On a beautiful day at the Jefferson Golf Course in Beacon Hill, the Washington cross country team had one of it’s best performances of the season. Competing in a field of 40 teams, all attempting to qualify, the women finished sixth while the men claimed second and an automatic spot at the 2017 NCAA National Championships.
Senior Amy-Eloise Neale once again was the highest finisher for the No. 16 Washington women with a time of 19.25.3 to finsh in third. She has placed third in consecutive races now after finishing in the same spot at the Pac-12 Championships. Neale also finished as the Huskies top women racer for the ninth straight race.
Junior Emily Hamblin crossed the line at 20:38.5 in 40th, 5.6 seconds before senior Izzi Batt-Doyle in 44th. The Dawgs rounded out their top five with senior Anna Maxwell in 49th (20:50.8) and freshman Allie Schadler in 66th (21:02.8).
One thing that definitely hurt the Huskies performance was a slip at the beginning of the race by sophomores Nikki Zielinski and Kaitlyn Neal, who was the Huskies second finisher at the Pac-12 championships two weeks ago.
Nevertheless, Neale was happy with the performance of the team, who are expected to qualify through the at-large bids on Saturday.
“I think [the team] is definitely where we need to be,” she said. “Obviously, there are some really good girls [from other schools] out there, but having good competition at every single race we go to continually pushes us to be the best athletes we can be.”
No. 4 San Francisco won the team first place with 59 points for the women. They were followed by No. 7 Stanford who also secure an automatic bid on 76 points. No. 3 Oregon finished in third, followed by No. 10 Boise State. Fifth place went to unranked California, who stunned the fans with their incredible race and could make regionals if pushed in by Washington. The individual honors went to San Francisco’s Charlotte Taylor, who finished at 19:14.2, a new course record.
It would be the men’s race though that made this a great day for the Huskies. The No. 20 Washington men led the chasing pack and ran as a group for most of the race. Senior Colby Gilbert had the highest finish in fifth with a time of 29:43.4, half a second in front of senior Andrew Gardner in seventh (29.43.9). Sophomore Andy Snyder was the third Husky to finish in the top-10, as he ended up in the ninth spot at 29:45.7.
Last race’s top finisher Mahmoud Moussa was the fourth Husky across in 18th (29:53.5) and freshman Tibebu Proctor rounded out the Huskies five by finishing 26th (30:02.2) in one of his best showings of the year. Even though they were not counted for the team score, senior Johnathan Stevens and freshman Talon Hull also ran well, ending up in 30th and 31st respectively.
Head coach Greg Metcalf felt the team executed very well.
“I told the guys before the race let’s get seven victories today, and let’s go do what we are capable of doing,” he said. “They were assertive and aggressive, and they didn’t give it up. They got to the halfway point and were tough from there, and that is what running a 10K cross country race is all about.”
Gardner agreed with his coach.
“Honestly, coming in, we all knew we were capable of this,” he said. “We’ve been practicing for 10K all year long and we got an opportunity to do what we knew we could. It went as planned for them most part. We’ll fix a couple of things for the next race and we’ll be even better.”
The Washington men narrowly missed out on winning the whole race, losing to No. 6 Portland by just two points. The Pilots had three racers in the top four, but barely squeezed out the win. Behind the Huskies were Pac-12 Champions No. 4 Stanford in third, No. 13 Oregon in fourth, and No. 10 UCLA in fifth, making this a huge upset for the Dawgs. The individual winner of the men’s race was Portland’s Emmanuel Roudolff-Levisse, who finished almost six seconds in front second place.
With the win, the men secured a spot at the NCAA National Championships Saturday, Nov. 18 in Louisville, Kentucky. The women are projected to join them there, and will officially find out on Sunday.
Reach contributing writer Andy Yamashita at email@example.com Twitter: @ANYamashita