In nearly two decades under head coach Greg Metcalf, the men and women’s cross country teams have qualified for the NCAA championships nearly every season, highlighted by a national title in 2008 for the women’s team.
As of Sept. 29, the NCAA coaches’ poll has the women ranked at No. 15 and the men ranked at No. 28. But as the Huskies prepare for their season to begin, the runners are more concerned about their fitness level and staying healthy in order to be in peak form by the time they travel to Louisville, Ky., for the finale. The Huskies compete in their third competition of the season Friday, running in the Washington Invitational at Jefferson Park Golf Course at 3:15 p.m.
“Great teams have great individuals who know how to take care of themselves over the course of the season,” Metcalf said. “They both should be aiming high for this year’s postseason.”
Following the Washington Invitational, the UW will have just two meets before the Pac-12 championships on Oct. 30.
This season the teams have a strong amount of veteran talent, especially the women, with two returning seniors in Maddie Meyers and Eleanor Fulton. The veteran leadership will prove to be important in setting the right pace for the teams to have their best shot at postseason success.
“It is great to have young men and women who have been through the program and have succeeded,” Metcalf said. “They set a great example for the youngsters to learn from.”
Those “youngsters” will be pushing the competition for one of the top-five spots on the women’s roster with sophomore Katie Knight returning after redshirting last season, in addition to adding talented freshmen Lindsey Bradley and Charlotte Prouse.
“It will be very competitive,” sophomore Anna Maxwell said. “You want to push yourselves to run with the top pack and this year we have so many good girls that it is going to be tight. But people are more excited to have such a deep roster.”
The men’s side may not feature the same luxury of depth. They will be without Aaron Nelson, a two-time All-American, who is now graduated, and only have a handful of runners with previous experience.
“We have a solid group of seven or eight guys but if someone gets hurt then that would really set us back,” sophomore Colby Gilbert said.
Metcalf is very confident that both teams will be able to meet the high expectations they set for themselves each season.
“It is not really pressure as much as expectation,” Metcalf said. “The goal for most programs is to just get into the [NCAA Championships]. This group, how they operate and how they train, they aim a whole lot higher and push themselves to meet that.”
In their first two competitions of the seasons, the UW-Seattle U. Open and the Sundodger Invitational, both the men’s and women’s teams had strong showings. At the UW-Seattle U. Open, sophomore Andrew Gardner took first on the men’s side, and freshman Emily Hamlin took first for the women.
Two weeks later at the Sundodger Invitational, the women’s team took first place in the team standings and senior Izaic Yorks won the men’s race.
Reach reporter Aaron Huang at email@example.com. Twitter: @aaron_c_huang