Washington's Recruiting Success Goes Beyond U.S. Borders

* Australian Sophia O'Sullivan, the daughter of an Olympian, is headed for Washington in 2020

Photo Credit: Irish Mirror

By Garrett Zatlin - MileSplit Recruiting Correspondent

- - - 

Prior to the fall of 2018, the husband and wife combo of Andy and Maurica Powell were the masterminds behind the University of Oregon's distance running success.

The pair seemingly accomplished everything there was in the collegiate distance running world, coaching numerous national champions, producing a multitude of Olympians and building an endless list of All-American athletes.

However, in a shocking development that rocked the national coaching ranks, the Powells left Eugene in the summer of 2018 to oversee the track and field program at the University of Washington, with Maurica named as its 'Director of Track and Field and Cross Country' while Andy was billed as the 'Head Coach' of both programs. Titles, however, were less important than the work both were achieving in tandem. 

The Huskies had been a competitive program prior to the Powell's arrival, but what this duo brought to the table was a spark and an expectation for excellence.

Two years in, they've signed some of the country's most elite recruits.

With assistant coach Chris Kwiatowski spearheading the recruiting efforts, the Powells and Kwiatowski were able to put together one of its best recruiting classes in recent memory, scoring a handful of elite talents in the Class of 2019.

On the men's side, the Seattle-based program introduced Camas graduate (WA) Daniel Maton, Loudoun Valley alum (VA) Sam Affolder, Woodinville's (WA) Luke Houser, Mount Si standout (WA) Joe Waskom and New Zealand sub-four miler Sam Tanner.

As for the women, they brought in a group that included Australians Melany Smart and Carley Thomas and American talents like Fairview's (CO) Marlena Preigh, Jesuit's (OR) Makenna Schumacher and Bear Creek's (WA) Andrea Markezich.

In just a couple of months, Washington's track and field program were on track for a very promising future.

The intriguing part? The recruiting plan went beyond American borders. 

"You always kind of look towards the future and figure out where we see each of these kids fitting into the roster," recruiting coordinator and assistant Chris Kwiatowski told MileSplit. "I think it just makes everyone excited and creates a good atmosphere around the team."

But when you see the results of Washington's athletes, it's easy to understand why the Powells have been able to recruit the best of the best.

The men's group currently has five runners who have run under four minutes for the mile. Meanwhile, the women's team has become a well-rounded distance running juggernaut, with women like Katie Rainsberger, Smart, Thomas and Rio Rico (AZ) graduate Allie Schadler looking like potential All-Americans at the upcoming NCAA Indoor Championships.

Admittedly, the men's group has only secured two recruits so far in the Class of 2020, while the same can be said for the women's side (at least on the distance side).

However, those recruits aren't your standard high school seniors. Niwot's (CO) Cruz Culpepper and Highland's (AZ) Leo Daschbach have been on fire lately. 

Culpepper, the son of two Olympians, has been the one stealing headlines as of late, making multiple attempts to run under the four minute mile barrier and coming oh-so close, running a time of 4:00.10 in February -- on his future home track, The Dempsey. 

"I went out and watched him at his state meet," Kwiatowski told MileSplit. "I was really impressed with the way he conducted himself, how he warms up...he approaches his races like a champion. I didn't need to talk to him to see that."

Then there's Daschbach, who was the breakout athlete of the 2019 cross country season. He opened up his indoor season in February with a 4:05.96 effort in the mile -- US No. 2 -- before following this past week with a time of 1:52.38 for 800m outdoors. 

The 4:03 outdoor miler -- fastest among all returning seniors in 2020 -- looked like he was going to be a legitimate challenger to Newbury Park's (CA) Nico Young at NXN this past fall before an injury derailed the championship portion of his season.

Despite the injury, it's important to recognize just how dangerous Daschbach can be in a variety of other events.

In addition to his 4:03 PR, the Arizona native has run 1:51.99 for 800 meters, 8:51.09 for 3,200 meters and 14:14.26 for 5K on grass. 

"Leo has great range which is really exciting to see," Kwiatowski explained. "He can run sub-50 seconds in the 400 meters, but (can) also tear it up on the cross country course. He'll be great wherever we put him."

Then there's the women's recruits. 

* Sophie O'Sullivan was interviewed by a news outlet after the European U20 Championships

- - - 

Australian youth Sophie O'Sullivan, the daughter of Olympian Sonya O'Sullivan, will come to Seattle with an incredible PR of 2:03 for 800 meters. When paired with Thomas, a current freshman, the Washington women have the potential to do some serious damage in the middle distances over the next few seasons.

Then there is New Zealander Kirstie Rae, a 16:44 5K runner who finished 17th at the World U20 Cross Country Championships last fall. With Rainsberger set to graduate, Rae will be a perfect scoring complement next to Smart, another current freshman.

However, unlike Culpepper and Daschbach, Washington's women's recruits are international and hail from two countries that have produced great talents for the Powells over the years (most recently, Australian Jessica Hull).

"Maurica was the first one to really venture into those areas," Kwiatowski said. "[The Powells] have had a lot of success finding recruits from the Oceania region. Charlie Hunter, who's still at Oregon, was recruited by Andy and he's a 3:55 miler now. There's a really good running culture over there."

For those skimming MileSplit's list of collegiate commitments, it may be easy to see that Washington 'only' has two American distance recruits and might think nothing of it.

However, bringing in such absurdly strong talents like Culpepper and Daschbach and O'Sullivan and Rae validates the idea that Washington's first group of top-tier recruits from 2019 wasn't a fluke.

The Huskies are now going to be major players when it comes to securing elite distance talents.

It likely won't stop anytime soon.

- - - 

Washington's Class of 2020 Recruits

Daschbach, Leo
Highland HighUniversity of WashingtonDistance10/17/19>
Culpepper, CruzNiwot High SchoolUniversity of WashingtonDistance10/28/19>
Horn, KathleenGonzaga Preparatory SchoolUniversity of Washington11/18/19>