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Ashlan Best breaks school record, track and field produces ‘best team effort’

Junior Julia Heymach runs No. 2 mile time in program history

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In the final weekend of regular season competition, Stanford track and field set one school record and one freshman record to go along with 11 additions to the top 10 all-time indoor performers’ list. The Cardinal split their team between two meets over the long Presidents’ Day weekend, sending athletes to both the Don Kirby Invitational in New Mexico and the Husky Classic in Seattle. 

“Strong performances all across the board,” said first-year head coach J.J. Clark. “By far, my best team effort as director of track and field here.”

Despite competing at an altitude of 5,300 feet at the Don Kirby invite, junior Ashlan Best set a new school record in the 400 meters on Friday. She crossed in a scorching time of 53.02 on the 200-meter banked track to place second behind UCLA’s Shae Anderson, who won the event in 52.07. 

Best broke the previous school record of 53.35 shared by Kristyn Williams ’16 and Olivia Baker ’18. Williams ran her time on an oversized track at the 2015 Husky Classic before Baker tied it in 2018 at the Don Kirby invite. 

Best, who was on the cusp of breaking the record after running a then-career-best 53.69 at the UW Preview last month, now holds the No. 16 time in the country and is in position to qualify for the indoor NCAA championships next month. 

The top 16 individuals and top 12 relay teams are granted admission to the national championships, which will be held March 13-14 at the Albuquerque Convention Center, the same site as the Don Kirby invite.

Friday also saw freshman Dorien Simon break his own freshman record in the 60 meters. The Lakewood, Washington, product ran 6.81, improving his previous best of 6.85 set at the UW Preview.

Competing over 1,000 miles away at the Husky Classic in Seattle, the Stanford women’s distance program had another record-shattering weekend. Two weeks after senior Ella Donaghu made headlines for setting the school indoor mile record on a 200-meter track, junior Julia Heymach registered a faster mile time on the oversized 307-meter track at the University of Washington’s Dempsey Indoor Center.

Heymach ran a blistering time of 4:33.37 on Saturday to move up to No. 5 in the nation and No. 2 on Stanford’s all-time performers’ list. She’s surpassed only by Elise Cranny ’18, who set the program record with a 4:31.29 mile on the same track at the 2018 MPSF Championships. 

Senior Christina Aragon, who has battled injuries over the last two years, ran a season-best 4:37.30 in the mile, recording a nine-second improvement from just two weeks ago. Her time sits about a second away from the No. 16 time in the nation. Junior Jordan Oakes ran 4:38.99 in the mile, obliterating her previous personal best of 4:47.96 from 2016.

Donaghu continued to build on her stellar senior season with a third-place finish in the fastest section of the 3,000 meters. Her time of 8:54.72 is the fastest time since PattiSue Plumer ’85 J.D. ’89 ran 8:53.1 in 1983. Junior Jess Lawson, who is also in the midst of a breakout season, crossed in 8:59.38 to finish seventh, becoming the sixth woman in program history to break nine minutes.

On the men’s side, junior Alex Ostberg ran a career-best 7:49.01 in the 3,000 meters to place eighth in a competitive field at the Husky Classic and fifth on Stanford’s all-time indoor performers’ list. He now holds the No. 9 time in the nation, with one weekend of competition left before the national championships.

For the first time in his career, junior Michael Vernau broke 14 minutes in the 5,000 meters, becoming the sixth Cardinal on the current roster to accomplish the feat. He ran 13:59.89 on Friday in the same heat as freshman Devin Hart, who crossed in 14:00.39. Senior Alek Parsons finished as the fastest Cardinal of the day, running a season-best 13:59.16.

On Thursday, football All-American cornerback senior Paulson Adebo made his career debut for Stanford track and field, clocking 51.44 in the 400 meters.

With the regular season complete, the MPSF Championships on Feb. 28-29 remains as the final opportunity to qualify for the NCAA Championships on March 13-14 in Albuquerque. 

“I’m excited about the next two meets,” Clark said.

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

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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.