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Track blog: Track & field is off and running… and throwing, and jumping

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Stanford’s 2015 track and field season is officially underway! The team opened up at the University of Washington Preview meet on Saturday, posting solid results across each of the event groups. I’ll break down the performances of each group before looking ahead to upcoming meets and the remainder of the indoor season.

Before doing so, however, I believe it is important to briefly explain the structure of the NCAA’s indoor track and field season. Meets usually begin in early December (the qualifying window opens Dec. 1) and conclude with the national championships in early/mid-March. In order to qualify for indoor NCAAs, an athlete’s performance (time, distance, height, etc.) must be in the top 16 nationally. For instance, if Athlete A’s mile time was 16th-best in Division I, he and the runners that had run faster times than him/her would advance to NCAAs, while all others would not. The same is true for relay events, except that the standard is shifted from the top 16 to the top 12 teams.

Now, let’s see how Stanford fared at the UW Preview (broken down by event group).

Sprints/Hurdles: The highlight for the sprint crew was freshman Olivia Baker’s victory in the 600-meter race over a field that included former high school phenom and current professional runner Mary Cain. Baker, making her collegiate debut and racing up a distance from her signature event — the 400 meters — went to the front almost immediately, running 1:29.42 (the fastest 600 time in Stanford history). Also of note was junior Jackson Shumway’s personal record of 48.48 in the 400 meters; that type of speed will benefit him when he turns to the 400-meter hurdles (perhaps the toughest event in all of track and field) in the spring.

Also competing for the first time in the cardinal and white was freshman sprinter Frank Kurtz, who ran 49.48 in the 400 meters. Frank’s range — his ability to run any race from 60 to 400 meters — will be of great benefit to our team in the short and long-term.

Four-time All-American Luke Lefebure raced down a distance in the 600 meters, finishing third in his heat (1:19.34) and sixth overall out of 31 athletes.

Throws: The only two throwers to compete were Rebecca Hammar and Nick Budincich in the shotput. Under the guidance of throws coach Michele Eisenreich, Budincich placed 13th in his flight, while Hammar finished sixth in her heat.

Jumps: There were some outstanding performance by both the vertical and horizontal jumpers in Seattle over the weekend. Jumps coach Michael Eskind said early last week that this was the most fired up he’s been for the start of a season, and his athletes showed why. Senior Darian Brooks — the reigning Pac-12 triple jump champion — out-jumped his competitors by nearly two feet, winning with a distance of 15.29 meters (50 feet, 2 inches) on his fifth of six attempts. By happenstance, Darian is also a contender for the “Coolest Guy on the Team” Award, although Coach Milt certainly gives him a run for his money.

Another jumper that impressed on Saturday was junior pole vaulter Garrett Starkey, who made a strong return after missing the 2014 indoor and outdoor seasons due to hip surgery. Starkey placed third behind two Washington vaulters with a height of 5.25 meters (17 feet, 2.75 inches). Garrett is a genuinely good guy with a very positive demeanor, so it’s great to see him healthy and competing once again after a lengthy layoff.

Sophomore Carla Forbes began her season in strong fashion, placing second in the triple jump and ninth in the long jump. Carla’s versatility will be key for the women’s team as it moves into the championship portion of their schedule.

Distances: Sophomore Sean McGorty proved again why he’s one of the best young distance runners in the country, breaking four minutes in the mile for the first time in his already-impressive Stanford career. McGorty, running in the fastest heat with several professional runners, hung with the leaders who pulled him to a 3:59.34 (making him the 14th Cardinal athlete to surpass the four-minute barrier and the first new addition to the list since Tyler Stutzman in 2013). Fifth-year senior Erik Olson, who wasn’t far behind McGorty in 4:02.83, raced for the first time since the 2014 outdoor season, and sophomore Jack Keelan made his indoor track and field debut, winning the second-fastest heat in 4:06.25.

Other notable distance results included freshman Tai Dinger’s victory in his heat of the 1,000 meters.

The Cardinal next compete at this weekend’s Cherry and Silver Invitational hosted by New Mexico State before heading to Fayetteville, Arkansas for the Razorback Invitational Jan. 30-31.

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

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Cameron Miller is a sports desk editor for The Stanford Daily's Vol. 246 and is the men's and women's golf writer. He also writes on NCAA-related matters. Cameron is also a Stanford student-athlete, competing on the cross country and track and field teams. He is originally from Bakersfield, California, but spends most of his time away from the Farm on the state's Central Coast. Contact him at [email protected]