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Track and field heads to Pac-12 Championships

After another long year of competing and training during the cross country, indoor and outdoor seasons, the end is in sight for Stanford track and field team as it enters the final championship meet stretch of the 2013-2014 season. The Cardinal will travel to Pullman, Washington, this weekend for the outdoor Pac-12 Championships, and although team conference championships for the men and women are unlikely, Stanford will be in a good position to qualify its athletes for the upcoming NCAA Prelims. Several athletes will also be in contention for individual conference championships.

Sophomore Steven Solomon (above), a 2012 Olympic finalist in the 400, will be one of the favorites to win an individual conference title at the Pac-12 Championships in Pullman, Washington.(NORBERT VON DER GROEBEN/The Stanford Daily)

Sophomore Steven Solomon (above), a 2012 Olympic finalist in the 400 and the defending Australian national champion in the event, will be one of the favorites to win an individual conference title at the Pac-12 Championships in Pullman, Wash. (NORBERT VON DER
GROEBEN/isiphotos.com)

Stanford’s women have notched individual conference championships each of the last 17 seasons — marking a conference high — and will be looking to extend that streak with the talented entrants that they bring to the table this weekend.

Leading the charge will be junior Aisling Cuffe, who will likely be an overwhelming favorite to take home the conference title in the 5,000 meters, as she has only gotten better in the event as the year has progressed. A series of standout showings from Cuffe culminated in an eye-popping performance at the Payton Jordan Invitational two weekends ago, when she ran a 15:11.13 to become the third-fastest collegian in history. Thus, she will almost certainly improve on her sixth-place performance and 16:37.12 in the event last year, and Cuffe is a lock to qualify for nationals. Finally, Cuffe figures to have a big impact in the 1,500 as well.

Senior Jessica Tonn will also be counted on to contribute a stellar performance in the 5,000, which is expected to be one of the Cardinal’s strongest events this weekend. Tonn finished fifth individually at the conference championships in the event last season with her 15:54.90, and the talented distance runner will also make an impact in the 10,000 if she runs in that event as well.

Another event in which Stanford looks to be in good shape is the women’s 800, which features the dynamic duo of sophomores Amy Weissenbach and Claudia Saunders. Weissenbach finished sixth in the 800 at NCAAs as a freshman last season and is second on Stanford’s all-time list in the 800, behind just Justine Fedronic. She is always a threat to improve on that time and will look to do so this weekend. Saunders is also not far behind Weissenbach and will look to qualify for the Pac-12 finals — and beyond — after barely missing out on the Pac-12 finals cut last season.

Stanford’s chances in the sprints took a significant hit when sophomores Kaitlyn Williams and Kristyn Williams both had to drop out of the field due to injuries. Kristyn Williams has rapidly emerged as one of the premier sprinting threats in the country, while setting multiple school and personal records in the 400 since her arrival on the Farm last year. The loss of the sisters will also mean that Stanford’s chances of having an impact in the 4×400 relay will take a hit as well.

In the field events, junior Brianna Bain will be one of the favorites to win in the javelin, while freshman Valerie Allman will look to continue to build on an outstanding freshman campaign.

For the men, there is nowhere to go but up after their last-place finish as a team in last year’s conference championships. While a team title is almost certainly out of the question, however, many of the individuals on the team are primed to have fantastic races to qualify for the upcoming NCAAs.

Sophomore Steven Solomon will be one of the favorites in the 400, but will likely qualify for the NCAA Prelims regardless due to the 45.65 that he ran at the Red Raider Open two weekends ago. After winning the Australian national championship in April, he will look to make his mark on U.S. soil. Solomon will also compete in the 4×400 relay.

The 800 will likely bring a stellar performance from junior Luke Lefebure, who has been steadily cutting down on his personal record in the last few weeks. Meanwhile, in the 1,500, the duo of senior Michael Atchoo and fifth-year senior Tyler Stutzman are likely to have stellar races, which could be complemented by strong performances from senior Marco Bertolotti and sophomore Justin Brinkley.

The Rosa twins — juniors Jim and Joe — will again be threats in the 5,000, looking to build on successful cross-country and indoor seasons to culminate in big showings this weekend. Senior Erik Olson has also been a solid 5,000 runner in his career and is set to improve on his 17th-place performance in last season’s meet.

Finally, the Cardinal appear primed to make a statement in the pole vault, an event that freshman Dylan Duvio has shined in this season.

The Pac-12 Championships will kick off on Saturday in Pullman, with the field events starting at noon and the running events starting at 1 p.m. The meet will be shown on tape delay on the Pac-12 Networks on Sunday, May 25 at 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Contact Do-Hyoung Park at dpark027@stanford.edu.

About Do-Hyoung Park

Do-Hyoung Park is the Head Copy Editor at The Stanford Daily. Even though he is finally able to get into R-rated movies now, he instead chooses to spend his time writing half the sports section every week. Do-Hyoung is a sophomore originally from Seoul, South Korea and raised in Saint Paul, Minnesota pursuing a major in chemical engineering. To contact him, please email him at dpark027 'at' stanford.edu.