Herberg Captures Pac-12 Cross Country Title
UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. – Haley Herberg decided to run her race and make the rest of the Pac-12 Conference respond. The junior opened up a lead of fifty meters over the rest of the field early, and then when one runner finally pulled even in the homestretch, Herberg stayed strong, dug in, and pulled back away to win the conference cross country title.
Herberg's wire-to-wire triumph was the highlight for Washington today as both teams finished third overall at Chambers Creek Park, where the Huskies hosted the Pac-12 Cross Country Championships for the first time since 2010.
Washington's women's squad was without some of its top runners today, as Allie Schadler was rested to prepare for the NCAA Indoor Track Championships next week, and All-American Mel Smart was a late scratch. But Herberg chose to make today her moment to shine. The Mission Viejo, Calif. native stretched out to a big lead from the get-go and fended off Stanford's Ella Donaghu to cross the line first in 19-minutes, 2.5-seconds, with Donaghu second in 19:09.
PAC-12 CHAMPION!!! ????
— Washington Track & Field (@UWTrack) March 5, 2021
Herberg, a former Big 12 Cross Country Newcomer of the Year at Oklahoma before joining the Dawgs, is the fifth Husky to win the conference title and the first since Amy-Eloise Neale in 2016.
"The plan was to be aggressive from the start and get a good position," said Herberg. "But I was envisioning top-five or so, so to be in the lead wasn't exactly the plan, but I went with it."
Some encouragement from her coaches and some positive self-talk kept Herberg forging ahead.
"I did not dare look back, but I could start to tell where people were from hearing the cheering. Andy and Maurica were giving me a lot of cues. Maurica was pumping me up and Andy was giving me technical stuff to stay focused. During the race I was just happy with how I was racing, so I thought if someone takes this race I'm still going to be happy with how I ran today. There was no bad outcome that could come from it, so I had some good positive mental talk in the race."
With the finish line in sight, Herberg finally found another runner alongside her, but she never lost the lead.
"This is a long straightaway, over four-hundred meters, and it was hurting at that point so I wasn't sure, I thought she might take it from me, but I just kicked it into gear with a little over a hundred to go. It's super thrilling."
"??h?? ???????? ?????? ???? ???????? ???? ?????? ???????????????????? ?????? ?????? ???????????????????? ??h?? ??h?????? ??????, ???? ???? ??h???? ???????????? ???? ???????? ???? ????????." It sure did!! ??#GoHuskies pic.twitter.com/Rsij1DiJR9
— Washington Track & Field (@UWTrack) March 6, 2021
The women's team had several runners step up today to secure the third-place finish without all their pieces.
Freshman Naomi Smith will earn All-Pac-12 Second Team honors as she took 14th-place today in a time of 19:59. The third Husky across the line was Madison Heisterman, finishing 21st in 20:11 and another big run came from sophomore Andrea Markezich, 23rd in her first Pac-12 meet in 20:12. Kelly Makin capped the scoring with a strong kick to finish 27th in 20:19. Camila David-Smith was 32nd, Hannah Waskom finished 34th, and Kiera Marshall was 55th.
"It was a really inspiring team performance," said Director Maurica Powell. "We made a decision prior to the race to hold out Allie Schadler, with the hope that with a national qualification for our team that she can run 3k (at NCAA Indoors) then come back and help us two days later. Melany Smart was a late scratch. So we were limited on the bus coming over here and the message was everyone has to be their best self. We were eight-for-eight in best selves today. This has been brewing for them since the fall to have this team performance and so hopefully this gives them some momentum."
Powell said of Herberg, "She was so confident, and so poised, and so tough. She was not going to be denied today. It was very windy warming up and maybe people wanted to sit back, but the wind died down and she felt that it was calm so she just ripped it. It was brilliant on her part."
Fifth-ranked Stanford won its second-straight Pac-12 title with 30 points, followed by sixth-ranked Colorado with 50 and then the 12th-ranked Huskies with 85 points. 24th-ranked Oregon State was fourth, then Washington State finished fifth with 164.
In the men's race, the Huskies packed up and had five runners together in the top-15 late in the 8,000-meter race. Junior Isaac Green wound up with a career-best seventh-place finish to lead the way for the Huskies, crossing in 23-minutes flat, as he will earn All-Pac-12 First Team honors for the first time in his career.
Then UW had two Pac-12 rookies make great debuts. Redshirt freshman Luke Houser was 10th in a time of 23:04. True freshman Leo Daschbach, running his first collegiate race of any kind today, made a major impact as he was 12th in 23:08.
The fourth scorer was senior Tibebu Proctor, who came across in 17th-place in 23:24, then redshirt freshman Joe Waskom capped the scoring in 20th with a time of 23:32, just a second ahead of Alex Slenning who was 21st in 23:34. Isaac Mohn had a solid run today in 30th-place in 23:47 and Gavin Parpart rounded out the lineup in 44th-place.
— Washington Track & Field (@UWTrack) March 5, 2021
The fourth-ranked Cardinal got the men's title today as well, with ninth-ranked Colorado just edging out the eighth-ranked Huskies for second. Colorado scored 60 points today and the Huskies scored 66. From there it was a huge gap back to fourth-place Oregon with 139 points.
"They ran really well," said men's Head Coach Andy Powell. "At one point we had five guys pretty deep in the race running right next to each other. They took a swing and they tried to win, I think it was pretty close with us and Stanford at one point, but unfortunately we faded a little down the final straightaway and settled for third. But a really strong performance against two teams that are definitely top-10 in the country.
"Some really good performances from Isaac Green and Luke Houser, and then our freshman Leo really had the performance of the day for us. For a true freshman to step in and have that be his first race is really remarkable."
Both Husky teams will now await their NCAA fate in an unprecedented format where a selection committee will choose all the at-large teams this year, with no NCAA Regional meets on the schedule.
"I think this was a good showing to give us a good chance to go to the NCAA meet, and I think the committee will like how our team performed today," Powell said.