It was a classic Seattle day at the Jefferson Golf Course on Friday as the west regional convened to qualify for a spot at the NCAA championships. Torrents of rain came from all angles, turning the grounds into mudflats and drenching everyone, but the race still went on.
Emerging from the finish line covered head-to-toe with mud, the Washington men’s cross country team turned in its strongest race this year to win their first ever West Regional Championship.
“We saw the weather forecast and knew what the conditions were going to be like out there ahead of time,” head coach Greg Metcalf said. “Both teams were just tough. They really managed the chaos and delivered two really great performances.”
The top five UW men all finished in the top 25 overall. Senior Tyler King led the pack with his fifth place finish. Sophomores Andrew Gardner and Colby Gilbert were not far behind, placing 10th and 12th, respectively. Senior Izaic Yorks, who had led the team in each of the previous meets, recovered from a fall midway through to finish 14th, and sophomore Fred Huxham finished 22nd to round out the scoring.
“It feels great to be on top of the region and I really hope it sets a precedent for what we expect out of cross country,” Yorks said. “We have had a lot of races this season where guys feel like they could have done so much better. With nationals coming up, we cannot let that spark die and have to go and do it again.”
The No. 17 Huskies upset No. 4 Stanford and No. 7 Oregon by 20 points and secured one of the automatic qualifying spots for the championships in Louisville, Ky., next Saturday.
“For our men, we knew we had all the right pieces, but it was a matter of them getting healthy and staying positive early on,” Metcalf said. “This is what our group is capable of doing and now everyone else knows it.”
With a comfortable third-place team finish, the women’s team will also be making a return trip to the nationals competition. Senior Maddie Meyers edged out Boise State’s Brenna Peloquin by six-tenths of a second to take third place. Sophomore Katie Knight, 10th, and freshman Charlotte Prouse, 14th, also finished strong to beat out opponents by fractions of a second.
Junior Kaylee Flanagan, who finished 33rd, and sophomore Anna Maxwell, who finished 45th, helped put the Huskies ahead of Stanford. Both teams will be joining the two automatic qualifiers, Oregon and Boise State, who finished one point apart with the Ducks narrowly taking the victory. Now qualified, they will be focused on meeting their season-long goal of finishing as a top-10 team in the nation.
“The hard work is done. Nationals is not about doing something crazy but performing to a level you know you trained for all season,” Metcalf said. “We got to focus on recovering from this race which is going to be tough with the cold and the mud, but overall I like the direction that both teams are going.”
Reach reporter Aaron Huang at email@example.com. Twitter: @Aaron_C_Huang