2002 Women's Cross Country Preview
Aug. 21, 2002
For the third-consecutive season, Washington loses its top two runners from the year before. History, though, is on the Huskies' side:
In 2000, minus All-American Anna Aoki and Canadian 1,500-meter record holder Margaret Butler, the Huskies finished fourth in the Pac-10 and 23rd in the nation, the team's fourth-straight top-25 national finish.
In 2001, missing seven of the top 13 runners from a year before, including All-American Cami Matson and Scottish sensation Gillian Palmer, Washington rode outstanding senior Sabrina Monro and a stellar crop of freshmen to a 14th-place finish at the NCAA Championships.
This year, the story is the same, as Monro has exhausted her cross-country eligibility, and All-American freshman Lisa Gibbs has opted to transfer to Wake Forest.
Is head coach Greg Metcalf worried? On the contrary, he is excited to see from where this year's surprises will come.
'We were young last year,' Metcalf says of a team that at times carried five freshmen in its top-seven. 'Our goal was simply to get to the NCAA Championships, and we ended up not just going but finishing 14th.
'The benefit of youth is that it becomes experience, which is what we have this year, with five runners returning who were a part of our top seven last year,' the coach continues. 'I'm excited to see what those girls can do, and how they will react to the challenges they'll be getting from the outstanding young runners who will be joining our team, and a handful of veterans who have really put it together over the summer.'
'Courtney and Kate have distinctly different personalities,' Metcalf says, 'which is why they'll work well together as leaders. Kate is a no-nonsense gal, and her drive and work ethic lets everyone know what it takes to be succesful. Courtney, meanwhile, provides a terrific example to our girls as to what they can accomplish with hard work.'
The 2000 Emerald City Invitational champion and one of the Huskies' top runners her first two seasons, Bradshaw struggled to stay healthy in 2001, running in the team's top two just twice in seven competitions. A healthy Bradshaw would give the Huskies a tenacious frontrunner with the ability to pace the nation's best for 5,000 and 6,000 meters.
'Kate Bradshaw battled injuries, but she's a fiery young lady,' Metcalf says. 'She does the little things that it takes to be successful, and the girls around her see that. She is without a doubt our team leader, and is the kind of person who will get this team to the NCAA Championships whatever way she can, be that with her talent, tenacity, or both.'
Bradshaw's fire is balanced by the calm nature of British Columbia native Inman, who broke out from an injury-plagued season and a half with a record-setting campaign on the track this spring. En route to a 10th-place finish in the 1,500 meters at the NCAA Championships, Inman set Washington's indoor mile record, and posted the second-fastest times in school history outdoors in the 800- and 1,500-meter events.
'Courtney had a tremendous track season, and has really improved a ton,' the coach says. 'We're going to take it easy with Courtney, but I have no doubt that she'll be a big part of our success when it matters.'
While Bradshaw and Inman will be counted on to provide the necessary leadership in 2002, it is the super-talented group of freshmen and sophomores which will comprise the majority of the team. Chief among those burgeoning stars for Washington is Arvada, Colo., native Jamie Gibbs, who burst onto the scene as a freshman in 2001 and ran fourth on the squad in all but one race. During track season, she fought off nagging injuries to post the school's fifth-fastest indoor 3,000-meter mark, and place eighth in the event at the Pac-10 Championships.
'Jamie Gibbs had an up-and-down spring, fought off some injuries, but still ran faster than she ever had before,' Metcalf says. 'That said a lot to me about what a competitor she is, and about her dedication to success at Washington.'
Pacing Gibbs all year in 2001 were fellow sophomores-to-be Laura Halvorsen and Camille Connelly, who each earned spots in the Huskies' top-seven. Halvorsen, a Rockford, Wash., native, and Marysville, Wash., native Connelly paced each other in the steeplechase all spring, finishing 11th and 12th, respectively, at the Pac-10 meet.
One veteran Metcalf expects to see a new side of in 2002 is senior Kate Spigel. After running sixth on the squad at the 2001 NCAA meet, Spigel went to New Zealand this spring. While Down Under, she continued her studies in school and on the track, winning several local competitions.
'Kate Spigel has drastically improved every year she's been here,' Metcalf says. 'She's really put in the work this summer to improve, and I expect her to assume more of a leadership role.'
'Lindsey Egerdahl was our 10th runner last fall, but ran fourth this year in the 1,500 meters at the U.S. Junior Nationals,' he says. 'She and Chessa will be hard to keep off the course this year if they continue to run the way they have this summer.'
Add into the mix a stellar group of freshmen highlighted by Enumclaw's Alison Tubbs and Spokane's Laura Hodgson, and the Huskies are loaded with young talent. Tubbs won the 2001 Great American Shootout, posting the nation's second-fastest 5,000-meter cross-country time in the process, while Hodgson was the state's second-fastest 3,200-meter runner.
'Every year, we've had at least one freshman girl make our team,' Metcalf says. 'Last year we had five! Alison Tubbs is a bona-fide superstar, and I'm expecting big things from Laura Hodgson.
'For sure, this is the youngest team I can remember having,' he continues. 'It's also an extremely talented team, however, and I'm excited to see what will happen when we put all that talent on the course this fall.'