The Washington cross country team will begin postseason competition Friday in Colfax at the Pac-12 championships.
After a solid outing at the Wisconsin adidas Invitational, the men’s team was able to return to the rankings, sitting at No. 20. The women’s team ran well, but ultimately dropped two spots to No. 12. Barring some unexpected letdown, both will at least qualify for one of the at-large bids due to their performances against non-regional opponents.
“For both teams as a whole, we had a good day, but not a great day,” head coach Greg Metcalf said. “[Freshman] Charlotte [Prouse] was sick as a dog, we probably should not have let her race to begin with and we had to pull her out a mile in. [Sophomore] Fred [Huxham] was sick too but managed to finish the race. Now we are all healthy and ready for the championship segment of our season.”
One of the questions the men’s team had to answer this season was how they were going to fill the hole left by Aaron Nelson, who led the Huskies in all six races last season.
Although he won the Sundodger Invitational and led the men at the Washington Invitational, senior Izaic Yorks had his best race yet in Madison, Wis. Even with the larger field, Yorks threatened to take the win down the stretch and wound up in seventh.
“Izaic has improved so much, I’d say he is pretty close to where Aaron was at this point last year,” senior Tyler King said. “We might be a little younger, but we have more fire, and other guys have really stepped up for the ones who left.”
The Wisconsin Invitational also marked the return of junior Kaylee Flanagan, who missed the Washington Invitational due to illness. Her 70th place finish and overall impressive showing from her teammates helped offset the loss of Prouse, who has been the No. 2 runner behind senior Maddie Meyers this entire season.
“She is a veteran,” Metcalf said of Flanagan. “She has run [at Wisconsin] twice before, and she watched her older sister run in three more before that. She is a tough competitor, and I am a believer for what she is capable of doing because she prepares to run in November for the championships.”
The successful return of Flanagan bodes well for a group that already has proven it has more depth than most other teams.
“The Pac-12 is the last time we get to run with 10 women on the starting line and from there we will make the best decision to determine who will run for us in the regional and the national,” Metcalf said. “Kaylee is just another bullet in the chamber. Right now our team could stand on the starting line and finish anywhere in the top 10.”
Reach reporter Aaron Huang at email@example.com. Twitter: @Aaron_C_Huang