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XC Blog: Recapping the Washington Invitational

The Stanford cross country blog is back after a week off! There is much to talk about, so I will get right to it.

After impressive showings from both the men’s and women’s squads at the Stanford Invitational (Sept. 27), we took a group of seven men and 10 women to the brand-new Washington Invitational the very next weekend (Oct. 4). Our women placed second, and our men placed third at the event.

UW hosts many indoor track meets during the winter months (and does an excellent job, for what it is worth), but has never held an annual high-profile cross country invitational. If last Saturday was any indication, coach Greg Metcalf and his staff will need to reserve the Jefferson Park Golf Course for many years to come.

That is because Jefferson Park — which has a truly spectacular view of downtown Seattle — is a runner’s dream.  The course (the site of the 2010 Pac-10 Championship and 2012 NCAA West Regional Championship) was a series of two-kilometer loops along relatively flat fairways, a layout which gave way to some blistering times over the women’s six-kilometer and men’s eight-kilometer races.

The women’s race went off first at 11 a.m. local time, and true freshman Elise Cranny (making her Stanford cross country debut) almost immediately began to run where she belonged: at the front. Elise has an incredible mid-distance pedigree on the track, and flashed her barely-tapped endurance skills in a talented field at UW.

She stayed with the lead pack for most of the race, waiting until the final straightaway to make her move, easily outkicking her opponents over the last 600 or so meters to win by seven seconds. Elise was followed closely by sophomores Emma Fisher and Sophie Chase, as well as junior Rebecca Mehra, who finished 10-11-12 in the 115-woman field. Their ability to run in a pack is a crucial cross country skill, and bodes well for the team’s success as they move further into the season.

True freshmen Abbie McNulty and Claire Howlett also raced in the Cardinal and White for the first time, finishing in the top 25. The step up to six kilometers (from the regular five in high school) is certainly a big adjustment for these freshmen, but it is one everyone believes they will get used to quickly.

Shortly after the women’s race concluded, the men’s race got underway. Coach Chris Miltenberg told us in our pre-meet practice on Friday that there was no need to sprint the first 400 meters, and we took that advice to heart. We started off very conservatively, so much so that when Coach Milt saw us 600 meters into the race, he said something to the effect of, “Hey, fellas, you’re almost last. Let’s start moving up” (I, for one, got a chuckle out of that after the race).

And move up we did. The group of Garrett Sweatt, Jack Keelan, Mike Atchoo and Sam Wharton began to make their way to the front of the pack, working together the whole way as they picked-off runners one-by-one. Marco Bertolotti, Patrick Gibson and myself stayed a little further back, though we always had our eyes on our teammates’ jerseys and kept them within striking distance.

Garrett stayed strong in the second half of the race, ultimately finishing eighth and leading our team to a third-place finish behind Northern Arizona and Virginia (both of whom ran their full squads, while we sat out several of our top runners).

More important than the results, however, was the way that we competed. Coach Milt was fired-up by the way we executed the race plan: building intensity throughout and, in his words, “running into the burning building when everyone else is checking out.” For us, that means committing to being tough in the last half of the race when other competitors are fading.

After a really solid week of training and a relaxing weekend on campus, we are off to the Wisconsin Invitational today (with the races slated for Friday morning); Wisconsin is perennially one of, if not the most, competitive non-postseason races in the country. This is a key race for us, especially for younger, inexperienced runners like myself who need to learn how to run composed and controlled in a large pack.

Go Stanford!

Contact Cameron Miller at cmiller6 ‘at’ stanford.edu. 

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