By Sofia Scekic
For the first time since 2010, both the men’s and women’s cross country teams are Pac-12 champions.
Behind second place finishes from senior Ella Donaghu in the women’s race and redshirt freshman Charles Hicks in the men’s race, the Cardinal ran to the conference championship in just their third meet of the season.
After winning two consecutive races to start the season, Donaghu finished second in 19:09.0 at the Pac-12 championships for the second straight year. Last year, she was part of the trio that included Fiona O’Keeffe ’20 and then-junior Jessica Lawson that took the top three spots at the conference championship.
This year, she led a squad that took three of the top four spots. True freshman Zofia Dudek finished one place and five seconds behind Donaghu in 19:14.9, while senior Julia Heymach placed fourth in 19:21.9. Lawson and fifth year Christina Aragon rounded out scoring for the Cardinal, coming in ninth and 12th, respectively.
Washington’s Haley Hernberg went through the first 2k in a blazing 5:59.1, while Donaghu and Dudek were running in second and third but well behind Hernberg in 6:21.7. The top three did not change throughout the entire 6k, although Donaghu was able to close the gap near the end of the race and finished only seven seconds behind Hernberg. Heymach, however, was sitting in 22nd place through the first 2k and seventh after the first 4k before making her way up to fourth to finish the race.
The women’s team totaled 30 points, well ahead of runner-up Colorado with 50, to win its 22nd overall conference championship and 17th title as a member of the Pac-12.
Donaghu was also named the Pac-12 Women’s Cross Country Scholar-Athlete of the Year, an award given to an athlete who stands out both academically and athletically in each of the 24 Pac-12 sponsored sports.
On the men’s side, all five scoring runners finished in the top nine as the Cardinal totaled 28 points. Colorado finished second with 60 points, while Colorado’s Eduardo Hererra took home the individual title after completing the 8k course in 22:30. Hicks crossed the line in 22:41.6 after he and Hererra ran stride for stride through the first 6k of the race.
What made Stanford’s performance all the more impressive was four freshmen in eligibility placed among the top 14: after Hicks, Cole Sprout took fourth, Ky Robinson finished eighth and Devin Hart placed 14th. Friday’s meet was also a breakout performance for Robinson, who did not finish higher than the ninth runner on the team in any of the Cardinal’s previous meets this season.
Fifth year Alek Parsons, the third Cardinal to cross the line and fifth overall finisher on Friday, was named the Pac-12 Men’s Cross Country Scholar-Athlete of the Year. He is the third Cardinal runner in a row and seventh overall from Stanford to win the award.
While regionals, typically the qualifying meet for nationals, has been cancelled this season due to COVID-19, 31 men’s and 31 women’s teams will be chosen by a committee on Sunday, Mar. 7 to race in the NCAA championships. The national meet will take place on Mar. 15 in Stillwater, OK.