In the presence of Olympians and world-record holders, Stanford excelled at the 24th Payton Jordan Invitational on Thursday night at Cobb Track and Angell Field. Sophomore Connor Lane and junior Alex Ostberg each broke their personal bests in the men’s 5,000 meters by 17 seconds in one of their strongest showings of the year. Stanford now has six athletes under 13:50 at the distance.
The race maintained an honest opening pace, with professionals leading the way. Ostberg and Lane each entered with personal bests of 13:59.35 and 13:59.43, respectively. Argentina’s Federico Bruno, a three-time medalist at the South American Championships, led for much of the race, exchanging the lead with Sweden’s Suldan Hassan. The duo pulled the field to a fast pace as Ostberg and Lane held on to the back of the leading pack. After back-to-back 67-second laps, the leaders remained bunched heading into the final 1,000 meters.
The pace quickened over the final two laps, and with one to go, Ostberg and Lane ran side-by-side a few seconds behind the leaders. While a group of four professionals broke away from the field, the final 200 meters saw Lane and Ostberg surge together. They flew down the straight away, with Lane finishing fifth (13:42.31) and Ostberg seventh (13:42.44). Lane out leaned sixth-place finisher Reebok’s Phil Germano (13:42.37) in the final stride to finish as the top collegiate in the field.
With this performance, Lane and Ostberg rank 15th and 16th, respectively, in the nation.
The men’s invitational section of the 1,500 meters saw one of the most competitive fields of the night. Senior Grant Fisher toed the line with former teammate Sean McGorty, who returned to the Farm for the first time since graduating last June.
Fisher and McGorty ran side-by-side through first 400 meters in fifth and sixth, respectively. The duo moved up one spot each over the ensuing lap as Clayton Murphy, the 2016 Olympic bronze medalist at 800 meters, led the race with an honest 1:55.40 in the opening 800.
With a lap and a half remaining, Fisher surged into second behind Murphy. McGorty followed in third. The Olympic-garnished talent led from the start, and while it was expected he would pull away from the field, Fisher kept him within striking distance as the duo sped into the final lap.
On the back stretch, the Stanford senior chased the Olympian but ultimately faded over the final 100 meters to place seventh (3:39.60). Murphy went on to win the race unchallenged in the home straight with a time of 3:37.59. Reebok’s Robert Domanic (3:38.27) moved up five places over the final 400 meters for second.
Oregon’s Reed Brown closed in 56.31 seconds, the second-fastest to Domanic, to finish as the highest collegiate athlete. McGorty finished fourth in 3:39.00.
“I’m not too happy with my last 100,” Fisher said. “I put myself in the race, which is where I wanted to be. Those guys kind of got away from me.”
This was Fisher’s first 1,500 meters of the season and first time dipping under the 3:40 mark.
“I was happy with the time — a time’s a time,” he said. “But at the end of the day, I want to win races. I need that last 100 to be there. It’s coming. Got another month to go until NCAA’s, but it’s coming along.”
In section three of the women’s 1,500 meters, Arkansas’s Maddy Reed and Lauren Gregory ran in second and third, respectively, behind the pacer, Christina Aragon over the opening 400 meters. Sophomore Jordan Oakes followed in pursuit in fourth.
After Aragon’s duties were relieved, Gregory opened a lead on the pack, entering the bell lap with 3:07 on the clock. Gregory’s lifetime best of 4:24 was challenged as she stormed to the finish. No one was able to close in on her, finishing with an incredible personal best of 4:16. Sophomore Julia Heymach also set a huge lifetime best 4:17.74 for fourth. The up-and-coming sophomore broke her previous best by four seconds. Junior Ella Donaghu set a season best with 4:18.71, while Oakes crossed in a lifetime best 4:18.75.
Junior Fiona O’Keeffe and fifth-year Abbie McNulty let others do much of the work up front in the opening laps of the women’s 5,000 meters. The pack remained tight through the first eight of 12.5 laps.
With two and a half laps to go, a pack of five runners — O’Keeffe, McNulty, Oregon’s Carmela Cardama Baez and pros Emily Oren and Erica Digby — broke away from the field. Splitting back-to-back 75-second laps, the leaders entered the bell lap at 14:31 with eyes set on breaking the 15:40 barrier.
While Oren may have run away with the win (15:37.47), the real race was for second. O’Keeffe and Pac-12 foe Cardama Baez battled down the final 100 meters, but it was the Oregon Duck who marginally edged out O’Keeffe. Cardama Baez finished in 15:38.77 and O’Keeffe in 15:38.88. McNulty crossed in 15:59.96 for 10th.
With no pacer in the field, the women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase opened with a conservative 5:16 pace through the first four laps. New Mexico’s Adva Cohen lead a pack of five leaders as the women entered the final three laps. Boise State’s Allie Ostrander, the two-time NCAA champion in the event, tucked in patiently behind her. With two to go, Ostrander and Cohen began to separate from the field. Ostrander took the inside position with 500 to go, but Cohen responded taking the lead back as the duo hit the home stretch.
Cohen and Ostrander ran stride-for-stride as they entered the bell lap. Cohen stumbled slightly over the last water jump, giving Ostrander the edge. Cohen battled back over the final 100 meters as the race came down to the final strides. Ostrander out leaned the challenging Lobo to win in 9:45.66. Cohen crossed in 9:45.71, but will have a chance for redemption at at Mountain West Conference Championships, where the duo will likely rematch.
The men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase rewrote the NCAA leader’s list. The race opened with Hoka’s Travis Mahoney taking the lead. Minnesota’s Obsa Ali, the reigning NCAA champion in the event, ran conservatively mid-pack. With 800 meters to go, a nine-man pack remained bunched at the front. Two-hundred meters later, Oklahoma State’s Ryan Smeeton claimed the lead, sending Mahoney to second for the first time.
Ali moved up into position as the pack enter the bell lap. Smeeten opened a five-yard lead on Mahoney with Ali surging to close the lead in third. Smeeten powered to the line, winning in a surprising 8:27.90, the second-fastest time in the world this year. He now leads the NCAA in the event, as Mahoney finished in 8:28. Ali finished in fifth with a lifetime best 8:31.15. Stanford’s Steven Fahy, a fifth-year senior and reigning third-place NCAA finisher in the event, did not compete in the race.
The women’s invitational 800 meters came down to the final straight away. Former Cardinal and Stanford’s 800-meter record-holder (2:00.08), Olivia Baker led the field through the opening segment.
She was challenged by Oregon’s Susan Ejore, who holds the third fastest NCAA time this season. Ejore moved to the lead in the back straight before Nike’s Hanna Green charged to the front. She extended her lead down the final 100 meters to claim the win in 2:01.61. Ejore finished in second with a season-best 2:02.66, which further secures her No. 3 spot in the NCAA. Baker crossed in 2:03.69 for third in her first appearance at Stanford since graduating last June.
The men’s section of the 800-meters saw a back-and-forth action between Southern Utah’s George Espino and New Mexico’s Michael Wilson. Stanford’s 800-meter specialist junior Hari Sathyamurthy ran in third at the halfway point.
With 300 meters left, pro Patrick Joseph moved into the lead, but only held it through the ensuing 150 meters, with Espino surging forward. Wilson chased hard, and the two battled down the home straight. Espino closed in 54.39 seconds over the final lap to claim the win in 1:48.44. His closing speed was second to none as Wilson finished in 1:48.77 for the silver. Joseph finished third (1:50.46), with Sathyamurthy in fourth (1:50.82).
The Cardinal will head to Tucson, Arizona on May 11 for the two-day Pac-12 Championships.
Contact Alejandro Salinas at asalinas ‘at’ stanford.edu.