NEW ORLEANS—With the start of the collegiate cross country season for a number of NCAA Division I teams this weekend, the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) released its pre-season national coaches cross country poll Tuesday.
The University of Washington men’s team, led by All-American Colby Gilbert (left/photo by Paul Merca), who are coming off an eighth place finish at last year’s NCAA championships in Louisville, Kentucky, begin the season ranked #8 in the pre-season poll.
Defending national champion Syracuse starts the season ranked #1, followed by Oregon, Northern Arizona, Stanford and Colorado.
Oregon, led by three-time defending cross country champ Edward Cheserek, along with Stanford, defending Pac-12 champ Colorado, and the Huskies, are the only Pac-12 teams ranked in the top 30 in the national pre-season poll, though Washington State, whose squad qualified for the nationals last year, received the most votes of teams outside the national top 30.
On the women’s side, the Huskies were ranked by the coaches at #11.
Defending champion New Mexico, Colorado, Providence, Oregon, and North Carolina State begin the season as the country’s top five teams.
The only other Pac-12 team ranked in the national top 30 besides Colorado, Oregon and Washington is #7 Stanford.
Defending West Coast Conference champs Gonzaga, which qualified for the NCAAs as a team for the first time in school history last year, were among 14 teams that received votes from the panel of coaches outside the top 30.
Gonzaga opens the season Thursday at the Clash of the Inland Northwest meet against Idaho and Eastern Washington in Moscow, Idaho, minus Washington State, who will instead run an intrasquad race at the Colfax Golf Course Thursday. The Cougars were originally scheduled to run in the Clash of the Inland Northwest meet.
The Huskies open the 2016 campaign against SeattleU this Friday at the Chambers Bay Golf Course in University Place at 10 am, a change from its previous location at Magnuson Park in Seattle.
NOTE: The USTFCCCA contributed to this report.