The Washington cross country teams will compete at the Zimmer Championship in Madison, Wisc., on Friday morning. It will be only the fourth meet this season, but one of the last meets before the Huskies compete in the Pac-12 Championships in Colfax, Wash., on Oct. 30.

With 35 other teams in the field, Friday’s event marks an opportunity for the Huskies to gain qualifying points for one of the at-large bids at the NCAA championships in November.

“Our sport is unique in that there is no guesswork,” head coach Greg Metcalf said. “It is about the timing and being able to run our very best on November [21] in Louisville, Kentucky, when you are lining up with the best runners in the country.”

Even though the women’s team moved up to 10th in the national polls after a strong showing at the UW Invite, getting these points in Madison is important when considering the amount of talent in the West region.

“We all need to stay calm in the bigger races,” senior Eleanor Fulton said. “There is a lot of pressure when running with bigger fields. That way we do not get distracted by the stress of the meet and focus on what we need to do.”

Each team is limited to racing seven runners for this invitational. With each team sending out its best runners, the Huskies expect every placing to come down to the wire.

“It is crazy because there is an average of three finishers per second, which means you have to be able to beat people to the line,” Metcalf said. “Running cross country in large meets is about staying calm, cool, and collected under fire. If we finish like we did at the UW Invite we will beat lots of teams there.”

On the men’s side, the Huskies dropped in the rankings despite a sixth-place finish at the UW Invite.

“We are a young team that needs a couple of races to get under our belts and to figure out how to run as a pack,” sophomore Andrew Gardner said. “Talent-wise we can compete with the rest of the teams out there, just need a bit more experience.”

Almost half of the teams inside the top 10 from both the men and women’s rankings are from the West region. Only the top two teams from the NCAA West Regional on Nov. 13 will be guaranteed a spot at nationals.

“The Pac-12 is called the conference of champions because as a conference they have won more championships than any other by a huge margin through all sports,” Metcalf said. “The West region has just gotten better and better and more competitive every year.”

Reach reporter Aaron Huang at Twitter: @aaron_c_huang

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