Cross Country Opens 2009 With The Annual Sundodger Invite

Sept. 16, 2009

The Sundodger Inviational
Saturday, Sept. 19
Lincoln Park

9:00 am: Women's 6000m Open Race
9:40 am: Men's 8000m Open Race
10:25 am: Women's 6000m Invitational Race (featuring UW)
11:00 am: Men's 8000m Invitational Race (featuring UW)
12:00 pm: High School Girls 5000m Varsity
12:30 pm: High School Boys 5000m Varsity
1:00 pm: High School Girls 5000m Junior Varsity
1:30 pm: High School Boys 5000m Junior Varsity

ON THE COURSE: The firing of the first starting pistol is just a matter of days away now for the Washington men's and women's cross country teams. The 2009 season opens this Saturday as the Huskies host their only home meet of the season, the annual Sundodger Invitational, at West Seattle's Lincoln Park. The top-ranked Husky women will be setting off on their first ever national title defense, while the No. 24 men's team is seeking its third NCAA trip in the past four years.

Hundreds of athletes will be running the trails at Lincoln Park with eight races taking place. The day's first race will be the women's 6,000-meter open race, set for 9 a.m., and featuring many local college and club teams. The open men's 8,000-meter race is scheduled for 9:40 a.m. Following that will be the first race for the Huskies, the 6,000-meter women's invitational at 10:25. The UW men will then compete in the 8,000-meter invitational at 11 a.m.

For the first time the Sundodger will include a high school invitational meet as well, with top area high schools such as Bellarmine Prep, Seattle Prep, Eastlake, Juanita, Mt. Rainier and others running in 5,000-meter varsity and junior varsity races beginning at 12 p.m.

Challenging the Huskies on Saturday will be a collection of local universities including Oregon State, Seattle Pacific, Seattle U., Idaho, Portland State, Western Washington, and Alaska Anchorage.

'This will give us a glimpse of where our team is right now,' said head coach Greg Metcalf, beginning his 13th season. 'We want to go out and give a solid effort and nothing more than that. It's fun to run in front of the home folks and you get a chance to sit down as a coach and see what we did last year and what we did this year to compare where we are. It's the first time in a while that the athletes gets to go through the routines, the stresses, getting up and putting the uniform on, and it's nice to do that at home.'

The Husky women, ranked a unanimous No. 1 in the USTFCCCA preseason poll released this week, will send a trio of women to the starting line that competed at the 2008 NCAA Championships when the Dawgs won the program's first national title. 2008 Pac-10 Champion and defending Sundodger Champion Kendra Schaaf is expected to compete, as is All-American junior Mel Lawrence, second at this meet a year ago, plus junior Lauren Saylor, an All-Pac-10 Second Teamer last year.

Most of the returning men are expected to run, though as always lineups can change during the week. The Huskies have a number of seniors eager to make the most of their final season. Senior Jake Schmitt, UW's top finisher at NCAA's last year and an All-American on the indoor track at 5,000-meters, should get the start as will senior Kelly Spady, an All-West Region performer last year. Redshirt freshman Joey Bywater will compete in his first official cross country race after an excellent first track season in the spring, and sophomore Max O'Donoghue-McDonald should get on the course after redshirting in 2008.

Washington also has seven freshmen on both the men's and women's sides that will get to show what they can do over the longer distances. The plan is to redshirt most of the large group at least through the early races, but one exception will be Lindsay Flanagan, a native of Roselle, Illinois and a Top-10 finisher at the Footlocker National Championships last year.

SUNDODGER HISTORY: Both the Husky men's and women's teams have won the past two Sundodger Invites. The men have won six of the past seven and eight of 17 overall. The women have captured 10 of the 17 Sundodgers. From the first race in 1992 until 2000, the women's course was 5,000-meters. It switched to 6,000 for the Pac-10 meet in 2000, but went back for three years thereafter. In 2004 the course was bumped back up to 6k permanently. Last year the women won with 24 points, equaling the lowest winning score in meet history. Kendra Schaaf got the win in her college debut, and set a course record of 19:58. The UW men won last year with 41 points, led by Jake Schmitt who placed third overall. Eastern Washington's Paul Limpf also set a men's 8k course record in winning with a time of 23:33.

THE SCHEDULE: Washington's schedule includes six race weeks, starting this Saturday with the Sundodger Invitational, UW's one and only home meet of the year. After this weekend, UW's top runners will be packing their bags, traveling to the Notred Dame Invitational in two weeks to run on the afternoon before the UW football team takes on the Fighting Irish. Two weeks later, the Huskies will return to Terre Haute, Indiana for the first time since their NCAA win last November. The Pre-National Meet in Terre Haute is slated for Oct. 17 this year. The three-tiered postseason begins with the Pac-10 Championships, hosted by USC this year in Long Beach, Calif., on Oct. 30. West Regionals will be held Nov. 14 in Springfield, Ore. at the home of the Ducks, and then the final goal will be back to Terre Haute for the NCAA Championships on November 23.

HUSKIES UNANIMOUS NO. 1 IN PRESEASON POLL: The Husky women's cross country team begins the 2009 season where it left off last November, ranked No. 1 in the nation. Washington was the unanimous preseason No. 1 in the poll released Tuesday by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA). This is the first preseason top-billing for the program. All 12 first place votes went Washington's way for a total of 360 points. Oregon, the runner-up the past two years, is ranked second with 344 points, followed by Florida State (331), West Virginia (329), and Villanova (311). Additional Pac-10 teams in the rankings are Stanford at No. 6 and Arizona State at No. 11. The Husky men's squad is also in the Top-25 to start the year. Washington was voted 24th with 84 points while the two-time defending champion Ducks were voted No. 1, followed by Oklahoma State and Stanford. Last year the men's team did not receive a single vote in the preseason poll, then climbed to a season-high of No. 21, and outperformed that at NCAA's to finish 18th. The Husky women have held the top spot since last October 7th, following their win at the Auburn Invitational. The women were the preseason No. 3 team in 2008.

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