Cross Country Gears Up For Fall Camp

Aug. 31, 2006

SEATTLE - For many Americans, Labor Day Weekend represents a final opportunity to fire up the grill, head for the campsites and enjoy the company of friends and family in the great outdoors before transitioning out of summer and into fall.

For the Washington cross country team, the story is no different.

The 2006 Washington Huskies cross country squad will celebrate Labor Day Weekend the way it has for the past six years -- with a road trip to Fort Flagler State Park, site of the team's annual fall training camp.

Located in Puget Sound near Port Townsend, at the tip of Marrowstone Island, the park is an ideal location for Washington's cross country teams to train, away from the distractions of home.

'There are some great trails in the park where we can run, and on one day we'll take a ferry over to Whidbey Island for a scenic 10-mile run along a bluff near the ferry dock,' says 10th-year head coach Greg Metcalf. 'It's really a perfect location for us.'

Metcalf says, though, that the access to trails and natural landscapes on which to run is just one of many benefits of leaving the University for a week each fall. Just as important, he says, is the bonding which occurs during the week away from home -- especially for the team's incoming freshmen.

'For the freshmen, they get a chance to bond with our group, so that by the time we get to our first competition and our first week of school, they feel more comfortable with their surroundings and with their teammates,' he says. 'I think it's really one of the yearly highlights for our team. There's no TV, the cell phone reception is pretty spotty, so they really have a chance just to get to know each other and catch up with each other before we get started with our season.'

Senior Travis Boyd, who will be making his fifth trip north to Fort Flagler, agrees, adding, 'the biggest part is just getting to know everyone, especially the freshmen, just developing those relationships. We train together and race together all season -- cross country is such a team sport, and we depend so much on each other to suceed. So, building those relationships is one of the big keys to a succesful year.'

Relationship-building goes beyond training. While daily training runs are certainly a part of the camp experience, Metcalf and his fellow coaches plan numerous non-athletic activities that encourage the Huskies' student-athletes to interact with one another in constructive -- and often humorous -- ways.

'The most interesting thing we do are the newcomer skits,' Boyd says. 'The newcomers on the team each have to come up with a skit to present to the rest of the team on the last night of camp. They usually end up poking fun at Coach Metcalf or some of the older guys on the team. Last year, one of the seniors, Matt Owen, helped out with one of the skits. He did a great Dr. Phil impression. It creates a lot of laughs.'

Though many of the laughs come at his expense, Metcalf has fun with the skits as well.

'The skits are a chance for our freshmen to have a little fun, and for the rest of us to learn a little bit about the various personalities of our freshman group,' he says. 'It's always entertaining, and a lot of fun for everyone.'

This year's camp will be even more important for both teams. For the Husky women -- whose 25-woman roster includes nine newcomers -- camp will provide a chance for the returning student-athletes to get to know their new Husky teammates, while making the freshmen feel welcome and comfortable in the team environment. For the men, meanwhile, who boast five fifth-year seniors and a deep a talented roster, camp will instead represent their first chance to train together after a summer of individual workouts.

'For our women's group this year, with so many newcomers, the camp experience is going to be invaluable,' Metcalf says. 'For the guys it's more about starting to train together and build towards the season. I want every one of our folks, though, to leave camp with a greater understanding our what our expectations are, what their goals are, and from that, understand where they fit in on our team.'

Metcalf saw his 2006 team together for the first time Wednesday night, when he gathered them in the Husky Stadium meeting room for their first introductory meeting of the year. They will work out together for the first time Friday, and will depart for the five-day camp Sunday morning.

'We have a great group of young men and women. I looked into their eyes last night and saw that they've done the work they need to do over the summer, and that they're ready to go,' he says. 'By the time I went home, I was more excited than ever to see what the next 10 weeks will bring.'

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