Stanford men’s and women’s cross country placed second and fifth, respectively, in the NCAA Nationals last Saturday in Terre-Haute, Indiana for the final cross country race of the season.
This race marked the tenth time both teams have finished in the top five, and four Stanford runners (senior Sean McGorty and sophomore Grant Fisher for the men, and freshmen Fiona O’Keefe and Christina Aragon for the women) earned All-America honors. Fisher led the men with a fifth-place finish, while O’Keefe and Aragon placed 37th and 38th, finishing within the same second.
While the men scored 158 points and trailed Northern Arizona by 23 points, the Cardinal placed ahead of reigning-champion Syracuse, which finished third with 164 points. On the other hand, the women scored 255 points to conclude the team’s best performance since a third place in 2012.
During the men’s race, three runners (Oregon’s Edward Cheserek, Villanova’s Patrick Tiernan and Syracuse’s Justyn Knight) broke away at 6K and finished on top. Although McGorty and Fisher chose to not follow this push, Fisher was able to catch up to the group during a phenomenal last kilometer.
“Things kind of blew open,” Fisher said. “Some people went and some people stayed. Pretty quickly there was a decent-sized gap. You could tell there were four that would hold that, but everyone else would be coming backward.”
Unable to catch up to the leading pack, McGorty secured the 24th place to contribute to the team’s effort.
“The consistency our team has now and where the team is headed in the future means more to me than any individual finish could,” McGorty said. “I’m not happy with my finish, but there are days like that in running. I’ll reflect on the season with Coach Milt and learn from everything.”
Head coach Chris Miltenberg was very satisfied with the performance of his runners, all of whom finished in the top 86 (except for freshman Thomas Ratcliffe, who was pulled from the race by his coaches).
“They kept bringing each other forward,” Miltenberg said. “I think it was all of them seeing each other during that period from 5K on, keeping each other up and fighting.”
On the women’s side, head coach Elizabeth DeBole was extremely proud of her team’s top-five finish for her first season as the helm of the program.
While Fraser did not have her best race and was unable to repeat her top-40 performance of last year, the freshman stepped up, and Fraser was still able to contribute to the team effort with a 67th-place finish.
“I didn’t feel good out there, but I put my best possible effort forward to help the team result, and I think a lot of the other girls would say the same about their races, which is why we had such a positive team result,” Fraser said. “We were able to scrap for places even when we didn’t feel great.”
This was the first time in 17 years that two Sanford freshmen earned All-American honors, which confirms the strength of the Cardinal recruiting class.
“[The coaches] really emphasized the fact that this is just another race,” Aragon said. “It helped us all go into it with the mindset that we are just going to do the same thing that we always do. It was really nice to have older teammates who had done this before and could show us how to stay relaxed and approach the race just like any other.”
Stanford now has its eye on the winter track and field season, which will begin on Jan. 16 in Seattle.
Contact Alexandre Bucquet at bucqueta ‘at’ stanford.edu.