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Track blog: Running up on NCAA Regionals

Kristyn Williams (above) will be competing in the 400m race in the regional round, which begins Thursday and will extend over the weekend. (DAVID BERNAL/isiphotos.com)

The Stanford track and field program will send 33 athletes to the NCAA West Regionals, which begin Thursday in soggy Austin, Texas. In order to advance to the NCAA championship meet in Eugene, Oregon, individuals and relays must finish in the top 12. Here is the event-by-event breakdown for the Cardinal:

Sprints/Hurdles

Junior 400-meter specialist Kristyn Williams will be competing at the regional meet for the second time in her career, and is aiming for a berth in what would be her first NCAA championship event as an individual.

Williams is coming off a solid fourth-place performance at Pac-12s; her time of 52.84 was just off her lifetime personal best of 52.70 set at the 2014 Stanford Invitational. After running 54- and 53-point numerous times over the past year, she appears to be ready to finally set a personal record again and secure a coveted spot at NCAAs. More importantly, though, Williams will compete tough as she always does and continue to set a great example for our young sprint crew.

Joining her in Austin are junior Jack Shumway and freshman Isaiah Brandt-Sims, who will run the 400-meter hurdles and 200 meters, respectively.

Shumway, whose father Garry was a Stanford hurdler back in the 1980s, notched a huge PR at Pac-12s and will seek to keep his momentum rolling into the regional meet. Ranked 24th headed into the competition, another big pop could put Shumway in the mix for an NCAA spot.

Brandt-Sims has given sprints/hurdles coach Jody Stewart’s sprint group a shot in the arm this spring: He won the 200-meter at The Big Meet (Stanford’s first victory in a men’s individual sprint event in recent memory) and scored points in the half-lapper at Pac-12s. Although he has an outside shot at advancing to Eugene, Brandt-Sims will nonetheless gain valuable, high-level racing experience in Austin that he can apply moving forward. Even if his season ends at the regional meet, he can take a lot of positives from his first several races in cardinal and white.

Distances

Headlining Stanford’s distance contingent is fifth-year senior Jess Tonn, who comes into the West Regional ranked first in the nation in the women’s 5,000 meters.

She, along with Vanessa Fraser, will be gunning for the top-12 finish needed to move on to NCAAs; Jess figures to be a lock to advance, but anything can happen on race day. While Fraser doesn’t have the pedigree of her older teammate, she has been on fire this spring, setting three PRs in the 5K in as many races. Another PR this weekend could mean a trip to Eugene for the bubbly sophomore whose smile is as contagious as it is ever-present. In all seriousness, Vanessa always brings a positive attitude to practice and has a knack for lightening the mood in any situation.

Chris Miltenberg’s group also includes four women in the 800 meters: 2014 NCAA outdoor runner-up Claudia Saunders, recently converted sprinter Malika Waschmann and true freshmen Olivia Baker and Maddy Berkson. Saunders has come on strong in the latter half of the season; her championship-level experience on the collegiate and international levels should serve her well in what will likely be a tactical preliminary round. Frosh phenom Elise Cranny, 2014 NCAA qualifier Rebecca Mehra and veteran Molly McNamara are Stanford’s entrants in the women’s 1,500 meters.

The Cardinal also has three competitors in the men’s 5K: fifth-year senior Erik Olson and sophomores Sean McGorty and Jack Keelan. All three have as good a chance as any to get to Eugene, but seeing as the West Region is distance-heavy, it will be a battle.

Junior Garrett Sweatt is slated to run the men’s 10,000 meters on Thursday night, with Suite-man Luke Lefebure running in the 800-meter prelims earlier in the afternoon. Justin Brinkley and Tom Coyle will also compete today in the men’s 1,500 meters.

Jumps

Estonian native Jaak Uudmae and two-time All-American and two-time defending Pac-12 champ Darian Brooks will compete in the men’s triple jump on Saturday afternoon, with Brooks seeking a second consecutive NCAA appearance. True freshman and Bay Area native Marisa Kwiatkowski rounds out jumps coach Michael Eskind’s triple jumpers in Austin.

Senior Dartis Willis II will be the Cardinal’s first competitor of the three-day meet in Thursday morning’s high jump, where he comes in ranked 39th in the region.

Throws

A solid group of six throwers — four women and two men — head to Austin this week under the guidance of throws coach Michele Eisenreich. Although Stanford will be without four-time conference javelin champion Brianna Bain, it will still have an excellent chance of advancing multiple competitors to the national meet.

Sophomore discus thrower Valarie Allman is seeking a second consecutive NCAA berth, with senior Rebecca Hammar (discus), sophomore Victoria Smith (javelin) and freshman Lena Giger (shotput) each looking for their first national championship appearance.

For live West Regional results, head to http://branchsportstech.com/NCAAWest/?DB_OEM_ID=30600.

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

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