By Divine Edem
The Stanford men’s and women’s cross country teams both placed in the top three at the Pac-12 Cross Country Championships last Friday at Randolph Golf Course.
Sophomore Grant Fisher helped the No. 4 men’s team notch the second place in the conference with a standout time of 24:13.5, marking the fourth consecutive top-three finish for Stanford men’s cross country. The No. 7 women’s team finished third overall. Senior Vanessa Fraser was the first member of the women’s team to cross the finish line, securing an eighth place individual finish.
Fisher finished about 15 seconds after first-place runner Edward Cheserek of Oregon State. Last Friday marked Cheserek’s fourth individual Pac-12 title, an unprecedented conference achievement. Stanford had three runners in Cheserek’s chase pack, including Fisher, seventh-place finisher senior Sean McGorty and freshman Thomas Ratcliffe, in eighth place.
Head coach Chris Miltenberg described Ratcliffe as the “wildcard” of Friday’s race. After all, Friday was Ratcliffe’s college debut for the Cardinal. The freshman surprised everyone when he captured first place at the Stanford Invitational as a redshirt runner, despite not having run a cross country race since middle school. Ratcliffe played soccer during cross country season in high school, but he was still talented enough to run a 4:01 mile during track season without year-round training.
On Tuesday, Ratcliffe was announced as the Pac-12 Freshman Athlete of the Year in cross country for his performances.
“When I looked around the pack with 1K to go and saw Thomas, it was definitely a confidence booster,” Fisher said. “He ran incredibly well. He’s made awesome progress.”
Senior Garrett Sweatt and junior Steven Fahy also captured strong finishes in the top 20, though the team’s 41 points were not enough to overcome a six-point lead by the No. 2 University of Colorado to capture the championship.
However, a second-place finish extends Stanford’s streak of top-three conference finishes to 22 years, not to mention the fact that it extends the Cardinal’s victory streak over UC Berkeley to 29 years.
The women’s team also notched a top-three finish, landing in third place behind No. 1 Colorado and No. 4 Washington. Fraser led the Cardinal with an eighth place finish, followed closely by rookie freshman Fiona O’Keeffe in 11th place. Shortly after, freshmen Christina Aragon and Ella Donaghu finished in 14th and 20th, resulting in four Stanford runners in the top 20.
“We’re just scratching the surface of our potential, and Fiona’s race perfectly exemplifies that,” Fraser said. “[She’s] not even fully trained, and she excelled in the deepest conference in the country. That shows what raw talent and racing maturity she has. Along with Ella and Christina, today is a great sign of what is to come for us.”
Fisher shared Fraser’s optimism. “Today was a good show of our depth,” Fisher said. “The points we lost, we can make up at a larger meet. We’re confident we’re going to get better by the week.
“We’re happy with our performance, but we’re looking to do even better at NCAA’s.”
Both the men’s and women’s cross country teams will receive a near two-week competition break before heading out to Sacramento, California, on Nov. 11 for the NCAA West Regional Championships.
Contact Divine Edem at dedem ‘at’ stanford.edu.