Updated: Apr 8
Recruit rankings data has been manually collected by TSR contributors from multiple, reliable sources. Transfers and foreign recruits who are not expected to have four years of eligibility are excluded from these rankings. Order of rankings was decided by all TSR contributors. Despite our research, it is possible that certain names have been erroneously omitted.
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The Washington Huskies saw a huge influx of fresh faces last year, led by a pair of new leaders at the helm – Maurica and Andy Powell. This husband and wife duo had done wonders at the University of Oregon with the women’s and men’s distance programs, respectively, and transformed the Huskies' distance group in just their first year.
Powells added experienced and accomplished assistant coaches to their staff such as Chris Kwiatkowski, and volunteers Matthew Centrowitz, Alli Cash, Sam Prakel, and Amos Bartlesmeyer. With the exception of Bartlesmeyer, all of those assistant coaches were mentored by the Powells during their time at Oregon. It would be inexcusable to mention this recruiting class without recognizing the environment that drew them to Seattle in the first place.
That environment also includes athletes who have shattered records and erupted onto the NCAA stage. Isobel Batt-Doyle took an impressive 3rd place in the 10,000 meters at Outdoor Nationals while Allie Schadler and Emily Hamlin also both qualified for the national meet. In cross country, the team had it’s best finish in seven years with a 9th place result at the NCAA Championships, led by Oregon transfers Katie Rainsberger and Lilli Burdon.
But this article isn’t about them! It’s about a stellar class of first-year recruits that look to continue the Huskies’ ascent to the top of the NCAA ranks.
It's important to note that there was quite a bit of debate with this group. On paper, they didn't have the same depth as a team like Cal Baptist or Oregon State and not all of their recruits appeared to be athletes who could provide immediate scoring to the Huskies. However, the counter to that is Washington will be adding a few superstar recruits who are capable of making some serious noise. These women not only have the ability to be immediate scorers for the team, but they could easily end up as All-Americans...and maybe even national champions. For that reason, Washington vaulted to #2 in our rankings.
Carley Thomas of New South Wales, Australia leads these incoming freshmen, bringing two U20 World Championship silver medals to Seattle. Thomas was runner-up in the 800 meters at those championships in Finland before running an important leg of the Aussie’s 4x400 relay that also earned silver.
Her time? 2:01.13.
No, that's not a typo.
That 2:01.13 would have won the NCAA Championships in 2019, and would make her the second fastest collegian by PR in 2020 (Caitlin Collier of Stanford has run 2:00.85). Thomas’ 2019 campaign has been equally strong as she placed 4th in the Australian Senior Championships in 2:02.74. She'll be aiming to qualify for the IAAF World Championships and the 2020 Olympics.
Thomas currently sits at 46th in the World Rankings at the 800 meter distance, higher than all current collegiates (although that is expected since she races in meets that are at a higher level in the IAAF rankings). The incoming Australian should be able to make a huge impact while at Washington and could be considered a favorite for the NCAA title based on her PR's alone.
Joining Thomas from Australia is Melany Smart. Smart recently doubled as the 2019 U20 Oceania champion in the 3000 meters and 5000 meters, running 9:34 and 16:17, respectively. She was also the Australian U20 champion at 5k. If anyone knows how to win, it's her.
In addition to the Australian’s Oceania Championship experience, Smart has represented her country at the 2017 Commonwealth Youth Games where she placed 6th in the 3000 meters and 5th in the 1500 meters. Those games were held in July, almost four months after the normal outdoor track season in Australia.
But let's side aside championship experience. What about her times?
In 2019, Smart has not raced at 1500 or 800 meters, but she has PR's of 4:21 and 2:08 in those events, making her one of the better middle distance recruits in the NCAA this year...even though those aren't her best events. Smart also comes into Washington with PR's of 16:08 and 9:12, times that could put her into the All-American conversation if she makes only minor improvements.
Smart will likely remain at the 3k, 5k, and 10k distances while at Washington and will be adding to the cross country pack which is likely aiming to win PAC-12 and NCAA titles. At the same time, she has the finishing speed to be a contender in any sit-and-kick affair.
The American contingent of the Washington recruiting class is led by Marlena Preigh who is peaking at the right time in 2019, setting her PR in the 800 meters at the U20 Outdoor Championships with a time of 2:06.31. Preigh was not able to repeat that result in the final where she placed 4th in 2:08, but she also ran 2:06.70 for 4th at the Brooks PR meet to show that she isn't just a one-race wonder.
Overall, Preigh is a three-time Colorado state champion, twice at 800 meters and once at the 1600 meters. Preigh’s 1600 PR is 4:52, but given her 800 speed, it is expected that she will remain at the shorter distance. Preigh’s 2019 time for the half-mile ranks her at #10 on the US High School Descending Order List. She will need to make a few slight improvements to make an impact at the NCAA level, but Washington provides a great opportunity for her to drop into the 2:03-2:04 realm (or below). We should also note that Preigh becomes increasingly more valuable when you think about how she could be used on a DMR.
Makenna Schumacher of Portland, Oregon will also be joining the Huskies in Seattle. Makenna did not run the 2019 indoor or outdoor track seasons, and last competed at the Nike Cross Nationals where she placed 71st. Schumacher’s best track result is an Oregon state title in the 3000 meters where she ran 9:42 in 2017. Schumacher went on to defend her title in 2018. Is that not good enough? Well, she also won the 2017 Oregon state cross country title. Simply put, she's a winner.
Schumacher’s best 5k on the grass was a 17:12 from the 2018 regular season. On the track, Schumacher has also run 2:17 for 800 meters and 4:32 for 1500 meters. Predicting that Schumacher will make an immediate impact at the NCAA level is probably a stretch, but her achievements in the 3000 meters could potentially make her a competitive steeplechaser in the future. The biggest challenge for Schumacher will be returning to the track after a season away - whether that was for injury or other reasons.
Oh, and just for kicks, Schumacher is the daughter of legendary Coach Jerry Schumacher who currently leads Bowerman Track Club.
Washington’s final signee on the women’s distance side is Andrea Markezich who will be staying in state. Markezich’s best result is a 10:43 over 3200 meters, but she also has a personal record of 5:03 for 1600 meters. The Washington high schooler has not had the best success in cross country, having never qualified for a national meet, but it may be the avenue for her success moving forward. Markezich lacks the pure speed of Washington’s other recruits, so expect her to find a home at the 5k and 10k alongside the grass. Her personal best of 10:43 should not be overlooked in a recruiting class that is stacked with talent.
The Powells have created success with Oceania representatives before, with Jessica Hull and Lilli Burdon representing Australia and New Zealand respectively, and they have gone back to that route with this class. Clearly, the Powells know how to coach Olympic-level athletes, including Washington volunteer coach Matthew Centrowitz, and they could be adding another one with Carley Thomas’ signing.
Thomas and Melany Smart will be the Washington headliners for years to come, but don’t be surprised to see Preigh catch some attention. The Huskies' first-year success won’t be the most evident in cross country given that two of their top three signees focus on the 800 meters, so be patient for January and February which is when we'll get to see the true impact of this class.