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Track and field seeks NCAA berth at West regionals

Stanford sends 30 individuals and one relay

Senior Grant Fisher (above) returns as one of the top contenders in the men's 5,000 meters this season. The All-American placed third last year and won the event at the 2017 NCAA Championships. (JOHN P. LOZANO/isiphotos.com)

Competing for bids to the NCAA Championships, Stanford track and field will be represented by 30 individuals and one relay team at the three-day NCAA West Preliminary Round on Thursday at Sacramento State.

The West Preliminary Round is one of two regionals across the country, with the other one taking place in Jacksonville, Florida. Of the 48 athletes in each individual event, only the top 12 finishers at each regional will qualify for the NCAA Championships.

Fifth-year decathlete Harrison Williams is the only Cardinal have already qualified for the NCAA Championships after breaking the school record with the No. 2 score in the nation (8,112 points) at the Bryan Clay Invitational last month. Multi-events athletes qualify directly for the championships and do not compete at regionals.

The Stanford men’s team bring five runners to Sacramento for the 5,000 meters, led by senior All-American Grant Fisher, the 2017 NCAA Outdoor Champion. He will be joined by Connor Lane, Alex Ostberg, Clayton Mendez and Thomas Ratcliffe in Stanford’s most represented event at the prelims. The race is scheduled to begin Saturday at 8:45 p.m.

Competing in his final outdoor track season, fifth-year senior Steven Fahy seeks back-to-back NCAA berths. The third-place finisher from last year’s NCAA final, Fahy returns as one of the top contenders in the race. His season best (8:43.85) won him his second Pac-12 title two weeks ago and ranks him third in his heat, which kicks off Friday at 9:00 p.m.

On the women’s side, the trio of Mackenzie Little, Jenna Gray and Virginia Miller look to extend Stanford’s NCAA qualifying streak in the javelin to nine years. A senior from Australia, Little is the reigning NCAA champion and recently completed a career sweep of the javelin title at the Pac-12 Championships. She is undefeated on the season and holds the No. 1 spot in the country by a margin of two meters. She is the only athlete this season to have thrown for over 190 feet.

The runner-up at nationals last year, Gray will also be a top contender in the field this year. The two-sport junior athlete holds the No. 4 performance in the country. Miller, a sophomore, will be seeking her first NCAA berth. Competition for the women’s javelin begins at noon on Thursday.

The future of the women’s distance program will be on display in the 1,500 meters on Thursday evening. No. 10 Jessica Lawson, No. 11 Julia Heymach, No. 14 Ella Donaghu and No. 17 Jordan Oakes will all be searching for their first NCAA appearance. All four women will return to next year’s squad as the women’s program continues to strengthen its depth in the distance events.

Junior Fiona O’Keeffe, fifth-year Abbie McNulty and Oakes will compete in the 5,000 meters. No. 9 O’Keeffe searches for her first NCAA outdoor appearance since finishing fifth as a freshman. She missed advancing to last year’s championships by one automatic qualifying spot, but returns as one of the top contenders in the field.

McNulty seeks to extend her final season of collegiate eligibility. The veteran distance runner has yet to advance to the NCAA Outdoor Championships but will have two opportunities this weekend with the 5,000 and 10,000 meters.

The women’s 10,000 meters is scheduled for Thursday at 9:00 p.m. with the 5,000 meters on Saturday at 8:05 p.m. The complete meet schedule, as well as heat sheet and live results, can be found online.

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

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