For the second year in a row, a member of Stanford’s women’s cross-country team claimed the individual Pac-12 title. Junior Aisling Cuffe continued her stellar season with a victory in the women’s 6-kilometer competition. Despite Cuffe’s standout race and junior Jim Rosa’s second-place finish in the men’s 8-kilometer race, however, both the men’s and women’s teams left Colorado without team victories as the No. 13 men’s team finished third and the No. 20 women’s team finished a disappointing fifth at the Pac-12 Championships.
Cuffe ensured that there was very little drop-off in talent at the top of the women’s squad after the departure of reigning individual champion Kathy Kroeger ’13 with her victory in 21:04. Cuffe pulled away from the pack during a powerful final two kilometers, outpacing all of her competitors by over 10 seconds.
Joining Cuffe in the top 10 of the women’s race was senior Jessica Tonn (21:37), who finished in ninth place after starting strong but faltering slightly in the last leg of the race in the high-altitude environment of Louisville, Colo.
“A lot of kids are scared of the altitude,” Cuffe told GoStanford.com. “We went out pretty slow, and I don’t mind if the race goes out slow. My plan is to run the first part of my race in my comfort zone and slowly build up and pick people off who go out too fast too early.”
After Cuffe and Tonn, however, none of Stanford’s other runners finished in the top 30 individually. The victorious Arizona women’s team finished three runners in the top 10 and runner-up Colorado ended up with five runners in the top 30.
In the men’s competition, Rosa (24:42) finished just six seconds behind Edward Cheserek (24:36) of Oregon after going neck and neck with him for the first six kilometers. The runner-up finish served as Rosa’s third individual top-three finish of the season, with the only exception being his 13th place showing at Pre-Nationals last month.
Behind Rosa, the remainder of Stanford’s contingent also ran several strong races to propel the Cardinal into third place at 79 points behind No. 1 Colorado (28 points) and No. 4 Oregon (54 points), who finished first and second, respectively.
Four Cardinal runners finished in the top 20, with Rosa being trailed by seniors Erik Olson (11th place in 25:23), Michael Atchoo (12th place in 25:30) and Tyler Stutzman (20th place in 25:50). However, nobody could outrun the top-ranked Colorado team that placed five runners in the top ten and cruised to a second consecutive conference meet victory.
Highly-touted freshman Sean McGorty, who kept pace with the top 10 through the first six kilometers, was forced to drop out of the race late due to an illness and was unable to follow up his fifth-place finish at Pre-Nationals with what would presumably have been another top-20 finish for the Cardinal.
Despite the solid performances for the men and the largely disappointing showing for the women, both teams know that the most important challenges still lie ahead in the NCAA West Regionals and NCAA Championships later this month.
“We were really happy with how we ran,” Rosa told GoStanford.com. “But we also know this isn’t the race we’re trying to do our best. We don’t want to get too high or too low at this point.”
The teams will rest their top runners at the Doc Adams Invitational in Davis, Calif., this coming Saturday before putting their seasons on the line at the NCAA Regionals a week later, at which they will hope to qualify for the NCAA Championships.
Contact Do-Hyoung Park at dpark027 ‘at’ stanford.edu.