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Ella Donaghu, Jess Lawson rewrite Stanford history in women’s mile

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After her historic opening to the indoor track and field season two weeks ago, senior Ella Donaghu continued her momentum on Saturday, breaking the official Stanford record for the mile on a regulation indoor track. 

With a scorching time of 4:33.71, Donaghu won the mile at the Razorback Invitational in Arkansas, edging the previous record of 4:34.48 set by Elise Cranny ’18 in 2018. Junior Jess Lawson crushed her personal best by over two seconds, clocking 4:35.56 for second in Saturday’s race. 

Together Donaghu and Lawson now hold the No. 2 and No. 3 fastest mile times, respectively, on Stanford’s unofficial all-time indoor list. The top spot goes to Cranny, who ran 4:31.29 at the University of Washington’s oversized 307-meter banked track. While Cranny’s feat marks the fastest unofficial mile in Stanford’s all-time record book, official school records must be run on 200-meter tracks, the regulation standard in the indoor sport. 

“Ella and Jess ran great,” said head coach J.J. Clark. “They both are on their way to great seasons.”

On the men’s side, sophomore Max McKhann had an impressive showing on Friday. McKhann, who was one of Stanford’s two meet winners two weeks ago, placed second in the weight throw with his second-straight personal best. He threw the 35-pound weight 19.59 meters on his fifth attempt, improving his best mark by over two feet.

After not competing in the indoor season last year, Mckhann has recorded personal bests in both indoor meets this season. Friday’s performance moves him up from No. 9 to No. 5 on Stanford’s all-time performers’ list.

Less than 24 hours before running record-breaking times in the mile, Donaghu and Lawson teamed up with juniors Ashlan Best and Julia Heymach to produce the fastest distance medley relay (DMR) time in the nation. The Stanford women crossed in 10:55.89, besting Arkansas’ 10:57.08 on Friday night. 

Donaghu led off the Cardinal with a 3:20.48 split in the 1,200. Best followed with a 53.16 for the 400, before Heymach ran 2:05.57 in the 800. Lawson anchored the relay team with a 4:36.69 in the 1,600.

While the Friday night spectacle marks the fifth-fastest time in program history, the team’s performance proves to be a dramatic shift from a blemish last year, when the women’s DMR team failed to reach the national championships and broke a five-year streak of top-three NCAA finishes in the event from 2014-18.

To qualify for the NCAA Championships on March 13-14 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the Cardinal must have one of the top 12 times in the country. With Friday’s performance, Stanford has made a strong bid for the championships and may see its first appearance at the meet since 2018. 

Under Clark, the distance women have been particularly dominant this academic year. In the fall, Stanford claimed the Pac-12 and West Regional titles before finishing third at the NCAA Championships, the team’s best showing on the national stage since 2012.

On an individual basis, Donaghu has excelled this year. After concluding her junior outdoor track season with her first appearance at the NCAA Championships, she continued to build off her momentum this fall. At the NCAA cross country regionals, she became the first Stanford woman to win the race in 12 years, before crossing as Stanford’s top-finisher and eighth overall at the national championships a week later.

She opened her indoor season with a historic showing in Seattle on Jan. 18. In the 3,000, she ran the fastest time by a Stanford runner in 37 years. Her nation-leading time of 8:58.31 stands alone in the country as the only performance under nine minutes this year.

The track and field season continues in two weeks, with the Don Kirby Invitational and Husky Classic scheduled for Feb. 13-15.  

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

Alejandro Salinas '21 is a Senior Staff Writer after serving as the Managing Editor of Sports for two volumes. 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.