With a cross country Pac-12 title on the line, a pack of five men came storming into the final straightaway at the Stanford Golf Course Friday morning. The crowd roared as the men approached the finish line in full sprint, but it was the defending Pac-12 champion senior Grant Fisher who crossed the line first, claiming his second consecutive individual Pac-12 title and leading the men’s team to their second consecutive team title.
With three runners in the top four, the No. 4 Stanford men’s team scored 44 points, ahead of runner-up Washington (62) and third place Oregon (82). This title marks the first time Stanford has won back-to-back team titles since 2009-10. It’s also the fourth time the men’s team has won consecutive titles. They won team titles from 1996-98 and 2000-05.
In the women’s race, fifth-year senior Elise Cranny finished third to lead the No. 6 women’s team to a third place finish behind Oregon (32) and Colorado (48). The Cardinal women scored 81 points with Cranny and senior Fiona O’Keefe (fifth) finishing in the top five.
Fisher, now a three-time Pac-12 champion across track and cross country, covered the 8-kilometer (4.97-mile) course in 23:09.8. The top-12 runners finished within 7.9 seconds of each other, including senior Alex Ostberg (third) and junior Alek Parsons (fourth) who both clocked in at 23:10.8.
“The talent in this conference is off the charts,” Fisher said. “I waited, because there are too many guys in this race who are super strong. I knew on that last 2K everyone would start to go. I tried to be in a good spot and be aware of everybody heading into the finish.”
A large, tight pack filled with the conference’s top runners led a majority of the race. Going into the last uphill stretch to the finish, five runners separated away from the pack. Parsons surged half way down the final straight away prompting Washington’s Talon Hull and Fisher to quickly respond. Over the last 150 meters, Fisher out kicked the sophomore to the line. Hull settled for second place, half a second behind Fisher.
“I was saving a little bit,” Fisher said. “I was confident on that last straight. If anyone came up to me, I had that last gear. It was a great result. I’m super excited for our team that we won.”
“It’s great to see Grant win for the second year in a row,” head coach Chris Miltenberg said. “I guarantee you he is more psyched about the team title than the individual title.”
This race demonstrated the team’s continued growth this season. Two weeks ago at Pre-Nationals in Wisconsin, the Cardinal finished runner up to Northern Arizona University in a field that included Pac-12 competitors. In particular, Colorado’s Joe Klecker finished fifth ahead of Ostberg (eighth) and Parsons (11th), while Colorado’s Ryan Forsyth (10th) finished half a second ahead of Parsons.
In Friday’s Pac-12 race, both Ostberg and Parsons crossed the line ahead of Klecker (fifth) and Forsyth (10th) to help the Cardinal win by a sizable margin.
“Cross country races are by nature, unpredictable, so you really have to go out and prepare for anything,” Ostberg said. “There were a lot of people there toward the end, but when we came down to it, we were strong and that’s what it takes to win these championships. You have to be strong, you have to have really good emotional control, and stay calm and cool.”
Along with Fisher, Ostberg and Parsons, sophomore Callum Bolger (13th) and graduate student Tai Dinger (23rd) rounded out the Cardinal’s top five scorers. The Cardinal placed four in front of Washington’s third runner and six in front of every other team’s fifth runner.
In the women’s race, O’Keefe separated from the field two-kilometers into the race. Her lead was only temporary before the chase pack reeled her back in. For a majority of the back half of the race, it was O’Keefe and Cranny and a lead pack of four other runners that comprised the front of the race.
Cranny covered the six-kilometer (3.73-mile) course in 19:29.6 for third place, her highest finish in the conference since placing second in 2014. O’Keefe, who led a majority of the race, finished fifth (19:43.2), making it her highest Pac-12 finish. Colorado’s Dani Jones (19:24.5) won her second consecutive conference title, followed by Oregon’s Jessica Hull (19:25.1).
Behind the leaders came a triple sophomore threat for the Cardinal with Jordan Oakes (20th), Julia Heymach (26th) and Jess Lawson (27th). True freshman Rebecca Story (30th) competed in her first Pac-12 meet. The Cardinal’s sophomore trio and Story worked together to move up in the race.
Over the last three kilometers, Oakes moved up 15 spots to finish as the Cardinal’s third runner. Story had a similar leap in the race as she passed 14 runners in the second half of the race.
The men’s and women’s cross country teams will be back in action in two weeks for NCAA West Regionals on Friday, Nov. 9, in Sacramento.
Contact Alejandro Salinas at asalinas ‘at’ stanford.edu