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Season records fall as track and field seeks last chance NCAA bids

The men’s 4×400 and women’s DMR highlight the Cardinal’s weekend performance

Sophomore Jessica Lawson (above) anchored the women's DMR, running 4:37 for the mile. The all-sophomore relay team placed sixth this weekend with a time (11:04.30) that ranks them 14th in the country. (JOHN P. LOZANO/isiphotos.com)

Several Stanford athletes represented the men’s and women’s track and field teams this weekend at the Alex Wilson Invitational in Indiana and the Air Force Collegiate Open in Colorado. Seeking last-chance qualifications to the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships, the Cardinal set a season best in both the men’s 4×400 meter relay and women’s distance medley relay (DMR).

Representing the ninth-ranked Cardinal men’s team in Indiana, the 4×400 meter relay squad unleashed a blistering time (3:10.57), recording the fifth-fastest performance in indoor program history. Composed of junior Julian Body, sophomores Louis Stenmark and Gabe Navarro and graduate student Isaiah Brandt-Sims, the relay team shed nearly a second off from their previous season best (3:11.54) set at the Don Kirby Invitational last weekend.

Despite the improvement, the Cardinal men are ranked 46th in the nation in the competitive event, which likely puts them out of contention for qualifying for the big dance. Only those with the fastest 16 marks through next weekend will qualify for the NCAA Championships March 8-9 in Birmingham, Alabama.

In the 4×400 meters, the fastest times are primarily held by powerhouse sprint programs, including Florida, Texas Tech, LSU and USC, which each have two relay teams in the top 16. With the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) Championships next weekend in Seattle, the Cardinal will have one more chance to qualify for a trip to Birmingham. As it stands, the Cardinal relay team will have to break Ohio State’s time of 3:07.37 to leap into the qualifying bunch.

In women’s DMR, the Cardinal’s all-sophomore contingent composed of Julia Heymach, Ashlan Best, Carolyn Wilson and Jess Lawson placed sixth this weekend with a time (11:04.30) that ranks them 14th in the country in the event. The sophomores narrowly broke the team’s previous season record (11:04.47) as Lawson anchored the team with a 4:37 mile, a season best for the standout sophomore.

In terms of qualifying for nationals, the women will be on the bubble in this event with one week of competition left before the Feb. 24 deadline. Historically, the DMR has been one of the Cardinal’s strengths in the distance events. With conference championships next weekend, the women will have another shot to solidify a stronger performance in the event.

The men’s team sits 12th in the nation in the DMR after senior Grant Fisher and juniors Isaac Cortes, Body and Sathyamurthy finished with a race-winning performance (9:29.35) at the University of Washington Invitational on January 25th. At the time, the Cardinal’s performance placed Stanford second in the nation in the event behind Indiana (9:27.30). Over the past three weeks, 10 teams across the country have run faster times than the Cardinal, demonstrating the competitive nature of the sport.

In Colorado, pole vaulters Kaitlyn Merritt and Erika Malaspina and triple jumper Aria Small represented the Cardinal women at the Air Force Collegiate Open. Coming into the weekend, Merritt (4.24 meters) was 20th in the NCAA in the pole vault, while Malaspina (4.13 meters) sat at 35th.

In Friday’s competition, Merritt cleared 4.25 meters on her second attempt at that height, setting an indoor personal record and solidifying her No. 2 spot on Stanford’s all-time indoor performance list. Only half a meter away from breaking into the top 16, the senior remains in 20th place after the weekend’s competition. Malaspina cleared the 4.10-meter barrier, but the 4.25-meter height thwarted her chances of setting a season best. She moved down three spots to 38th in the NCAA.

The 16th-best pole vaulting performance in the NCAA this season is currently held by Duke’s Laura Marty (4.30 meters). The two Cardinal pole vaulting specialists will have their eyes set on clearing that height at the MPSF Championships next weekend.

In the triple jump, sophomore Aria Small leaped past her competition this weekend, clearing 12.64 meters on her second attempt of five to remain undefeated this season. Despite the event win, Small was looking to improve on her personal and season best of 12.90 meters, which she set at the Don Kirby Invitational last weekend. Small ranks 29th in the country, but will need to break a 13.08-meter mark set by Baylor’s Alex Madlock to qualify for nationals for the first time.

The Cardinal will travel to Seattle for the MPSF Championships next weekend for what will be their final chance to qualify for the nationals for several team members. The conference championships are set to begin Friday, Feb. 23, and will continue through Saturday.

 

Contact Alejandro Salinas at asalinas ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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