By Divine Edem
This weekend at the NCAA West Regionals, Stanford men’s and women’s cross country teams swept both first place finishes for the first time since 2004. Both the men’s team and the women’s team won their 15th regional titles.
No. 7 Stanford women upset No.3 Washington 71-88 to claim their first regional title since 2007. Senior Vanessa Fraser continued to lead the team with a seventh place individual victory in 19:44.1. However, five Stanford runners finished in the top 20, including three freshmen: Fiona O’Keeffe (13th), Christina Aragon (17th) and Ella Donaghu (20th).
Meanwhile, the No. 4 men’s team secured a 75-90 victory over Portland. Sean McGorty was the first to cross the line with a 29:55.5 finish to start off a 9-10-11 finish for Stanford, followed by Jack Keelan (10th) and Grant Fisher (11th). All five of Stanford’s scorers finished in the top 23 within 13 seconds of each other.
“The good thing is, we’re getting better by the week,” men’s head coach Chris Miltenberg said. “That’s what you want, to be riding the wave this time of the season. It’s just good affirmation that what we’re doing is working and we’re trending in the right direction.”
The Stanford men ran a conservative 10K by Cardinal standards, as Miltenberg has his eyes on the NCAA Championships just eight days away. McGorty, Keelan and Fisher finished within .1 of each other, and none of the runners ever made a move to break away from the pack. Of course, Oregon’s three-time NCAA cross country champion Edward Cheserek broke away with 2K to go, but the Cardinal runners knew that regional championships would not be the time to catch him.
“If we don’t need to pull the trigger the last 600 meters, that helps us get recovered for next week,” Miltenberg explained. “It was pretty clear that with 1,000 to go, we had it locked up, so we just tell them to stay under control and finish together. If we can come in a little bit under that red line, even better.”
The men entered the competition as the favored regional team, but the women secured a victory over Washington from behind.
The young Stanford women’s team has grown into itself just in time for NCAAs.
“We’re a lot better than people realize,” first-year head coach Elizabeth DeBole said of the women’s team.
At the women’s 6K distance, a conservative race is less important. Instead, the women ran regionals like any other hard workout. Fraser led the charge, jumping from a 39th-place victory last year to a seventh-place victory in 2016.
“I don’t think anybody expected us to be this good,” Fraser said. “But we knew how good we were. I could feel it and I could see that the freshmen were going to step up right away. It’s fun to be able to show the world how good we are.”
Fraser and fellow senior Danielle Katz are the clear team leaders. Katz placed 14th as Stanford’s No.3 runner, shattering her previous performance at regionals as a freshmen, when she placed 207th.
“It’s so fun to see Danielle being able to step up and shatter all expectations,” Fraser said.
Katz threw the compliment back at Fraser.
“Ever since high school, racing against Vanessa has been inspiring,” Katz said. “I feel I’ve learned a ton from being on the team with her. I’m really excited for the rest of the year.”
All the pieces are coming together for Stanford, on both the women’s side and the men’s side. The Cardinal are looking forward to competing at NCAA Championships for a record 23rd year in a row this weekend.
Contact Divine Edem at dedem ‘at’ stanford.edu.