Led by a first place performance from junior Grant Fisher, Stanford men’s cross country won its first Pac-12 Cross Country Championship since 2010 as the women’s team placed third in Friday’s race in Springfield, Oregon.
Fisher recorded his first individual Pac-12 title after finishing runner-up last year to former Oregon runner Edward Cheserek, who won this race the last four years. Fisher’s time of 23:44.9 on the 8k course marks nearly a 30 second improvement from last year.
On the women’s side, the No. 14 Cardinal placed two in the top 10 with fifth-year Vanessa Fraser in fourth and sophomore Fiona O’Keefe in seventh. The women scored 71 points on the 6k course, tying with No. 1 Oregon for second place. When matching the top five girls from both teams, Oregon won three of the five matchups, giving them the advantage over Stanford. Colorado won the race with 53 points.
As the men came across the final split of the race, UCLA’s Robert Brandt, Colorado’s Joe Klecker and Washington’s Mahmoud Moussa led a lead pack of six runners that also included senior Steven Fahy, junior Alex Ostberg and Fisher.
With 400 meters to go, Klecker made a move that Fisher quickly covered, and a foot-race to the finish ensued between the two. Fisher opened up a decisive lead that appeared to only grow as he approached the finish line, beating Klecker by three seconds. A few seconds behind, Fahy and Ostberg finished third and fourth, and respectively outpaced Brandt and Moussa in the final meters.
Fahy finished third with a time of 23:51.3. Two weeks ago at the Nuttycombe Invitation in Wisconsin, Fahy finished sixth for Stanford and nearly 50 seconds behind Fisher, placing him 65th in the race. On Friday, Fahy finished only six seconds behind Fisher and second for Stanford.
“That’s the real Steven Fahy,” said men’s head coach Chris Miltenberg. “He’s great at keeping his composure, executing the race plan and keeping his intensity. It was exciting to see.”
Ostberg, who was in the front pack in Wisconsin, continued to prove his consistency as a competitor, as he finished among the leaders yet again. His time of 23:51.5 marks over a minute improvement from his 34th place performance last year.
Stanford’s fourth through seventh runners finished only 6.2 seconds apart with senior Tai Dinger in 15th, freshman Callum Bolger 18th, senior Blair Hurlock 20th and sophomore Alek Parsons 21st.
“You can’t look at any one spot and say we got it,” said Miltenberg. “If Callum and Tai didn’t make a charge in the last 600 meters, we wouldn’t have gotten it. We got our sixth and seventh in front of almost everybody’s No. 5. It was great team running.”
With three runners in the top four and seven before every other team’s fifth man, except Colorado, Stanford broke Colorado’s six-year winning streak, giving the Stanford men their first Pac-12 title under Miltenberg and 13th in program history.
“It’s exciting to win the best conference in America,” said Miltenberg. “I’m proud of the way our guys executed as a team. It’s exciting to go up and get one.”
In last year’s race, Stanford scored 47 points, finishing runner-up to Colorado’s 41 point performance. The tables turned this year, as Stanford beat Colorado by the same margin, 41-47.
On the women’s side, Fraser and O’Keefe placed in the top 10, followed closely by Abbie McNulty in 16th place with a time of 19:25.5.
McNulty finished 41st last year in this race and has since then solidified herself as the No. 3 runner for Stanford this season.
“Abbie did such a great job of putting herself out there,” said women’s head coach Elizabeth DeBole. “To see her do so well has been really exciting.”
Sophomore Christina Aragon debuted her season on Friday with a 19th place finish, three seconds behind McNulty. She was followed closely by senior Elise Cranny in 25th and sophomore Ella Donaghu in 30th. “Everyone was out there fighting for every spot,” said DeBole. “Watching Elise and Christina over the last half of the race, and they were rolling.”
Over the last half of the race, Aragon moved up from 36th to 19th place and Cranny from 39th to 25th.
The women’s two freshmen also finished very strong. Jessica Lawson passed three runners over the last kilometer to finish 37th and Jordan Oakes passed 8 runners over the same distance to finish 39th.
“We still have a lot of work to do, but it’s gratifying knowing that in two weeks [at regionals] we’ll be that much better,” said DeBole.
Both teams will toe the line at NCAA West Regionals on Friday, Nov. 10, in Seattle, Washington, before concluding the season at NCAA Championships in Louisville, Kentucky, the following weekend.
Contact Alejandro Salinas at asalinas ‘at’ stanford.edu.