Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The road to the national championships goes through Sacramento Friday...

All five of Washington’s Division I schools head down to Sacramento for Friday morning’s NCAA West Regional Cross Country Championships at the Haggin Oaks Golf Course with hopes of qualifying as a team for the NCAA championships on November 19th in Terre Haute, Indiana (in the cases of both University of Washington teams and the Washington State men’s team) and/or finishing in the top half  of the field (in the cases of everyone else).

Sacramento State will be the host school for the regional championship meet, with the women’s 6k race starting at 11 am, followed by the men’s 10k an hour later.

The Washington women’s team, led by Pac-12 champ Amy-Eloise Neale (left/photo by Paul Merca), goes into the regional meet as the top seeded team in the meet, based on their #4 national ranking.  The Huskies probably don’t need to win the meet to advance to nationals, and may have the luxury to rest either Neale and/or Charlotte Prouse if UW coach Greg Metcalf elects to do so.

Both Washington State and the UW men’s teams will need to have strong showings Friday if they are to advance to nationals, though the Cougars, who finished fifth at the Pac-12s, and are ranked #17 nationally, go into the meet without the sense of urgency that the Huskies do, after their seventh-place finish at the Pac-12s, which knocked them out of the national top-30.  

Washington realistically needs to finish at least fourth and count on help from other schools to push the Huskies into one of the thirteen at-large berths (top two teams in each of the nine regionals automatically qualify for the national championship meet, as the selection committee will take into account each team’s strength of schedule during the regular season.

In the men’s race, the regional meet will be the first race this season that a majority of runners will run the championship meet distance of 10k, as most of the conference championship meets two weeks ago were run over 8k.

With the Washington men potentially on the bubble of qualifying/not qualifying for nationals, there may be some pressure, particularly on their top three runners—All American Colby Gilbert, Fred Huxham, and Andrew Gardner—to run for a top-25 placing in order to advance to the nationals.

A sub-plot in the women’s race are the bids by Gig Harbor HS grad Brenna Peloquin of Boise State and Eastern Washington’s Sarah Reiter to qualify for nationals as individuals.  

Peloquin went to nationals last year and finished ninth, but with her team weakened due to an injury to teammate Allie Ostrander, Peloquin, who won the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational last month, will most likely have to run for herself, unless her teammates can stay close to her and overtake several teams, including Portland, Oregon, San Francisco, Cal, and UCLA.

Reiter, who finished second at the Big Sky championship meet two weeks ago, and went to nationals last season with a ninth place finish at regionals in Seattle, will need to replicate her performance to go to nationals again.

After the 31 teams have been selected, 38 individuals per gender will be chosen to advance. The top four individual finishers not on a qualifying team, and inside the top 25, will be chosen to advance for each region. Two additional athletes will be selected from the national pool at-large. They must also have finished within their region's top-25.

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