Stanford’s cross country teams went into Madison on Friday with high hopes for one of the largest meets of the season, the Wisconsin Adidas Invitational. The deep field included six top-10 teams for both the men and women–overall, 20 women’s teams were ranked, along with 19 on the men’s side. In addition, the No. 8 Cardinal men had to race against top-ranked Wisconsin, which was down two top runners, and the No. 7 Cardinal women competed against Pac-12 rivals No. 2 Arizona and No. 3 Washington.
But in a giant meet that had a more chaotic atmosphere than a typical cross country race and officials had to yell numerous times for spectators to stay behind the white boundary lines, the Stanford men pulled off an upset for new coach Chris Miltenberg, edging past No. 5 Iona by 10 points to win the race. And the women showed off their firepower as well, finishing in second place as a team.
For the men’s 8-kilometer race, the early pace was almost pedestrian as several runners stayed with the heavily favored Arizona duo of Lawi Lalang and Stephen Sambu. But after the first 5 kilometers, these two began to separate from the pack and went on to finish first and second, respectively. The conservative start paid off for Lalang as he lowered his course record from 2011 by eight seconds to 23:03, edging out his teammate by four seconds.
The Rosa twins had the best finishes for the Cardinal, with Jim placing 17th (23:44) and Joe 19th (also in 23:44). But the Cardinal men won because their pack stayed close together, as their next three runners finished within 20 seconds of the Rosas: Miles Unterreiner 23rd (23:46), Tyler Stuzman 36th (23:54) and Benjamin Johnson 48th (24:00).
The women, who actually ran first, also had a relatively slow start for their 6-kilometer race, as no one separated from the pack right away. But by the end of the first mile it was a freshman, Laura Hollander from Cal Poly, who took control of the race, opening up a wide gap on the rest of the more experienced field. Betsy Saina, who won the 10,000 meters outdoors at the Payton Jordan Invitational this spring, made a move to run down Hollander after the 4-kilometer point. But Hollander managed to hold on, despite taking the rare gamble of starting aggressively, winning with a time of 19:33 to Saina’s 19:35.
No. 5 Iowa State, led by Saina, ran away with the team competition, scoring 109 to No. 7 Stanford’s 181, No. 2 Arizona’s 242 and No. 3 Washington’s 252. The runner-up Cardinal were led by three-time All-American Kathy Kroeger, who finished 5th overall (19:46), and by freshman Cayla Hatton, who placed 4th in the 5,000 at the World Youth Championships this summer and 14th on Friday (20:02). The top five for Stanford was rounded out by Jessica Tonn, in 18th (20:05), Aisling Cuffe in 25th (20:08) and Marissa Perrante in 119th (20:55).
After the race, Kroeger and Hatton were very pleased with both how they ran their individual races and how the team finished. Hatton was apparently under the weather on race day. “I was feeling very, very sick, so considering, I’m extremely excited about how that went.” She also gave credit to her teammates for helping her be “composed” during her first major meet at Stanford.
Kroeger relayed the team’s race strategy. “We’ve just been working on staying composed and relaxed for the first 3K and gradually building through the last 3K,” she said. “So I just tried to stay back and keep my cool for the first half. And for the last half, every K I just try to pick it up a bit more and move toward the front. Yeah, it went well. I was happy to execute the race plan.”
On the heels of a big-time showing at Wisconsin, the men and women will both have to prove the race was no fluke when they compete next on Oct. 27 at Santa Clarita in the Pac-12 Championships.