In a race that came down to the final strides, the 2017 NCAA outdoor 5,000-meter champion Grant Fisher won the Pre-National Invitational at the Thomas Zimmer Championship Course in Wisconsin, leading the No. 5 Cardinal men (82) to a second-place finish behind No. 1 Northern Arizona (41). The women — led by fifth-year Elise Cranny and junior Fiona O’Keefe, who placed fourth and fifth, respectively — are enroute to a third-place finish for the No. 5 Cardinal women (129) behind No. 3 New Mexico (67) and No. 10 Michigan (120).
The Pre-National Invitational hosted the top individuals and teams across the country on the same course used at the NCAA Championship races on November 17. Offering a glimpse of the top talent this year, the meet consisted of two main races for each of the men’s and women’s divisions, dividing the talent evenly between both races.
In the men’s race, the Cardinal toed the line along with top-ranked Northern Arizona, No. 11 Colorado, No. 13 Oregon and several other teams from across the country. In his season debut, Fisher covered the eight-kilometer course in 23:48.8 for the win. Fisher ran patiently in the front pack along with teammates senior Alex Ostberg and junior Alek Parsons. As the front pack began to separate, Furman’s Aaron Templeton began to pull away.
As the leaders entered the long, steady uphill climb to the finish line, Fisher took over the lead for the first time in the race. Northern Arizona’s Tyler Day and Matthew Baxter responded to Fisher’s move with Day closing in on Fisher. As Day and Fisher approached the finish line in full sprint, the two crossed the line almost simultaneously, but Fisher won by the slightest margin. Clocking in the same time as Fisher, Day (23:48.8) took the silver, and Baxter (23:49.4) the bronze.
The Cardinal placed three in the top 11 with Ostberg (23:57.5) finishing seventh and Parsons (24:01.6) 11th. Graduate student Tai Dinger (24:25.1) placed 23rd, and sophomore Michael Vernau (24:35.3) finished 42nd to round out the Cardinal’s top five scorers. Sophomore DJ Principe (24:38.2) finished in 51st place, only a few seconds behind Vernau.
A true freshman from San Jose’s Bellarmine College Prep, Meika Beaudoin-Rousseau made his collegiate debut finishing 101st as the Cardinal’s seventh runner.
In the women’s race, New Mexico’s Weini Kelati and Ednah Kurgat began to push the pace a quarter of the way into the six-kilometer course, creating separation from the front pack. As the race continued, Cranny and O’Keefe used each other to run together in fifth and sixth. Entered the final homestretch, Cranny unleashed a kick, catching up to and passing the reigning NCAA outdoor 10,000-meter champion Sharon Lokedi of Kansas. Cranny (20:06.9) finished fourth, while O’Keefe (20:09.6) also surpassed Lokedi to finish fifth.
Sophomore Jessica Lawson (20:51.8) finished 25th overall, third for the Cardinal. The women’s top five was rounded out by true freshman Rebecca Story (21:09.4) and sophomore Julia Heymach (21:12.2). Story was the third-fastest true freshman in the race. Sophomore Jordan Oakes (21:31.0) finished 70th, followed by another true freshman Caitlin Collier (22:41.3) in 184th.
The women combined for 129 points for third place, beating No. 22 Notre Dame (172) and No. 16 Washington (199).
The men’s and women’s team will be back in action on the Farm in two weeks at the Pac-12 Cross Country Championships on the Stanford golf course on Friday, Oct. 26.
Contact Alejandro Salinas at asalinas ‘at’ stanford.edu