This article is part of a running series The Daily sports staff will be publishing on Stanford sports teams.
In the team’s 25th consecutive appearance at the NCAA Championships last fall, men’s cross country placed fifth as a team behind a second-place finish from senior All-American Grant Fisher, capping off a consistent season for the Cardinal.
Under snowing conditions at the Thomas Zimmer Championship Course in Madison, Wisconsin, Fisher matched the program’s highest individual finish as Stanford collected its 19th top-five NCAA finish as a team. No Cardinal has ever won the men’s race at the NCAA Championships, but Fisher was perhaps the program’s best shot since Chris Derrick finished runner-up in 2011.
Heading into the final stretches of the championship race, Fisher remained amongst the leading pack. But as the race entered the final turn, it was Wisconsin’s Morgan McDonald, a redshirt senior All-American, who surged to the lead. Fisher chased the Australian down the final meters of the course, but the day sided in favor of the in-state favorite, who crossed the stripe only half a second ahead of the Stanford senior.
“I was proud of how I kicked,” said Fisher. “Morgan got the best of me over the last 100 meters. I have tremendous respect for him and all the other guys that were leading. The NCAA is incredibly deep and to be in that pack is something special.”
Fisher became Stanford’s fifth runner-up NCAA finisher, joining the likes of Derrick (2011), Neftalem Araia (2006), Ryan Hall (2003) and Gary Stolz (1992).
Despite not claiming the national title, Fisher’s season and career, for that matter, was one of the most dominant the program has ever seen. Over last four years, Fisher has built a cross country resume that includes four All-American honors and three top-five NCAA finishes. He is only one of two in Stanford history to have accomplished the latter.
At the 2018 Pac-12 Championships, Fisher won his second consecutive individual title, leading the men’s team to back-to-back conference victories. Aside from 2017, the last time the program had won a Pac-12 title was when it last repeated from 2009-10 under the direction of former head coach Jason Dunn.
Fisher’s excellence on and off the track awarded him the Pac-12 Scholar-Athlete of the Year and Pac-12 Athlete of the Year awards for the sport.
Winning his second conference title at the helm of the program, head coach Chris Miltenberg was named the Pac-12 Coach of the Year for the second consecutive year. It was the team’s 24th consecutive Pac-12 top-three finish and, more importantly, Stanford’s 31st consecutive victory over Cal at the conference championships.
Despite graduating Fisher, the team returns several stars, including All-Americans Alex Ostberg and Alek Parsons. The pair of juniors were tangible forces throughout the season — Ostberg and Parsons placed 13th and 30th, respectively, at nationals — and will likely be the team’s leaders next season. The team also returns a pair of sophomore Pac-12 All-Academic honorable mentions in DJ Principe and Michael Vernau.
With the 2018 campaign in the books, the fall season will kick off in early September at the annual San Francisco Invitational.
Contact Alejandro Salinas at asalinas ‘at’ stanford.edu.