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Track and field defends men’s steeplechase and women’s javelin Pac-12 titles

Fahy claims back-to-back steeplechase titles, Little completes javelin career sweep

Fifth-year Steven Fahy (above) repeated as individual conference champion on Saturday. Fahy won the men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase with a time of 8:43.85, setting a new Roy P. Drachman Stadium record. (JOHN P. LOZANO/isiphotos.com)

Despite a three-hour lightning delay on the opening night of the two-day Pac-12 Track and Field Championships in Tucson, Arizona, fifth-year Steven Fahy and senior Mackenzie Little repeated as individual conference champions. As a team, the Stanford women placed fourth with 85 points, while the men claimed eighth with 51 points.

“We had a great Pac-12’s all around,” said Chris Miltenberg, the Franklin P. Johnson Director of Track & Field. “We came off a big high last year after being at home and graduated several seniors on both sides from those teams.  It was really exciting to see our young athletes step up and fill that role after last year!”

Fahy won the men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase in record-breaking fashion on Saturday night. With a time of 8:43.85, he set a new Roy P. Drachman Stadium record, besting the previous record — 8:47.69 set by Arizona State’s Aaron Aguayo in 2004  — by nearly four seconds.

The fifth-year senior controlled the race over the final 600 meters to claim the victory by six seconds, defeating Arizona’s Bailey Roth, the 2017 champion.

“We just really wanted to build intensity over the last three laps, as steadily as possible and really commit to a move when I made it,” said Fahy in a post-race interview with the Pac-12 Network. “Around a kilometer to go, when we really started ratcheting it up; I tried to accelerate every hundred all the way to the finish and tried to get enough of a lead to hold on.”

Fahy, the 2018 Pac-12 champion in the event, is the first athlete to claim repeat men’s steeplechase conference titles since Aguayo won from 2004-07.

On the women’s side, Little’s victory in the women’s javelin came as no surprise. She has won every competition this season and extends her winning streak to eight after her conference showing. Besting the field by 16 feet, she threw for 194 feet on her first attempt to seal the victory. The senior from Australia broke the 10-year-old meet record by three feet and claimed Stanford’s eighth consecutive women’s javelin conference title, following the career sweep of Brianna Bain.

Little, the reigning NCAA champion in the event, stands alone atop the collegiate field this season after clearing 195 feet 1 inch at the Big Meet early this season. Memphis senior Ashley Pryke holds the second-best collegiate performance this season at 188 feet 6 inches, with Stanford’s own Jenna Gray, the NCAA runner-up last season, in fourth at 184 feet. Gray threw for 172 feet 10 inches to finish third at the conference championships.

Little has been absolutely dominant in the event, to say the least. While no other collegiate athlete has broken 190 feet, Little has accomplished the feat in four of her five competitions this season. Within the conference, she is the fourth athlete to complete a career sweep in the women’s javelin and marks Stanford’s fourth individual champion in the event.

Saturday night also saw fifth-year Abbie McNulty finish fifth in the women’s 10,000 meters — the final event of the opening night of competition — with a time of 33:41.59. In a race that didn’t start until after midnight due to the lightning delay, McNulty ran unfazed, finishing as one of six runners who broke the stadium record 34:11.90 set in 1983.

Sunday’s action consisted of primarily runner-up finishes for the Cardinal. Sophomore Jessica Lawson, an up-and-coming stand out in her class, claimed the silver (4:17.03) in the women’s 1,500 meters. She was outpaced by Oregon’s senior Jessica Hull (4:16.42), the 2018 NCAA and Pac-12 champion in the event. Stanford junior Ella Donaghu (4:17.83) finished in third, with sophomore Julia Heymach (4:19.45) and junior Fiona O’Keeffe (4:21.57) in sixth and seventh, respectively.

O’Keeffe returned to the track three hours later for the women’s 5,000 meters. Over the final 100 meters, she dualed with Colorado’s Dani Jones, who outlasted the challenging Stanford junior. Jones crossed in 15:54.86 for the victory, ahead of second-place O’Keeffe (15:55.12).

In the women’s high jump, fifth-year senior Rachel Reichenbach (5 feet 10.5 inches) finished runner-up to Arizona’s Karla Teran (6 feet 2 inches). The Stanford veteran tied her personal best, securing her spot as the No. 5 performer on Stanford’s all-time list.

On the men’s side, senior Grant Fisher picked up a pair of second-place finishes. The 2017 Pac-12 1,500-meter champion and 2018 third-place finisher returned to the event on Sunday but was overcome by Arizona State’s William Paulson (3:49.18). Fisher crossed in 3:49.29 for the silver.

The senior returned to the track three hours later for the men’s 5,000 meters, an event he placed third in at last year’s conference championships. Fisher, a Bowerman candidate, joined Fahy in the lead pack. But it was Oregon’s Cooper Teare (13:49.77) who outkicked the Stanford duo in the final meters. Fisher (13:50.30) finished second, with Fahy (13:50.79) third.

“The results don’t fully indicate how much great momentum we built coming off this meet,” said Miltenberg. “Our senior leaders like Mackenzie Little, Grant Fisher and Steven Fahy were outstanding and showed our younger athletes where we build to over multiple years in the game.”

While Fahy will likely focus on the steeplechase come NCAAs, Fisher will continue to represent the Cardinal in the 5,000 meters, an event he finished third in last year at the NCAA Championships and won in 2017.

“I’m really fired up with the effort and grit and I saw across our whole team,” Miltenberg added. “It’s a great sign both heading into the NCAA Championships and for our future!”

Stanford track and field will next head to the NCAA West Prelims at Sacramento State on May 23-25, with the NCAA Championships June 5-8 in Austin, Texas.

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

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