This weekend the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) Championship starts off its 21st year of competition, but more importantly, this weekend marks an opportunity for the Stanford women’s track and field team to bring home its ninth MPSF title.
With the final trip this season to the Dempsey Indoor Track at the University of Washington in Seattle, the women’s conference crown will be challenged by highly ranked competitors, Oregon and Arizona State, while the men try to reclaim their 2010-11 MPSF title from the Sun Devils.
The Stanford women, currently ranked 16th by the U.S. Track and Field Coaches Association with 45.98 overall indoor season points, are currently over 100 points behind the second-ranked Oregon women, who boast an outrageous 151.95 team points.
The numbers, though, do not do the Cardinal justice. Freshman Amy Weissenbach, who recently ran the school’s second-fastest indoor 800 time ever, is not so much a secret threat as she is a double threat. An obvious competitor for the 800-meter title, Weissenbach raced a 2:05.83 in the Husky Invitational last week. But in addition to her 800-meter dominance, Weissenbach, who has posted 1600-meter times as low as 4:52.01, could also pose a danger in the competitive mile.
Junior Captain Kori Carter currently holds the MPSF 60-meter hurdle indoor title and is in great position to snatch it again after having recently broken her own school record in the same event. Carter’s biggest competition will be Oregon sophomore English Gardner, who sprinted a time of 7.19 at Millrose Games in New York City in mid-February, tying for the second fastest in the nation this year.
“I think my biggest challenge [this weekend] will be focusing on the here and now, taking the race one hurdle at a time,” Carter said. “Getting caught up in the big picture is how you make mistakes.”
The women will face 14 other competitors, including No. 8 Arizona State and No. 11 Arizona, at the meet. The University of Hawaii women are a new addition to the conference this year, and although they are still considered underdogs, their talent in the distance events should not be overlooked.
Other key athletes for the Stanford women are Katie Nelms, Carter’s teammate in the 60-meter hurdles; senior Jessica Tonn, who put up a fantastic time in the 5,000 meter three weeks ago; and triple jumper Jordan Merback.
The Stanford men will look to regain their MPSF fame after it was stolen from them last year by the Sun Devils’ record-breaking 50 point-margin of victory. The distance events, a traditional stronghold for the Cardinal because of athletes like junior distance runner Michael Atchoo, senior sprinter Spencer Chase and sophomore distance runner Luke Lefebure, will single-handedly be challenged by one man this weekend: Arizona junior Lawi Lalang.
Lalang is the reigning MPSF Athlete of the Year and is at the top of the mile with a time of 3:54.56 and the 3,000-meter with a time of 7:42.79, ranking second and first respectively in the country this year.
The men do have one trick up their sleeve, though, with the top distance medley relay time in the conference and the third-highest rank in the NCAA at 9:34.20. Last year, the Stanford men finished with a total of 81.5 points. This year, they not only hope to beat that, but to overtake Arizona for the title.
There’s no doubt, though, that the Stanford team will be ready for the challenge from the first event on Friday to the final event on Saturday.