Grant Fisher claimed the men’s 5,000 meters on Friday night, highlighting one of the most impressive performances at the fourth annual Cardinal Classic at Cobb Track and Angell Field.
Fisher ran a lifetime best of 13:29.52 to win the 5,000 meters. He broke his own year-old meet record (13:36.77) en route to recording the eighth-fastest time in program history.
The senior from Grand Blanc, Michigan won the 2017 NCAA outdoor 5,000-meter title and finished third in the event last year. Friday marked his first 5,000 this season, and it was nothing short of spectacular. His performance lists as the second-fastest in the world this year.
“It was a big confidence boost,” Fisher said. “But at the end of the day, that’s all it was. It was good practice for what races are going to be like in championship season.”
The nine-time All-American stayed true to his iconic strategy, maintaining a steady pace behind the leaders for a majority of the race. With four laps remaining, Fischer took the lead from Iowa State’s Edwin Kurgat, the bronze medalist at the 2018 NCAA Cross Country Championships.
Fisher dropped a 4:50.8 over the closing 1,600 meters, including back-to-back 60-second laps to claim the win.
“That’s what you have to do at NCAAs,” Fisher said. “You have to run that or faster in the last mile. I wanted to practice that.”
Fisher outpaced a competitive field in a race that saw the nation’s top five times this season. Oregon’s Cooper Teare claimed the silver (13:32.73), out leaning a personal-best performance from junior Thomas Ratcliffe (13:32.81). This was Ratcliffe’s first collegiate attempt at the distance and his time ranks as the ninth-fastest outdoor time in the world this year.
“It was a big confidence boost and it got a lot of guys into regionals, which is what we want because at regionals odds are we are going to have a couple Stanford guys in each heat,” Fisher said.
Five different Stanford athletes recorded personal bests. Along with Fisher and Ratcliffe, fifth-year Steven Fahy (13:34.80) and junior Alek Parsons (13:47.59) each dropped 10 seconds off their best time, while freshman Clayton Mendez (13:57.99) shattered his lifetime best by 40 seconds to win section two.
In the final home stretch, Ratcliffe nearly caught Teare for second. “I just got so much energy from having these guys with me up front and seeing Grant battling at the top,” said Ratcliffe. “[I] said to Steven, ‘Let’s go roll this last 500.’ Just trying to hunt everybody in front of me that I could.”
For Fahy, this race solidified his confidence in his health and served as a simulation of postseason racing.
“It was really cool having the whole team rolling together and I think that was one of the big themes of the night,” Fahy said. “Something that [head] coach [Chris] Miltenberg has made very clear to us is that it wasn’t just about going and getting fast times — obviously it’s great to have that mark in your back pocket and know what you’re capable of — but it was about simulating a postseason race and being able to build intensity throughout the whole race and really get going at the end. I think we executed that really well.”
Having his teammates with him served a source of momentum for Fahy, as well.
“Thomas, Alek and I were able to do so well because we had each other in there rolling and because of the momentum we got from seeing Clay win his race by running aggressively and assertively,” Fahy said. “I would say we definitely got a lot of momentum from that race, and it was a really fun night.”
“It’s been a long-time coming for me,” said Fahy, who has battled injuries over the last few season. Despite missing the most recent cross country season, he said, “It’s awesome to see that you can come back from an injury and find yourself not only back where you were but better than before.”
The veteran has his eyes set on claiming the 3,000-meter steeplechase come NCAAs. He finished third last year at his first showing at the outdoor NCAA Championships.
“Although a lot of us recorded personal bests, we want to be good in a few weeks,” said Fisher, who’s also seeking to claim an NCAA title later this season. “Back to training now.”
In the women’s 5,000 meters, sophomore standout Jess Lawson broke her personal best by 38 seconds to claim the bronze (15:50.70). Sophomore Jordan Oakes finished eighth with a personal best of her own (16:14.13).
Junior Jenna Gray broke a meet record in the javelin, launching the stick 55.86 meters to overcome a year-old record held by teammate Mackenzie Little. Gray, a two-sport All-American, finished second to Little at the NCAA Championships last spring. While Little did not compete on Friday, the two teammates have hopes of extending their careers well into the postseason.
Aside from the Cardinal Classic, Stanford was also represented at the Bryan Clay Invitational on Wednesday and Thursday in Southern California. Fifth-year Harrison Williams made history in the decathlon, scoring a school-record 8,112 points. He finished second and broke his eighth Stanford multi-events record. This was his second time breaking 8,000 points; his first came sophomore year.
Williams now stands at No. 2 in the NCAA and in the world this year behind USC freshman Ayden Owens, who scored 8,130 points at the same meet.
“Overall, there weren’t any huge performances,” said Williams. “I set zero event PRs. I was just consistent all around. That just shows how much I’ve progressed since sophomore year.”
Williams, the reigning indoor NCAA heptathlon champion, will be searching for his first NCAA decathlon title this outdoor season, with his Stanford eligibility coming to a close at the conclusion of the season.