This past week was packed with competition for the Stanford men’s and women’s track and field teams just three weeks after the end of the indoor season, beginning mid-week with the Nike Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays held in Austin from March 30 – April 1 and finishing this weekend with the Stanford Invitational on April 1-2.
Sophomore decathlete Harrison Williams was the top collegian at the Texas Relays last year and was the only Stanford athlete competing in the meet this year, with the goal of receiving a qualifying mark into the NCAA Outdoor Championships held from June 8-11 in Eugene, Oregon.
In another stellar performance, Williams not only won the Texas Relays by tallying 7,842 points, but he also broke Stanford’s decathlon record for the third time. In addition, Williams’ score is the third-highest score in the world this year and the best among all Americans and collegians.
The U.S. Olympic Trials require a score of 7,900, but Williams believes his chances are strong for inclusion based on his performance in Austin, as there probably won’t be enough automatic qualifiers.
“I was mainly seeking an NCAA qualifier, but it would have been nice to get 7,900,” Williams said. “Hopefully, I’ll get that make and more at NCAAs, but I think 7,842 should be enough anyway.”
Williams’ score most likely will qualify him for a spot in June’s NCAA Championships, where the top 16 in the country who score above 7,400 compete.
Williams has broken a record in all but one of the nine multi-event competitions in which he has participated. He holds three school decathlon records and a school heptathlon record in addition to many other records.
He credits coach Michael Eskind and the Stanford training philosophy for his continued improvement.
“Since Coach Eskind has started coaching me, I’ve PR’d in every single multi that I’ve done,” he said. “Today, it makes 11 in a row.”
The Stanford Invitational also saw an array of top performers later in the week.
Freshman Kaitlyn Merritt made her home debut by winning the women’s pole vault with a 13-0 1/4. Meanwhile, senior Claudia Saunders ran the women’s 1,500 meters and won the second heat with a PR of 4:17.33. Other top performers included junior Valarie Allman, the defending Pac-12 champion and Olympic trials qualifier in women’s discus, and sophomore Elise Cranny, who competed in the women’s 800 meters.
Freshman Mackenzie Little, in her meet debut, placed first in the women’s javelin by more than 20 feet. The throw is the second-longest among collegians, the second-longest in school history and breaks a 2012 record held by then-freshman Brianna Bain. The throw also came just 6 inches short of breaking the 2013 record also held by Bain, the four-time Pac-12 champion during her time on The Farm.
Little has been rehabbing from surgery to remove a cyst in her leg, and has not competed much over the past two years after winning the 2013 World Youth Championships in Ukraine.
A native of Australia, Little found the Invitational’s crowds much larger than what she anticipated based on her experiences back home. However, she was happy with her results, and with her move to Stanford from Australia in general.
“At Stanford, I’m able to fit in an enormous amount of training hours, because I have all the support staff and facilities all right here, which is a lot easier than back home with a lot of travel time,” she said. “It’s really been beneficial. I’m glad I did it.”
In the women’s 100-meter final, Stanford placed three athletes in the top five, with sophomores Michaela Crunkleton-Wilson (11.53) taking third, Gaby Gayles (11.80) taking fourth and Olivia Baker (12.04) taking fifth.
Another freshman, Missy Mongiovi, also made her home debut and ran as part of the Stanford women’s 4×400 relay team. Mongiovi ran the third leg of the race in 53.30 and beat her personal record for an open 400 meter dash by more than a second. Senior Kristyn Williams, Gayles and Baker rounded out the team.
“Moving up is a big honor. I definitely did not want to let the team down,” said Mongiovi about moving up to the A team in the place of Crunkleton-Wilson, who had already raced multiple times on the weekend.
On the men’s side, senior Jackson Shumway, the Pac-12 runner-up last year, took fourth in the men’s 400-meter hurdles with a 52.25. Sophomores Daniel Brady and Colin Dolese took sixth with a 52.87 and 12th with a 54.06, respectively. The men’s 4×400 relay team of sophomores Dolese, Frank Kurtz, freshman Zac Espinosa and Shumway took fourth with a 3:13.02.
Up next, the Cardinal travel across the Bay to participate in the much-anticipated 122nd renewal of the Big Meet against Cal in Berkeley next Saturday.
Contact Matthew Bernstein at mbernste ‘at’ stanford.edu.