The Washington cross country team will travel to Sacramento, Calif., on Friday to compete in the NCAA West Region Championships.
The meet will determine if the Huskies will continue on to race at the NCAA championships on Nov. 19. The top two teams in each region automatically advance, but there are also 13 at-large bids up for grabs. The process for selection for these bids includes a review of regular season performance, and finish at the regional championships.
This puts the No. 4 Washington women, who are ranked first in the West Region, in good shape. The Huskies fell to No. 1 Colorado at the Pac-12 championships on Oct. 28, but as Colorado is a part of the Mountain Region, the UW won’t see the Buffaloes again until nationals.
In preparation for the important race, the Huskies have been taking workouts a little easier this week to rest up their legs. Strong performances in both the Wisconsin Invitational and the Pac-12 championships in October have left the Huskies feeling ready.
“I’m feeling a lot better than I did before the last couple meets, I think. Coming off of Wisconsin and Pac- 12’s, I have a lot more confidence than I did before,” redshirt junior Amy-Eloise Neale said. “But at the same time it’s just like any other race the rest of this season, I think you have to be calm and collected and just go into it and not get too overexcited that it’s west regionals.”
Neale won the Pac-12 championships on Oct. 28, and hopes to continue to improve her performance this weekend.
“I’d like to hopefully get out a little harder than I have been, I’ve been definitely easing into races and just kind of feeling it out,” Neale said. “[I’m] really just going to try and place high and hopefully we’ll place high as a team and then we’ll roll into next week at nationals and just kind of keep the season on an upward progression.”
For the Washington men, making it to the NCAA championships may be a little harder. The Huskies are not ranked for the first time this season after finishing seventh at the Pac-12 Championships. There will be six ranked teams — No. 4 Stanford, No. 8 UCLA, No. 10 Oregon, No. 12 Portland, No. 17 Washington State, and No. 20 Boise State — competing at the West Region Championships.
In the event that the Huskies do not qualify as a team, some individuals may have the chance to qualify on their own. The top four finishers who are not a part of a qualifying team will advance to nationals, given that they finish in the top 25. There are also two individual at-large bids up for grabs.
However, the results of the men’s race are far from predetermined. The men will see a change in distance Friday — they will run a 10,000-meter race instead of the 8,000-meter distance that they have been running all season long. Being more prepared for the longer distance could give the Huskies the edge over their opponents.
The West Region Championships will begin with the women’s 6,000-meter race at 11 a.m. Friday. The men’s 10,000-meter race will follow at noon, with awards immediately following.
Reach reporter Carly Knight at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @carlyfries83