The 2016 cross country season has only just begun, and it is already looking to be a great one for the Huskies.

At the end of the 2015 season, the Washington men’s cross country team finished eighth at the NCAA championships, and the women’s team finished 10th. The success of last season earned the men a No. 8 ranking to open the 2016 season, and the women enter with at No. 11.

Though the men’s cross country team fell down in the ranks to No. 21 after losing to Washington State in the Sundodger Invitational to open the current season, the potential is still very high for the Huskies.

Even without the help of several of Washington’s top runners, the Huskies managed to place second in the Sundodger Invitational. With the addition of the elite runners, who didn’t compete for unspecified reasons, the UW will likely claim the top spot in future meets. By the time the Huskies race at the NCAA championships in November, they will surely be at full strength.

This year is also a bit different for the Huskies. Without alumnus Izaic Yorks, the men’s team is instead led by junior Colby Gilbert.

Gilbert took first place in both the Seattle U Open and the Sundodger Invitational earlier this month. He was the second Husky to finish in the NCAA championships last season, coming in just one second behind Yorks, and earned All-Region Honors after finishing 12th at West Regionals.

Returning along with Gilbert are juniors Andrew Gardner, Fred Huxham, and Johnathan Stevens, who helped the Huskies win their first ever West Regional title last year.

New to the men’s team are freshmen Gavin Parpart and Nick Laccinole, who will surely help push the Huskies toward an exciting finish in this year’s nationals.

With senior Maddie Meyers only eligible for the track and field season this year, the Washington women’s cross country team is led by sophomore Charlotte Prouse and junior Katie Knight. The two tied for first place at the Sundodger Invitational after crossing the finish line holding hands.

The women also took home an anticipated 10th consecutive team title at the Sundodger Invitational. The Huskies have stayed high in the rankings, only falling down one spot to No. 12 so far this season.

There is certainly no shortage of talent for the women. In the first meet of the season, seven Huskies all finished within one second of each other.

With the additions of freshmen Kaitlyn Neal and Nikki Zielinski, the return of junior Amy-Eloise Neale, and the abilities of Knight and Prouse, the Huskies are capable of finishing as well as they did in last year’s nationals, if not better.

Without a doubt, it will be an exciting season for Washington. The Washington Invitational, the Huskies’ only remaining meet taking place in Seattle, will be Oct. 1.

In November, the UW will face tougher competition as it travels to compete in the NCAA west regional and NCAA championships in hopes of achieving even better results than last year.

Reach reporter Carly Knight at Twitter: @carlyfries83

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