The No. 7 Washington women’s cross country team will travel to Terre Haute, Ind., for the NCAA championships Saturday after a second place finish at West Regionals.
Joining the Huskies will be junior Fred Huxham of the men’s cross country team, who qualified to run at nationals by placing third at the NCAA West Region Championships.
The Huskies have dropped down in the rankings from four to seven after coming in second to No. 4 Stanford at regionals. The UW hopes to put on a better performance Saturday, and come away with a top-five finish.
“I think our women are prepared to run, and hopefully we’ll go turn the tables on [Stanford],” head coach Greg Metcalf said.
The Huskies have been ranked as high as No. 2 this season, making No. 1 Colorado the only team they have not been able to beat.
“Right now I think everybody is running for second place. They could finish between second and eighth place … to beat [Colorado] something has to go wrong, they have to have a bad day,” Metcalf said. “But the goal from the beginning of the year was, we were 10th last year and the goal was to get to the NCAA championships with a shot to go win a trophy. I think this group is prepared to do that, we just have to go take care of business and do what we’re capable of doing.”
While a national championship will be difficult, it is by no means impossible for Washington.
“At our very best I think that we could be national champions, but I think that that would take, not a miracle, but a spectacular day, which isn’t outside of our reach,” junior Katie Knight said. “ … We have to be realistic. Shoot high but think about what is a goal that we would be proud of anyways, which would be anywhere from fifth to first.”
The strategy for the Huskies is to try to run in a pack. All season the UW has tried to have its top five runners as close together as possible in order to push each other and keep up steady paces.
“The NCAA championships are about putting yourself in the right group, being aggressive and patient all at the same time,” Metcalf said.
The Huskies always finish their races strong. At the NCAA West Region Championships, they moved from fourth place to second place in the last 1,000-meters. If Washington can put itself in a solid position through the first 5,000-meters of this race, the Huskies should have a great shot at a top-five finish.
“I think that we are gritty, and so when it gets tough we finish hard,” Knight said.
Huxham will face the challenge of racing without his teammates for the first time this season. Huxham did not race until the third meet of the season, the Washington Invitational on Oct. 1, which left him without much time to progress. But Huxham proved he didn’t need the time, as he had a fantastic race at West Regionals.
“The goal is for him, really when you’re out there by yourself, is to go finish in the top 40 and go be an All-American,” Metcalf said.
The championship meet will begin with the women’s 6,000-meter race at 8 a.m. Saturday. The men’s 10,000-meter race will follow at 9 a.m.
Reach reporter Carly Knight at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @carlyfries83