By Sofia Scekic
Fresh off a weeklong training trip to Bend, Ore., the men’s and women’s cross country teams will travel to Tallahassee to compete in the FSU Open on Friday. After the men and women placed first and second, respectively, in last weekend’s USF Invitational even without key runners on both sides, each team will look to continue its strong start to the season on the same course that will host the NCAA Championships in November.
Head coach J.J. Clark wrote to The Daily that “on the women’s side, we have some game-time decisions to see if a couple will compete,” so it is unclear exactly who will don the Stanford ‘S’ on the starting line. Fifth-year Julia Heymach, who placed sixth in the 1500m final at the US Olympic Trials in June, as well as sophomore Zofia Dudek, who turned in top-three placings in her first two collegiate races last season, were two notable absences from the Cardinal team that competed in San Francisco last weekend. It remains to be seen when the two of them will first compete this season.
Freshman Audrey DaDamio led the Cardinal squad at the USF Invitational with a sixth-place finish in 21:34.2. All five runners who scored for Stanford — DaDamio, sophomore Lucy Jenks, senior Rebecca Story, grad student Christian Aragon and junior Lily Flynn — finished within 30 seconds of each other. Aragon, who began her Stanford career in 2016 and has seven All-American honors to her name between cross country and track, was singled out by Clark as a key performer in Tallahassee as well as for the rest of the season. She was the No. 4 runner on the team at the NCAA Championships last season; Stanford placed third at that meet last March.
The men were paced by three freshmen among the top 15 overall at USF last weekend. Junior Evan Burke took the meet victory in 24:31.8, while freshman Robert DiDonato finished second overall, freshman Caleb Boutrelle was ninth and freshman Nolan Topper finished in 15th place. Grad student Nick Feffer, a transfer from Dartmouth, rounded out Stanford’s top five with a 22nd overall finish.
Similar to the women’s side, several notable runners were held out of the season-opener on the men’s team. Stanford’s top three runners at the NCAA Championships last March — junior Charles Hicks, sophomore Cole Sprout and sophomore Ky Robinson — have yet to compete this season. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic affecting competition eligibility, all three runners in Hicks, Sprout and Robinson still have four years of eligibility left. Combined with the aforementioned freshmen who already have collegiate competition experience and will likely see more racing opportunities as the season progresses, Stanford seems set up for success for several years in the future.
In terms of goals for the teams’ upcoming race, Clark wrote that he hopes that the team will “continue [its] training cycle, get in better shape, and have an opportunity to view the course” before the NCAA Championships.
“We are focusing on getting in good work before the championship part of the season arrives,” he added.
The men will race 8,000 meters starting at 4:40 a.m. PT and the women will race 6,000 meters at 5:10 a.m. PT.