With just one race remaining before the national meet, Washington will take its two ranked cross country teams south down I-5 to Springfield, Oregon to compete in the NCAA West Regional Championships, hosted by Oregon this Saturday morning.

The top-ranked Husky women’s team will be looking to defend its Regional crown with a controlled effort, as they are virtually assured of an NCAA bid. The 17th-ranked men’s team is also in a solid spot for nationals but must run well on Saturday to solidify that spot.

The top-two finishing teams in both the men’s and women’s races earn automatic spots at the NCAA Championships, which are just nine days after Regionals on Nov. 23 in Terre Haute, Indiana. The West Region is one of nine Regions across the country, which account for 18 auto qualifiers, then 13 at-large spots are awarded to round out the field.

Oregon hosts the Regional meet in nearby Springfield, at the Springfield Country Club. The men’s race will be up first at 9:45 a.m. Regionals marks the first race where the standard men’s distance increases from 8,000 to 10,000 meters, the same length as the national meet. The 6,000-meter women’s race will follow at 10:45 a.m.

The No. 1 Husky women are coming off a Pac-10 title run two weeks ago in Long Beach, California. They’ve won 10 consecutive races, but the recent Pac-10 win was the closest of any of those 10. The Huskies outkicked the Oregon Ducks down the stretch, and will face the 5th-ranked Ducks again on Saturday. Oregon has the home course advantage, but the last time UW ran at the Springfield Country Club they swept the 2008 Pac-10 Championships, and Kendra Schaaf set the course record.

Both the men’s and women’s fields include 28 teams, highlighted by each of the Pac-10 squads. The No. 1-ranked Stanford men will be favored, and are followed in the rankings by No. 3 Oregon, No. 7 Portland, No. 13 Arizona State, and the Huskies at No. 17. Cal Poly and UCLA are also receiving votes. After Washington on the women’s side comes No. 5 Oregon, No. 14 Stanford, No. 16 Arizona State, No. 24 Arizona, and No. 27 California.

Last year the women cruised to the Regional title with a tight pack of five women finishing in a row from third through seventh-place, led by Christine Babcock. Junior Mel Lawrence (4th last year) and senior Katie Follett (5th) return from UW’s top-five last year. Schaaf rested at Regionals last year but will be running on Saturday. Junior Kailey Campbell and freshmen Kayla Evans and Lindsay Flanagan are also expected to compete.

Senior Kelly Spady is UW’s top returner for the men. He was 24th last year and fellow senior Jake Schmitt was right behind in 26th. Junior Jordan Swarthout is coming off his best race of the year at Pac-10’s, placing 30th, and was 36th a year ago. Senior Colton Tully-Doyle could see a big one year jump, as he was 100th one year ago but has been UW’s No. 2 finisher at every race this year. While the lineup may change, it would be the first 10k run for Joey Bywater, David McCary, James Cameron, and Cameron Quackenbush, while Max O’Donoghue-McDonald will run his first since the 2007 Regional meet.

The full NCAA Championships field will be announced on NCAA.com this Sunday.

The Husky women’s cross country team continues to hold down the No. 1 ranking in the country, pulling in 10 of the 12 first place votes for 357 points in the most recent poll released by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) following the conference championships. For the first time all year, two voters saw fit to drop the Huskies from the top spot after UW had a close win at Pac-10s, and Villanova picked up two first-place votes. The Huskies were the unanimous preseason No. 1 and have held the top spot since last October 7th, following their win at the Auburn Invitational.

After UW and Villanova, No. 3 is held by Florida, No. 4 by Princeton and No. 5 by Oregon. The Huskies have already defeated all three of those teams. Other ranked Pac-10 teams include No. 14 Stanford, No. 16 Arizona State, No. 24 Arizona and No. 27 California. The Husky men’s team is currently 17th heading into Regionals, down slightly from their seasno-high No. 13. The men started the year at 24th, then climbed to 22nd after the Sundodger, and made a big leap up to 14th following their Notre Dame victory. Washington will face three Top-10 teams at West Regionals in No. 1 Stanford, No. 3 Oregon, and No. 7 Portland.

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