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Originally published Friday, November 14, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Huskies cross country taking it easy in final meet leading to NCAA Championships

The No. 1-ranked Washington women's cross country team could flop in the NCAA West regional championships Saturday at Palo Alto, Calif., and still advance to...

Seattle Times staff reporter

The No. 1-ranked Washington women's cross country team could flop in the NCAA West regional championships Saturday at Palo Alto, Calif., and still advance to the NCAA championships on Nov. 24.

But even though star freshman Kendra Schaaf and one other top runner will not compete Saturday, flopping isn't an option, coach Greg Metcalf says.

"We are not going to bomb," he said. "We're going to run well."

The Huskies, undefeated and winners of their first Pac-10 title since 1989, will ease up in the regional meet, though. Metcalf will take nine runners to the meet, but Schaaf and one other runner to be determined will not run Saturday.

Metcalf said he wants to rest Schaaf, who is healthy, for the national meet. He's not concerned about the Huskies qualifying for the NCAA championships in Terre Haute, Ind. The top two teams from each regional automatically advance, and the remaining field is selected by 13 at-large bids based on a point system. The Huskies have defeated enough tough competition, including second-ranked Oregon, to give them confidence.

"We'd like to have a relaxed meet," Metcalf said. "The only pressure would be qualifying for the next meet. If we do our thing, we have a shot to win, but we're going to change our personnel a little bit. We have great team depth, which allows us to make those decisions. Reality says if we're in the top five, we're still going to get to the national meet."

The 23rd-ranked UW men, who tied for third place at the Pac-10 championships, need a strong performance to advance. Metcalf will determine which seven runners will compete once the team arrives in California, as well as the other women's runner, in addition to Schaaf, who will sit this one out.

The women's 6,000-meter race begins at 11 a.m., the men's 10,000-meter competition at noon.

One UW runner who probably will be hard to contain is freshman Christine Babcock of Irvine, Calif. She began running with her mother, who competed in the 1984 Olympic marathon trials.

The entire family is planning to attend.

"Chris didn't run the first meet, so racing for her is still a very good thing," Metcalf said. "It's going to be fun, but she's a tremendous competitor. For her, she's going to go out and do her thing, and it doesn't matter if she's in California, Indiana or Alabama."

Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or jevans@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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