By Andrew Tan
On Friday morning, the No. 4 Stanford men’s and No. 6 women’s cross country teams race an 8k and 6k respectively on Stanford Golf Course in the Pac-12 Conference Championships with the men looking to defend their title as champions and the women seeking their first conference championship since 2010.
In its pursuit of back-to-back Pac-12 titles, the men’s team boasts a Golden State Warriors-like super team with several runners capable of nabbing a first place individual finish. Last year, the Cardinal trio of seniors Grant Fisher, Steven Fahy, and Alex Ostberg put on a display of utter dominance, finishing first, third and fourth respectively. As Fisher hopes to repeat as Pac-12 champion, Fahy and Ostberg will be hot on his heels, as the three all finished within ten seconds of each other last year, Fahy and Ostberg only separated by 0.2 seconds.
Meanwhile, Stanford also returns its fourth and fifth place team runners, grad student Tai Dinger and sophomore Callum Bolger, who finished 15th and 18th respectively to bring the Cardinal’s composite score to 41, six less than rival Colorado– who finished with 47. Cross country is scored by taking the composite score of a team’s top five runners (i.e. first place is one point, second place two, etc.) while the sixth and seventh runners are used as potential tiebreakers. Lowest score wins. Although the men achieved only a narrow victory over the Buffs last year, they are in strong position to repeat as they return all five of their top runners from last year, while Colorado lost its fourth and fifth finishers.
If Fisher could take home the individual championship again, he would become Stanford’s first two-time individual men’s champion since Grant Robison in 2001-02. The team repeat would be the Cardinal’s first since 2009-10. As the highest ranked team in the field, Stanford aims to take care of business before regionals and national competitions.
On the women’s side, Stanford will attempt to upset No. 1 Colorado and No. 4 Oregon with a group of experienced runners. The women return three of their top five from last year, including junior Fiona O’Keefe, junior Christina Aragon, and senior Elise Cranny, who finished seventh, 19th, and 25th respectively last year. They will face stiff competition from the Buffs and Ducks on Friday morning who both return four of their top five runners.
With two other Pac-12 teams favored over Stanford, the Cardinal women could be considered a sleeper pick to snag the Pac-12 championship as they have their fair share of success. With O’Keefe having finished seventh last year and Cranny the runner-up in 2014, if the Cardinal have standout performances, they have a shot at the title.
Both the men’s and women’s cross country teams are groups to watch for on Friday morning and going into regional and national competitions. The men seek to run the league for the second consecutive year while the women lay ready to strike given the opportunity. The women start at 11:10 a.m. and the men at 12:10 p.m. on the Stanford Golf Course. Live coverage is also available on the Pac-12 network.
Contact Andrew Tan at tandrew ‘at’ stanford.edu