By Alexa Corse
The Stanford men’s and women’s track and field teams will open the indoor season at the University of Washington Indoor Preview on Saturday in Seattle, Washington. Both teams are ranked No. 13 in preseason rankings released Tuesday.
This year, the Cardinal women will look to build on last year’s success — which culminated in an eighth-place finish in the 2015 NCAA Indoor Championships — as well as lay the groundwork for a strong outdoor season.
The Cardinal women boast three runners who have placed second at an NCAA Championship meet: All-American senior Claudia Saunders in the 800 meters, sophomore Elise Cranny in the 3,000 meters and fifth-year senior Aisling Cuffe in the 5,000 meters.
The women’s team placed second in the NCAA indoor distance medley relay in 2014 and 2015. Three runners from last year’s school-record-setting distance medley lineup — Saunders, Cranny, the 2014 Pac-12 Cross-Country Freshman of the Year, and sophomore Olivia Baker, the world junior relay gold medalist in 2014 — have returned to the Cardinal’s roster. The 4×400-meter relay lineup from the 2015 outdoor NCAA meet — Baker, senior Kristyn Williams, who holds the Stanford record in the 400 meters, sophomore Gaby Gayles and sophomore Michaela Crunkleton Wilson — will also look to return in full force.
At the UW Invitational last year, Baker won the 600 meters in her collegiate debut, setting a school record of 1:29.42. On Saturday, Baker will seek to defend her win in the 600 as well as compete in the 400 meters, in which she has a personal best of 52.46.
Starting off the indoor season with the Stanford runners will be a new addition to the coaching staff: Sprints and hurdles coach Gabe Sanders is beginning his first season on The Farm after coaching for six years at Boston University.
Baker said that Sanders combines a positive, energetic coaching style with an emphasis on technique. Sanders sets aside time at least twice a week to focus solely on good posture and propulsion, said Baker.
“That’s made my race more efficient with each step,” Baker said. “I’ve enjoyed it.”
On the men’s side, the Cardinal has an impressive lineup and will seek to rebound from last season’s disappointment. The Cardinal men did not score at the NCAA Indoor Championships last year, after junior Thomas Coyle took a hard fall during a rough-and-tumble first leg of the distance medley relay.
The men’s cross country prowess should carry over to benefit the indoor track team. Stanford placed third at the NCAA Cross Country Championships in November, in which fifth-year senior Jim Rosa placed sixth in 29:52.7, junior Sean McGorty placed seventh in 29:53.4 and Jim Rosa’s twin Joe placed 97th in 30:55.8. The Rosas and McGorty are among the seven Cardinal runners who have broken 14 minutes in the 5,000 meters.
Stanford also has standouts in short distance and field events. Junior pole vaulter Dylan Duvio placed third and sophomore heptathlete Harrison Williams placed fourth at the 2015 NCAA outdoor track meet. Fifth-year senior Darian Brooks has won three Pac-12 conference titles in the triple jump.
Even with such a talented roster, Baker said that the team expects tough competition and is ready to work hard to achieve their goals.
“In college, everybody’s at the top of their game,” Baker said. “You know every race is going to be a tough race.”
Contact Alexa Corse at corsea ‘at’ stanford.edu.