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Track: On-track in Washington

Not too far into the so-called “Miltenberg Era,” the Cardinal has already made an intimidating impression, demonstrating its potential for the spring. This past weekend, the men and women returned to the 307-feet unbanked Dempsey Track at the University of Washington in Seattle where they had so easily dominated two weeks earlier. Whereas it was the Stanford accomplishments in the distance races that made headlines last time, this time the Cardinal success in the field events was the story to tell.

The biggest results were from senior high jumper Jules Sharpe, sophomore pole-vaulter Katie Zingheim and senior long jumper Karynn Dunn. Sharpe notably pulled off Stanford’s only first-place finish with a remarkable season best of 7’1.5”, towering over most in his field.

Especially looking ahead to outdoor season, Stanford head coach Chris Miltenberg expects the high jump to be one of the biggest ways for the Cardinal to score points. Zingheim and Dunn both finished in the ever-frustrating second place, but sealed their tickets to one of the biggest meets of the indoor season: the Husky Classic. Dunn hopes to continue her reign after her fourth-place finish in the high jump at the 2012 NCAA Indoor Championships.

Stanford had to fight harder for its race wins this time, facing solid competition from fellow Pac-12 contenders UCLA and Oregon. The Ducks’ distance strength has yet to fail them, with first place finishes in the women’s 800 meter and distance medley. In addition, they swept both the men’s and women’s 4×400 meter relay, with times of 3:10.83 and 3:40.09, respectively.

After this meet, though, Oregon’s hold on women’s event titles is less certain: the Stanford 4×400 team, led by senior sprinter Joy O’Hare and junior sprinter Kori Carter, finished not far behind with 3:46.03. Carter, the defending Mountain Pacific Sports Federation champion, finished barely second behind unattached Sasha Wallace in her first 60-meter hurdles race of the season.

After finishing the race in 8.24 seconds, Carter was elated, saying, “I actually got a good start, which never happens, so I was pumped through the finish.”

In her collegiate 400-meter debut, freshman sprinter Kristyn Williams put on an amazing show with third-place finish behind senior Jordan Carlson of Washington and senior Alima Kamara of California in the invitational race.

The men’s sprinters, on the other hand, have struggled as they’ve been plagued by losses and injuries. The absence of freshman Olympian sprinter Steven Solomon, possibly out for the rest of the season with injury, has hindered the team’s ability to put together consistent relays. The Cardinal has also sorely missed the national championship experience of senior middle distance runner Dylan Ferris, the lone returning 2012 All-American for the team.

Despite the inconsistency, Miltenberg continues to emphasize the importance of establishing a routine. Junior captain distance runner Jessica Tonn, right after a speedy finish of 9:10 in the 3k invitational race, explained, “[As a team,] we haven’t done a lot of speed work. We’ve mainly been building anaerobically.”

The distance men did not let the fact that they were often competing with experienced professionals affect their performances in the highly prestigious invitational races. Experienced sophomore distance writer Luke Lefebure definitely can’t complain after running an 800-meter time of 1:51.34, three seconds longer than the all-time meet record for the event. He crossed the line after two professionals and an Oregon racer, similarly to senior captain sprinter Spencer Chase’s dramatic finish in the open 400 with a season best of 49.27.

This weekend the team will travel to the Armory in New York City and hope to take advantage of a rare chance to run against East Coast competitors. There are only four more weeks left until the USA Track and Field Championships, and even though the Cardinal is still not ready, after this past weekend, it is one giant step closer.