by Paul Merca) and Eastern Washington's Sarah Reiter when they line up to run in the NCAA West Regionals at the Stanford Golf Course with trips to Terre Haute, Indiana for the NCAA championships eight days later.
The meet starts at 11 am with the women's 6k race, followed by the men's 10k at noon.
The Washington men's team, which is ranked a season high #11 in the USTFCCCA poll, and the women's team, ranked #15 in the national coaches' poll, appear to be safe bets to advance to the national championships even if they don't place first or second in Friday's race, assuming they run close to the form they showed earlier this season.
The West Region is one of the country's toughest sections, led by perennial powerhouse squads Oregon and Stanford on both the men's and women's sides, and the Portland men's squad. Both Washington teams have faced big-time competition in their last three outings--the Washington Invite, the Wisconsin adidas Invite, and the Pac-12s, so they should be battle tested and ready to go.
With both the Washington State and Eastern Washington women's squads facing an uphill battle to advance out of the West region, the best chance for both Eastern's Reiter and WSU's Regan to go to the national championship is by placing in the top 25 individually.
Reiter goes into the meet on a bit of a roll, after winning the Big Sky championship, while Regan was ninth in the Pac-12, and was the third runner across the line not from a nationally ranked team (Shelby Houlihan of Arizona State won, while freshman Bethan Knights of Cal was third).
Another runner in contention for one of the four individual spots is Kirkland native Tansey Lystad of the University of Portland, who won the West Coast Conference title two weeks ago.
The Seattle University women's team, which won the Western Athletic Conference title two weeks ago, will face its most significant test Friday. The Redhawks did not compete in a meaningful national caliber invitational meet this season.
There are nine regional meets where the top two teams automatically qualify for the NCAA Division I Championships in Terre Haute. After those 18 teams, 13 at-large teams are selected based on how well they’ve competed this season against the automatic qualifiers. For an individual to make it, they must be one of the first four individual runners to place, and finish in the top 25 overall in their region.
paulmerca.blogspot.com will again be on hand to cover the NCAA West Regionals.
NOTE: The NCAA, USTFCCCA and the sports information offices of the University of Washington, Eastern Washington, Washington State, and Stanford University contributed to this report.