By Alexa Corse
The No. 9 Stanford women’s cross country team took home fourth place out of 45 teams at the Pre-National Invitational in Louisville, Kentucky — collegiate cross-country’s biggest weekend for regular-season competition — this past weekend.
Junior Vanessa Fraser, running for the first time in a competitive race in Stanford’s No. 1 spot, placed 26th with a time of 20:32.1 on Saturday. Five of Stanford’s eight runners competing this weekend, including Fraser, junior Sophie Chase, freshman Hannah Long, fifth year senior Molly McNamara and sophomore Julia Maxwell all finished in the top quarter, finishing at 41st, 49th, 68th and 79th, respectively.
Not only did the Pre-National Invitational mark the most competitive meet of the regular season, the Cardinal also overcame demands at home. The team is in an intense training phase, logging many miles in preparation for postseason competition in November.
In the classroom, meanwhile, mid-October brings midterm exams. Fraser said the team is most proud of succeeding despite their tired legs and tired minds.
“Nobody was feeling 100 percent,” Fraser said. “We’re coming off of it feeling like we successfully stayed tough. That was probably the most exciting thing for us.”
The women’s team got a preview of its postseason venue at last weekend’s race, as it will compete on the same course at the NCAA Championships in late November.
Sophomore standout Elise Cranny and fifth-year senior Aisling Cuffe, the 2013 Pac-12 champion, did not race on Saturday due to injury concerns, but both are expected to add their talent to the lineup at the NCAA Championships.
As the women’s team is looking to extend their streak of 22 consecutive NCAA top-16 finishes, Fraser embraces the challenge.
“We’re Stanford. We’re a big name,” Fraser said. “We always have a target on our backs. That’s really exciting to uphold and fight for.”
On the men’s side, the No. 4 Cardinal, despite having a young and less experienced lineup, also had a solid performance this weekend, placing 21st out of 36 teams at the Wisconsin Adidas Invitational in Madison, Wisconsin.
Last weekend’s roster from the men’s team didn’t include several runners who should play key roles in the team’s bid for the NCAA Championships in late November.
Three-time All-American Sean McGorty is one experienced Cardinal runner who did make the trip to Madison. The junior led the Cardinal with a third place finish out of 244 runners with a time of 23:36.2, just over a second behind the winning time.
Senior Garrett Sweatt and junior Jack Keelan both finished in the top half of the field with 25th and 95th place finishes, respectively.
The men’s and women’s teams next head to Colfax, Washington, for the Pac-12 Championships on Oct. 30.
Contact Alexa Corse at corsea ‘at’ stanford.edu.