Husky Women Seek To Extend Nation's Seventh-Longest NCAA Streak
Sept. 8, 2004
For seven years, Greg Metcalf has directed Washington's cross country programs. For seven years, the Huskies have never failed to reach an NCAA Championships.To appreciate the difficulty of that accomplishment, consider that only six other schools -- Georgetown, BYU, Providence, Colorado, Stanford and North Carolina State -- boast longer active NCAA streaks than the Huskies, who prior to 1997 had been to just seven of the previous 20 NCAA Championships.The streak encompasses nearly three generations of Husky runners, from the Class of `97, which began the streak with a 14th-place NCAA finish; to the Class of 2000, freshmen in `97 who twice put the Huskies in the top-15; to the Class of 2004, tasked with extending the streak to eight this fall.In 2003, a fourth generation emerged, as five freshmen, led by Amy Lia (Bothell, Wash.) and Dallon Williams (Turlock, Calif.) formed the nucleus of a Husky squad that overcame low expectations to earn a 19th-place finish at the national meet.Saturday's season-opening Emerald City Invitational at Woodland Park could feature six of the Husky seven from last year's NCAA Championships, and a host of talented newcomers. It's no wonder, then, that senior captains Lindsey Egerdahl (Auburn, Wash.) -- the team's top finisher at the NCAA meet in 2003 -- and Laura Halverson (Mica, Wash.) have set their sights on a high finish at the NCAA meet in November, and refuse to let their team settle for anything less.How did the team come together so quickly in 2003?
Egerdahl: 'We shocked everyone, including ourselves. No one was foolish enough to think that it wasn't going to be a huge transition, and that it wouldn't take a huge leap for us to get back to the NCAA meet. We all knew going into it that it was going to take a lot from all parties. Last year, we practiced great, but our biggest problem was racing, knowing as a group who went where. As the year went on, though, we figured it out, just in time to perform successfully when it counted.'
You guys started the season slowly, then came on at the end. What changed?
Egerdahl: 'We collectively came together after the Pac-10 Championships and decided what needed to be done. At that point, the freshmen really stepped up. By that time, too, they were more comfortable in races, knowing where they were running, knowing who to run with in a race. We had a lot of races up to that point that didn't go so well, but those races at least gave our freshmen experience. By the end of the year, they knew girls from other teams, and could compare themselves in the race and judge who they wanted to race with. That was a huge thing for us. We decided to work together and get to the NCAA meet.'
Halverson: 'We didn't settle. We went for it. We never felt that we had given our best; we always thought we could do better.'Five freshmen ran regularly in the top-seven last year, and four were on the course at nationals. How hard is it for a freshman to make the transition to collegiate cross country?
Egerdahl: 'We can count on the fact that every year a freshman makes a move into our top seven. But, in that case, we had five freshmen traveling -- that was huge.'
Halverson: 'Our team in some ways has always been built around freshmen. They come in without any preconceived notions of who they `can' and `can't' beat; they just run. They had confidence.'Will having been through that transition last year help this year?
Egerdahl: 'I had always been surrounded by great leaders, then last year we got to nationals and there were five new faces, and I was the only one who had ever competed there before. Last year was a major transition for all of the upperclassmen. When the freshmen came in, they kind of set their own rules. They brought a whole different vibe to the team, and it took a while for us to adapt to them.'Halverson: 'It definitely helps. We love each other and we are a bonded team. There's not going to be any awkwardness. We've been working together all summer, and we're ready. We have common goals. We're really close.'
Egerdahl: 'I'm more comfortable with this group of girls. I'm more willing to sacrifice with this group, this year, and I think we can all say that. I know these girls; I know their work ethic. We've been through so much. I would sacrifice my all in a race for them, because I know that they would do the same for me. There's a lot more energy and commitment.'Was there anyone who surprised you last year?
Egerdahl: 'Last year, we did a lot of pondering as to who was going to run in our top seven, and we were nowhere close to what we thought. The freshmen, as a group, rallied around each other. It was pretty amazing to see how each of them came through.'
Halverson: 'Our freshmen really stepped up.'Is there anyone under the radar who could emerge this season?
Egerdahl: 'We hope so. Alison Tubbs has a year under her belt, and she's ready to go. She wants it. She has as good a mental game as anybody. Angela Wishaar is also one who we are counting on to move up. She's worked her butt off, and she deserves it. She's leading our team in intensity this summer, and is setting a consistent foot forward.'
Halverson: 'Kira Harrison has been training hard. She had a really good track season.'Will any freshmen break through?
Egerdahl: 'We always have freshmen up there. We're counting on Amanda Miller at this point to really have an impact on this team, but any of them could jump up.'
Halverson: 'Last year, people we didn't expect to jump up ended up making a huge difference, so really, it could be anybody.'What will be your most important role as captains?
Halverson: 'We need to be more consistent all year. We may only have seven people racing at nationals, but the people racing early on and throughout the season are the ones who are going to get us there. We need to race strong all year long. We can't just rely on Regionals to get us in.'
Egerdahl: 'That's a great point; intensity will be so important. This team knows how to have fun. Our job, though, is to add commitment, desire and accountability to the equation. That's where Laura excels. On hard courses, in hard races, Laura's our girl, and she brings all of us with her. I don't think there are that many girls in the country that can do that for their team.'Only seven teams in all of collegiate cross country boast an NCAA streak as long as Washington's seven-year string. What has allowed this team to return to the NCAA meet year after year?
Halverson: 'It's expected here. Last year, there was never a point where I thought we wouldn't make it to nationals. We always figure it out in the end. We get stuff done. We always peak at the right time.'
Egerdahl: 'We're goal-oriented, and our goals always start backward. We want to make it nationals. That bar has definitely been raised again. Every race, every workout, is done with that ultimate goal in mind.'
Halverson: 'It's a lot a mental game. Everyone puts in the work physically, so it really comes down to just mentally preparing yourself to succeed.'What will be this team's strengths?
Egerdahl: 'Drive. There are a lot of people who want it. We all have different goals, but they all revolve around maintaining the success this program has built through the years.'
Halverson: 'Commitment and accountability through the entire team will be important.'
Egerdahl: 'Our biggest strength is our ability to have fun. You really have to enjoy the process. You only race five or six times all year, so it's important to enjoy training.'
Halverson: 'We have fun every day.'
Egerdahl: 'That's a huge strength for us. On the starting line, we're relaxed, we're calm.'
Halverson: 'But at the same time, we're able to flip that switch and be intense when it's time.'What's the best thing about running for Coach Metcalf?
Halverson: 'Coach Metcalf is an outstanding motivator. I put all of my faith in him, and know that if I do what he is telling me to do early in the season -- even though I'm tired and it hurts -- when we start peaking in November, I'm going to be at my best, and will be able to out-kick my opponents. The fact that he was a really good runner, he can understand the way a runner thinks. Kelly Strong and David Bazzi, too, are wonderful because they think the same way.'
Egerdahl: 'We have a great group of coaches who take care of each other and their athletes. None of them will ever let us count ourselves out. Greg, though, is the real motivator, more than any other coach I've ever had.'
Halverson: 'He finds a way to motivate everybody, in ways unique to each of us. He puts belief into an athlete even before they know what they are capable of.'What makes running at Washington special?
Halverson: 'Washington has such a rich history of success, and there is a lot of pride in that tradition. When you're doing any sport for Washington, you're expected to be good. Our programs across the board are successful because you're told from the moment you arrive as a freshman that anything less than success is unacceptable. You're built up right away; everyone tells you how great you are going to be and offers you the best training facilities, the best equipment, etc. You, therefore, start believing from the very start that you are going to do it.'
Egerdahl: 'The athletics program at Washington holds itself to a high standard among the other programs in the nation, and as an athlete, there's an expectation that you'll hold yourself to that same standard.'What are your expectations for this season?
Egerdahl: 'We underperformed last year, because we didn't know what to expect going into the season. This year, though, we know everyone's potential, and we know what to expect. I know how good Jamie Gibbs could be. Knowing now what everyone's potential is makes it imperative that we, as leaders, hold everyone to that potential, and don't let anyone slide. There is no doubt that we have a lot of talent, and that this team will soon become one that will consistently contend for top-10 spots. Our challenge is to make that happen this year. This is our senior season. Everyone under us knows the potential of this group, but they have a lot of time. For us, this is it. We want to be a top-10 team, and we want it now.'
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