Track Season Preview: Men's Distances

Jan. 11, 2010

The 2010 track and field season goes off this coming Saturday, as Washington hosts the UW Indoor Preview, the first of five exceptional indoor meets that will draw thousands of competitors and produce hundreds of NCAA qualifiers. During the week GoHuskies will look at the prospects of the UW track squad as it competes both indoors and outdoors from now all the way until mid-June.

Men's Distance Runners

The men's distance group is heading into the track season in familiar fashion, as the cross country team reached the NCAA Championships back in November and wound up 18th for the second-consecutive season. It was the third Top-20 finish for the men in the past four years.

Head Coach Greg Metcalf has a lot of depth to play with at the long distances this season, but the middle distances will feel the absence left by six-time All-American Austin Abbott, and will need freshmen and sophomores to take steps to be competitive on the conference and regional levels.

'Our men's group comes off the cross country season with some momentum. We didn't run our best at the national meet but I think overall we had a very good season,' said Metcalf. 'Carrying that over to the track, which is the most important part of our season, we've got to replace Austin Abbott. He's been a mainstay for five years. You're not going to go replace him with any newcomer. He's a sub-four-minute miler, a multiple All-American, our school record-holder indoors and out. Man he is going to be missed.'

Comforting any Husky fans despondent over the loss of Abbott should be sophomore Joey Bywater. The Lake Stevens, Wash. native nearly broke Abbott's own freshman school record at 1,500-meters, running 3:44.53 last year and reached the Pac-10 final in one of the deepest fields ever. After a successful first cross country season that say Bywater extend out easily to 8k and 10k, Metcalf has high hopes for Bywater's second go-round.

'Joey is better than he was a year ago and when it's all said and done I think he's got a chance to be the best 1,500-meter guy we've had here, if that's the direction we choose to go. First priority is being a sub-four-minute miler and I think indoors he's capable of doing that,' Metcalf says.

The top returner at 800-meters is Ryan Soberanis, a sophomore out of Camas, Wash. Soberanis ran a 1:50.52 indoors last year and was seventh in the 800m at the MPSF Championships. He could have his sights set on the Pac-10 final this year. Sophomore Ryan Styrk will look to step up as well, and Charlie Williams returns from a redshirt year after running some strong times as a true freshman.

I think Ryan Soberanis had a great fall training period and he's got a chance to be significantly better than he was a year ago and Ryan Styrk's a kid that's made steady progress and is running way better. He's poised to take the next step,' says Metcalf.

Freshman additions to the mid-distance group include Brad Whitley (Liberty Lake, Wash.), Brendon Confer (Orange, Calif.), and Gareth Gilna (Los Alamos, N.M.), one of the top high school milers last year. Freshman James Cameron out of Lake Forest, Calif. was the only newcomer to run in UW's top-seven in the fall, including a trip to the Pac-10 meet, and Metcalf feels he has big-time ability and range starting down at 800-meters or the mile.

The longer distances will be led by a group of veterans coming off impressive fall campaigns. Jake Schmitt, Kelly Spady, and Colton Tully-Doyle comprised UW's top-three in most cross country meets this fall, including the NCAA Championships, and all three should have some big PRs still left in them on the track.

Schmitt has the best track credentials of the bunch, as he earned All-America honors indoors last year with a ninth-place finish in the 5,000-meters. The senior from Kentfield, Calif. also made NCAA Outdoors in the 10,000-meters for the second year in a row, and is one of just three Huskies to run under 29-minutes in the 10k.

'Our long distance crew starts with Jake Schmitt. He was the MPSF Champion (at 5,000m) and has run under 14-minutes three separate times indoors last year which nobody in our program has ever done,' says Metcalf. 'He had a pretty good fall but for him I believe the cross country season will be just a prologue for the track season. Jake has big goals and we're just going to keep him healthy and headed in the right direction. I think Jake can go to both national meets and he can be an All-American.'

Spady, a product of Mukilteo, Wash., enjoyed his best cross country season in his final year, and led the Dawgs at NCAAs with a 65th-place finish. He ran the 5k at Pac-10s last year but could step up to the 10k this year as well. Staying healthy has been the only thing keeping Spady from qualifying for a Regional meet, and that should be within his grasp this season. Also possibly stepping up to the 10k is Jordan Swarthout, who was limited last spring but proved valuable this fall once again.

A number of Huskies made major transformations over the summer and fall, none moreso than Tully-Doyle, who led the team at cross country regionals in the fall, taking 18th, then ran second on the team at nationals. Having completed his cross country eligibility but still with two years remaining on the track, Tully-Doyle should become a factor this year. He grabbed eighth-place in the 3k last year at MPSFs, but his fitness is at a whole new level now.

'Colton had a great cross country season for him; he stayed healthy and was consistent,' said Metcalf. 'Colton is a legitimate threat to go score at the conference meet. Last year the conference meet indoors was just a glimpse of what he's capable of doing so I'm excited to see what he can do after a successful cross country season.'

Cameron Quackenbush (Spokane, Wash.) ran at his first Pac-10 track meet last spring and then had his most consistent fall, finishing up as UW's No. 4 runner at the national meet. That could set him up for his most consistent spring. Fellow sophomore Max O'Donoghue-McDonald (Seattle, Wash.) returned in the fall from a year of difficult recovery and rehab related to a foot injury and looked to be nearly back to his old self. The Seattle Prep grad still possesses one of the highest ceilings on the team.

'Max had a pretty good fall getting back into the routine, and Max is the guy both at 1500 and 5k that I think has a chance to really run fast and make an impact. I think he can run 14-minutes or better at the 5k and we'll see what he does at the 1,500m distance. Max is a very talented young man and I'm excited to see him go run races again,' said Metcalf.

A number of other young Huskies saw their first serious action on the cross country trails in the fall and that should translate into bigger and better things this spring. Sophomore David McCary has impressed Metcalf with his improvement and has the most experience in the steeplechase, an event Metcalf thinks McCary could score in at Pac-10s. Rob Webster Jr. had his best fall and could also be a steeple candidate. Along with the mid-distance frosh, Bryan Tibaduiza from Reno, Nev. is a touted new addition at the long distances and will get an early look.

The loaded women's distance roster will be examined on Tuesday.

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