The last installment of my cross country and track and field blog was released shortly after the NCAA West Regional meet (Nov. 14), so I’d like to bring you all up to speed on what’s happened in the interim.
As I wrote back in November, the NCAA National Championship meet was just another step in the progression of our program, and boy, did we take a huge step. On a cold day in Terre Haute, Indiana, our men’s cross country team captured second place — our highest finish since we won it all in 2003 — putting five men in the top-39 (the top-40 earn All-American honors). It was truly a stunning result, if only because there were many high-quality teams in the 31-school field, four of our seven runners had either freshman or sophomore eligibility and considering that we had only finished 16th in 2012 and 19th in 2013.
Fifth-year senior Maksim Korolev, a transfer from Harvard, notched his second consecutive top-five national finish in cross country, crossing the line in fourth place. Next behind him was sophomore Sean McGorty, who was racing in only his second meet of the season after battling an injury over the summer. McGorty finished 20th, vastly improving on his 161st place showing as a true freshman in 2013.
Next up was fifth-year senior Michael Atchoo, who turned in perhaps the best performance of his collegiate cross country career. After finishing 100th in last year’s national championship race, Mike stepped up big for our squad, placing 29th — he moved up seven places in the final 2,000 meters to secure his first cross country All-American distinction. Senior Joe Rosa was not far behind Mike in 33rd place, a gutsy performance for a guy who had been hampered by an injury for the latter half of the season. Joe’s NCAA race truly epitomized what our team strives to be about every day: persevering through adversity.
Rounding out our top five was sophomore Sam Wharton, who delivered what was one of the more surprising finishes of the entire day. Sam, a decorated high school cross country runner, showed exactly why Coach Miltenberg recruited him to Stanford, hanging tough over the final half of the grueling 10,000 meter course to place 39th in a field of well over 200 runners.
That gave us a total of five All-American runners and an aggregate score of 98 points — 77 ahead of third place Portland, but 33 behind the winners Colorado. It was the second consecutive cross country national championship for the Buffaloes, who have had a perennially strong program under the guidance of coaching legend Mark Wetmore. CU placed five athletes in the top-35, including three in the top-10.
As coach Milt said in his post-race interview, this outstanding result for our team is the culmination of nearly two-and-a-half years of work, preparation and moving the needle of the program. 2012 and 2013 were gut-wrenchingly disappointing, but we knew we were far better than the results indicated, and we proved that in 2014. Again, however, this is just one step in the process. Getting second makes us want to get back to the top even more. We are hungry for a title, and we have to put in the work every day from now until November 21, 2015 if we are to stand on the podium as champions. No one is going to hand us anything. It’s us against the world.
The women, who are in more of a rebuilding phase, placed very respectably at NCAAs considering their age; they raced three true freshmen and three sophomores. Led by the highly-touted Elise Cranny, a true freshman, the women placed 14th in Terre Haute and third among the competing Pac-12 teams. Cranny, who dazzled on the track during her high school career, continued her string of impressive performances off the oval, finishing 12th in her first collegiate national championship event. Redshirt freshman Emma Fisher was the only other Cardinal runner in the top 100, running 21:05 over the 6,000 meter course to finish 75th.
Now it’s on to the track and field season — our first meet is next week at the University of Washington. Look out for my next blog posts to follow our progress.
Contact Cameron Miller at cmiller6 ‘at’ stanford.edu.