To ‘little’ surprise, senior Mackenzie Little claimed her second consecutive javelin title in the third day of the outdoor NCAA Track and Field Championships. A few hours later, fifth-year senior Steven Fahy concluded his college career with a national title of his own, winning the men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase in dramatic fashion after falling over the final barrier.
Friday night also saw senior Grant Fisher and junior Thomas Ratcliffe place second and third, respectively, in the 5,000 meters as the men’s team finished fifth overall. With fifth-year senior Harrison Williams finishing runner up in the decathlon on Thursday, all four athletes representing the No. 19 Stanford men’s team placed in the top three, accumulating a total of 32 points.
While No. 1 Texas Tech claimed the men’s team title, Stanford defeated several track and field powerhouses, including No. 5 Texas A&M (sixth, 29 points), No. 3 LSU (seventh, 28 points) and No. 6 Oregon (12th, 23 points). The Cardinal recorded its highest finish at the outdoor championships since the team placed fourth in 2001.
On the women’s side, No. 11 Stanford is tied for first with No. 1 Arkansas through the first six events of the meet. Both teams have accumulated 15 points heading into the final day of competition on Saturday.
All 15 of those points for Stanford came in the women’s javelin event on Friday. With Little’s title-defending performance and junior Jena Gray’s fourth-place finish, the Cardinal women became the first program to ever score 15 points or more in back-to-back years in the event. Gray, a volleyball All-American, finished runner up last year to Little, earning Stanford 18 points in the event.
This year, Little entered the competition as a clear favorite. The senior from Australia held the top distance (195 feet, one inch) for the nearly the entirety of the season. She was the only collegian to have broken 190 feet this year, and she displayed her talent and experience on Friday when her 195-foot first attempt was untouched for the remainder of the competition.
No one else was able to get with 10 feet of her remarkable throw, solidifying her as Stanford’s first woman to win two NCAA titles in a field event. She became just the sixth person in NCAA history to repeat in the javelin and first since Oklahoma’s Brittany Borman in 2011 and 2012.
“I’m really thrilled,” Little said. “I’m so excited, I couldn’t be happier for my last meet competing in a Stanford uniform.”
Fifth-year senior Steven Fahy claimed his first NCAA title with a dramatic finish in the men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase. With less than half a lap remaining, Fahy ran side-by-side Indiana’s Daniel Michalski, a former Division II All-American at Cedarville. The two seniors were chasing their first NCAA Division I title in the event as they approached the final water jump.
For Michalski, his aspirations were cut short as he clipped the barrier and fell to the ground as Fahy stormed away. Well clear of the field, the Stanford veteran, who was competing in a Cardinal uniform for the final time, had only one final barrier standing between him and the glorious NCAA title.
As Fahy leapt over the final barrier, he, too, clipped the bar and fell in an unusual sequence of events. Without a moment’s waste, the All-American and 2018 third-place finisher in the event quickly got up and sprinted for the finish as the rest of the field chased him down the final meters. Despite falling, Fahy crossed in 8:38.46, outlasting second-place finisher Ryan Smeeton from Oklahoma State by 0.6 seconds.
“Falling over that last barrier is a perfect way to sum up my collegiate career,” Fahy said. “Nothing’s going to come easy, and it’s not always going to happen the way you think it’s going to or the way that you envision it. But if you keep your nose in it and you really believe that you’re going to get there, and if you put in that work over those years, that’s why all this happens.”
Fahy adds to a resumé that includes two consecutive Pac-12 steeplechase titles and multiple All-America honors. With his victory on Friday, Fahy became Stanford’s first NCAA Champion in the event and the first from the Pac-12 since Kyle Alcorn of Arizona State in 2008.
In one of the most anticipated matchups of the championships, Fisher toed the line with Wisconsin’s Morgan McDonald, who outkicked Fisher to win the NCAA cross country championships in the fall and the NCAA indoor 3,000 meters in March.
In 87-degree weather in Austin, Texas, the duo led the strung out field heading into the final mile of the race. UCLA’s Robert Brandt followed in third, with Stanford junior Thomas Ratcliffe hugging the rail in sixth.
Entering the final lap, Fisher and McDonald ran shoulder to shoulder. Fisher surged to gain the inside lane advantage and quickly accelerated into the lap. McDonald responded, chasing the Stanford All-American into the back straight. Having separated from the field, the duo kicked around the oval one last time in their respective collegiate careers.
As they entered the home straightaway, McDonald opened a widening lead on Fisher, ultimately crossing in 14:06.01 for his fourth NCAA title. Fisher finished in 14:06.63 and Ratcliffe, who passed two runners over the final 200 meters, placed third (14:07.92) in his first appearance at the outdoor national championships.
While Fisher’s strategy was to outkick the familiar foe, McDonald closed in a respectable 52.90 seconds over the final lap to pull away with the victory.
Fisher concludes his collegiate career with two Pac-12 titles and the 2017 NCAA title in the 5,000 meters. He has been named an All-American nearly a dozen times in his four years on the Farm. He will graduate with the American collegiate record in the 3,000 meters.
The four-day NCAA Championships will conclude on Saturday at Mike A. Myers Stadium. Sophomore Jess Lawson and junior Ella Donaghu will represent Stanford in the 1,500 meters final, while junior Fiona O’Keeffe returns as a top contender in the 5,000 meters. On the field, junior shot putter Jaimi Salone and fifth-year senior Rachel Reichenbach, a high jumper, will both be making their first NCAA appearance.
Live results and an updated event schedule can be found online.
Contact Alejandro Salinas at asalinas ‘at’ stanford.edu.