Sophomore enjoys stellar season for track
Stanford track and field has gained its fame through its elite distance program. As a perennial threat to win national championships in cross country and indoor and outdoor track, the marathon men known informally as “The Machine” have often cast a shadow over the other, lesser-known parts of the team.
Enter sophomore Dylan Ferris, the best Stanford runner you’ve never heard of.
Ferris, an emerging middle distance star, has taken the Farm and the nation by storm. With both a sub-four-minute mile and a new personal record in the 800 meters under his belt, the North Carolina native has added previously missing depth to a Cardinal team with lofty goals.
“What we’re trying to do is create a broad team,” Ferris said. “We want people scoring in the 10k as well as the 100 [meters]. Stanford is obviously known for its distance, and we have a great history and great distance runners. But there are only so many things we can do with distance runners in track.”
Ferris grew up in a rural area near the Tri-City region of North Carolina. He started running competitively in seventh grade, practicing twice a week in preparation for a weekly competition. He soon blossomed into an elite high school runner, winning the North Carolina title in the 800 meters from 2006 through 2008 as well as in the 1,600 meters in 2007 and 2008.
As one of the nation’s middle distance high school stars, Ferris recalled the thrilling yet grueling recruiting process.
“It was really exciting having people wanting you to come to their school,” he said. “But it started getting tedious. The biggest thing for me was coming to a school where weather wasn’t going to bother me. Also, when I started thinking about my future after running, Stanford was the best because a degree from Stanford was better than a degree from the other schools.”
During his freshman year, Ferris says that he struggled at times to adjust to the college scene. As he tried to balance the Stanford academic workload with the grueling practices of coach Jason Dunn, he was unable to meet his personal expectations for his first year on campus.
“I definitely fell short of what I wanted to do,” he said. “I spent the whole year pretty much getting my ass kicked by my teammates. When I came to races, I fell short of what I wanted to do.
“But I got a lot of experience and ideas of what college was like in general,” he continued. “I’m definitely in a much better place. The help that I got last year and the strength that I’ve gained this year have made a tremendous difference in my training.”
This difference has been evident from the get-go. At the Texas A&M Challenge in late January, Ferris ran a personal best in the 800 meters, finishing with a time of 1:48.67, good enough for second on Stanford’s all-time indoor list. Then, just a few weeks later at the Husky Classic in Seattle, Ferris won the second heat of the mile in a blazing time of 3:58.90, the sixth fastest time in Cardinal history.
He then proceeded to net his first All-America honor at the NCAA Indoor Championships, finishing eighth in the mile. When asked which of the three personal achievements was the most special, Ferris was quick to respond.
“I’m really happy that I ran under four minutes for the mile. Everyone knows what that means,” he said.
As the outdoor season progresses and the competition heats up, Ferris continues to work. Unfazed by an undesirable team performance at NCAA Indoors, he looks toward the future, setting lofty goals for both himself and his teammates.
“This year, I definitely want to be at [the NCAA Championships] and be in the top four or five guys in the country in either the [800 meters] or the [1500 meters], whatever I can do,” Ferris said. “I want to win NCAAs and hopefully be part of a nasty distance medley relay team, and just be able to run cross country as well in the next three seasons.”
Each Sunday, he tags along with the distance runners for their weekly long run. With Ferris’s help, the distance guys, along with the rest of the Stanford team, could be within reach of their ultimate goal — a national championship.
“I want to be a big presence on the team, score points and hopefully be part of something bigger than myself,” Ferris said. “And that is by winning a team title.”