|Action from the 2015 Sundodger Invitational up front|
(Paul Merca photo)
An anticipated battle between the University of Washington and Washington State University men’s cross country teams is expected to be the highlight of Saturday’s Sundodger Invitational at Lincoln Park in West Seattle, starting at 9 am.
The featured Invitational men’s 8k, featuring the Huskies and Cougars, gets underway at 11:35 am. Also in the invitational field are Fresno State, Portland State, and SeattleU.
The Husky men’s team, which opened up two weeks ago at the UW/SeattleU Open at Chambers Bay GC in University Place outside Tacoma, enters its home meet as one of the country’s top teams, as they’re ranked #8 in the latest USTFCCCA poll, led by All-American Colby Gilbert.
Washington just returned to campus earlier in the week following their annual pre-season training camp in Seabrook on the Washington coast.
Meanwhile, the Cougars will open their 2016 campaign with the Sundodger, having won this meet two years in a row, after skipping the Clash of the Inland Northwest meet two weeks ago, which was its traditional opening meet .
Washington State, which is unranked in the national USTFCCCA coaches’ poll, returns all seven runners from the team that competed in the NCAA championships, though John Whelan will run the Sundodger as an unattached competitor. Michael Williams, who ran most of last season as the Cougars’ #1 or #2 runner with Whelan, leads the charge for the Cougs, who may have something to prove to the national voters, as they finished outside the national top 30 in the latest Division I poll.
On the women’s side, Washington, led by NCAA track qualifiers Katie Knight and Amy-Eloise Neale and enters the meet ranked #11 in the country, is expected to have an easier time with a rebuilding Washington State squad, and with the field that includes Fresno State, Hawaii, Portland State, and SeattleU.
The women’s invitational 6k gets underway at 11 am.
Both of the open races—the women’s 6k at 9 am, and the men’s 8k at 9:45 am, features defending GNAC champions Alaska Anchorage in an expected battle with nationally ranked Western Washington, with GNAC conference foes Western Oregon, Central Washington, Alaska-Fairbanks, Simon Fraser, and Saint Martin’s in the field.
The only significant school missing from the Sundodger open races is Seattle Pacific, which competed last week at the Humboldt State Invitational. The Falcon women’s squad is currently ranked in the national top 25 among Division II schools.
Also in the field are many of the state’s Division III and NAIA schools in what could be a preview of their conference championship meet in October.
Defending GNAC cross country champs Joyce Chelimo, and Henry Cheseto of Alaska Anchorage are the ones to watch in the open races, which have the largest fields of the meet.
Across the state in Spokane, Gonzaga hosts the University of Idaho in a dual meet at Mead High School, with the women’s 5k race starting at 10 am, and the men’s 8k starting at 10:45.
The only Division I school idle this weekend is Eastern Washington.