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Track blog: Outdoor squad is off to the races

With the indoor season come and gone, the “real” season is upon the Stanford track and field program. I say “real” season because, unlike cross country and indoor track, everyone on the roster — from the jumpers to the throwers — will be competing for the next few months.

Racing and competing together on the same track at the same meets fosters the type of team-like atmosphere that is often difficult to create in track and field due to the wide variety of event groups. Moreover, the outdoor season boasts the biggest and most competitive meets, two of which will be hosted by the Cardinal: the Stanford Invitational (this Friday and Saturday) and the Payton Jordan Invitational, which is slated for May 2.

But before recapping the teams’ performances at the Texas Relays and previewing the upcoming Stanford Invitational, I’ll quickly run through our results at the NCAA indoor championships, which were held in early March at the University of Arkansas.

2015 NCAA Indoor National Championships

True freshman Elise Cranny recorded the highest individual finish for the Cardinal in Fayetteville, taking second in the women’s 3,000-meter run. Cranny battled with Arkansas senior Dominique Scott, and showed incredible poise and toughness for a runner of her age; there is no doubt she’ll be in contention in every event she enters —championship or otherwise — for the foreseeable future. In addition to her individual runner-up placing in the 3k, Elise anchored our women’s distance medley relay (DMR) team in their second place finish on Friday night.

The team, which also included fifth-year senior Jess Tonn (1,200-meter leg), junior Claudia Saunders (800-meter leg), freshman Olivia Baker (400-meter leg), used a strong leg from Saunders to cement its position in the lead pack, with Cranny and Scott duking it out once again in the final 1,600-meter leg. Scott pulled away over the final 400 meters, leaving the Cardinal in the runner-up position for the second consecutive year. The good news: three of the four will return next year, with plenty of runners waiting in the wings.

Unfortunately, the men’s DMR was unable to defend its national championship, finishing tenth. The race was incredibly physical, with each fighting for a favorable position on the 200-meter banked track — there was considerable contact in the opening 1,200-meter leg, and sophomore Tom Coyle took a spill with about a lap to go (If you think running isn’t a contact sport, I’d suggest you watch the race video.)

True to his nature, Tom got up and continued his leg, but the lead pack was out of reach at that point. Despite the disappointing result, the team learned the importance of running confidently, assertively and towards the front of the pack, hopefully avoiding any carnage along the way.

Stanford’s other individual results at NCAAs included senior Darian Brooks’ 12th place performance in the men’s triple jump, fifth-year senior Erik Olson’s 11th place finish in the men’s 3k and Tonn’s fifth place showing in the women’s 3k.

Texas Relays

Stanford sent a sizeable contingent of jumpers, throwers and multi-event athletes to Austin during Spring Break, and several athletes turned in solid early season marks. Sophomore pole vaulter Dylan Duvio made his season debut after redshirting the indoor season, placing third with a height of 17’ ¾”. Like his brother Dalton, Dylan does a great job of keeping his emotions in check. He never gets too high or low, and his steely focus in the heat of competition is something all of his teammates admire and should seek to emulate.

Senior and three-time All-American javelin thrower extraordinaire Brianna Bain also made her season debut in Texas, finishing fifth in her final season-opening meet in a Stanford jersey. After training hard through the fall and winter months, it has to be exciting for javelin throwers like Bain to finally unleash a competition throw, because it sure is exciting to watch. The javelin is one of the “cooler” events in track and field, and Bain is certainly among the best in the nation. She’ll be gunning for her fourth consecutive Pac-12 title in the event in May (a feat unheard of in collegiate track and field).

Also coming back from Texas with a solid result was true freshman decathlete Harrison Williams, who finished second in his first-ever collegiate decathlon with an aggregate score of 7,518 points. That total was just off the Stanford record of 7,592, set by 1952 Olympic Champion (and Central Valley native) Bob Mathias. Getting his NCAA qualifier out of the way early gives Harrison and Coach Michael Eskind plenty of time to “shore up the weaknesses and sharpen the strengths,” according to Eskind.

Stanford Invitational

The Stanford Invite is slated to begin on Friday and will feature 3,200 high school, college and professional athletes over the two-day competition. Among the many Stanford athletes competing is sophomore distance runner and 2014 cross country All-American Sam Wharton, who will be running his first ever 10,000 on the track. The 10k is one of the more grueling events — 25 times around the oval — but Sam is up to the task. We can always count on his easy-going attitude to liven up recovery runs or pre-practice banter in the locker room.

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

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