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Donaghu leads women’s cross country to NCAA Regional title

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With a bid to the NCAA Championships on the line, senior Ella Donaghu became the first Stanford woman in 12 years to win the NCAA West Regional title on Friday. Junior Jess Lawson finished seconds later to complete a 1-2 Stanford punch and lead the Cardinal women to their 16th regional title and first since 2016. 

With three finishers in the top 10, the No. 4 men’s team combined for 78 points to finish second to No. 11 Portland. The top two teams from each Regionals earn automatic bids to the NCAA Championships on Nov. 23 in Terre Haute, Indiana. For the 26th consecutive year, both the men’s and women’s teams advanced to nationals. 

Donaghu paced the women’s team with a time of 19:50.8 on the 6-kilometer course at the Colfax Golf Club in Washington to win her first collegiate cross country race. Lawson, who crossed in 19:54.2 for second, added another impressive finish to what is shaping into a standout junior season. Their combined efforts produced the first 1-2 Stanford finish since 2006, and Donaghu is the first regional champion since Teresa McWalters ’07 won during her redshirt junior season.

As the race developed, the pack of frontrunners slowly dwindled. With 600 meters to go, the race was spearheaded by a group of four that included Donaghu, Lawson, Washington’s Melany Smart and San Francisco’s Aoibhe Richardson. Over the final stages of the race, the Cardinal duo pulled away from the group, with Donaghu outkicking Lawson to the tape.

Junior Jordan Oakes placed fifth, while her classmate Julia Heymach finished 12th and freshman Abi Archer 19th to round out Stanford’s five scorers. With the exception of Heymach, the rest of the top five all placed higher than they ever had in a collegiate cross country race. Heymach placed 11th at the 2018 USF Invitational.

The Cardinal women were without their Pac-12 Champion Fiona O’Keeffe, who was intentionally rested on Friday. In her absence the women still proved dominant, winning their second consecutive race under first-year head coach J.J. Clark. 

On the men’s side, Stanford was neck-and-neck with Portland for the majority of the race. The Cardinal held a one-point advantage over Portland with one kilometer left in the race. But late efforts from the Pilots propelled Portland to a 13-point victory. 

Senior Alex Ostberg was the top finisher for the men’s team, covering the 10-kilometer course in 29:58.6. Junior Thomas Ratcliffe finished a tenth of a second later for eighth, and junior Alek Parsons placed 10th to round out Stanford’s three scorers in the top 10.

Despite finishing second, Stanford ran a considerably conservative race in an attempt to stay fresh for the NCAA Championships. While the regular season is composed of 8-kilometer races, the NCAA Regional, along with the NCAA Championships scheduled eight days later, are 10-kilometers long, making it difficult to stay rested for the latter competition. 

The Cardinal men have not won an NCAA Championship since 2003, and the women haven’t accomplished the feat since 2007. Both teams will get their shot at the national title come Saturday. 

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

Alejandro Salinas '21 is a Managing Editor of Sports. Hailing from Pasadena, CA, he studies computer science and biology as a junior. In his free time he enjoys running, playing with dogs and watching sports. Contact him at asalinas 'at' stanford.edu.