Fans who lined the course at Lincoln Park on Saturday saw a flurry of Huskies lead the pack of runners participating in the Sundodger Invitational in Seattle. The UW men and women’s teams won both events in the invitational category, and both the first place finishers of their events.
The UW women finished first with 19 points, beating Oregon State, Idaho, Gonzaga, Seattle University, and Washington State. The Beavers were the next closest team to the Huskies, collecting 58 points. The men won with 30 points, beating out the Cougars, Bulldogs, Vandals, and Redhawks.
Senior All-American Katie Flood finished first in the women’s 6,000-meter run with a time of 20:25, and junior Aaron Nelson won the men’s 8,000-meter run with a time of 23:50.55, notching his first collegiate cross country race of his career.
Head coach Greg Metcalf was thrilled with what he saw in both teams on Saturday. He knew both teams had potential, but to see them execute so well, so early in the season gave him great hopes for what his team could achieve in the long run.
“Today we knocked the rust off a little bit and got the first one under our belt,” Metcalf said. “I was very proud of us today.”
The women’s team was expected to win the meet after finishing last year ranked ninth in the NCAA. The offseason threw the Huskies a curveball, however, when their top-finisher, junior Megan Goethals, developed a stress fracture. On top of her stress fracture, Goethals faced a family illness, which brought her back home to Michigan for the quarter.
The loss of Goethals diminished the UW’s certainty of a top 10 finish at the NCAA championships this season. However, Flood’s victory, as well as top 10 finishes from four other UW runners, put the UW’s high hopes back on track.
“Our women’s team looked really good today and it’s so exciting to see that early on,” Flood said.
Specifically, the freshmen gave strong debut performances for the women’s team, led by Katie Knight, who was the second Husky to cross the finish line, coming in third place overall.
“The young girls are really mature in the way that they race,” Flood said. “We have a chance to do something cool this season. It’s a great group.”
Even though Goethals’ presence will be sorely missed, the women’s team has enough quick runners to give them high expectations for the year. As a result, came as no shock to see the women dominate the meet the way they did Saturday.
The men, however, gave fans a pleasant surprise with their speed. After failing to make it to the NCAA championships last year, the UW men showed a marked improvement Saturday.
After running an average of 85 miles per week in preparation, Nelson was happy to see his hard work pay off for himself, as well as his team.
“I was really excited,” Nelson said. “Coming away with an early season win and a big PR is pretty nice. We’ve all been putting in a lot of hard work behind the scenes, so it’s good to see it finally coming together and paying off.”
Juniors like Nelson will likely be the ones who take on leadership roles in the men’s program, since there are no seniors on the team. But what the men’s team lacks in seniority, it makes up for with a promising freshman class.
Freshman Andrew Gardner, who has attracted a lot of attention in the preseason for his speed, raced well Saturday, finishing in the top 20. But it was freshman Sumner Goodwin, running unattached so as to maintain redshirt eligibility, who turned the most heads with his impressive fourth place overall finish.
Metcalf had been playing the season by ear to see if he would have Goodwin redshirt or not. He got his answer Saturday.
“We try to give it a few weeks and see how things go,” Metcalf said, “but you can’t fake today.”
The next time the Huskies race will be in Eugene, Ore., on Oct. 5 at the Bill Dellinger tournament. With young and old talent stepping up for both the men and women on Saturday, Metcalf expects his teams will keep getting better and stay on course for the NCAA championships.
“The goal is to get the Terre Haute and the national championships,” Metcalf said. “Based on what I saw today, we are heading in the right direction.”
Reach reporter Tessa Stephenson at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @TessaLee823
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