This weekend’s Pac-12 Cross Country Championships in Tucson, Arizona finished with both Stanford Men’s and Women’s teams atop the podium; the men took silver and the women finished with the bronze.
On the men’s side, sophomore Grant Fisher took second overall on the 8K (4.97 mile) course in 24:13.5s, behind only the legendary Edward Cheserek of Oregon, who should honestly not even be allowed to compete on the collegiate level anymore because it has just almost unfair at this point. Arguably the nation’s greatest runner, Cheserek dominated in 23:58.9s to win his 4th career Pac-12 individual title.
Behind that duo was Sean McGorty in 7th (24.22.9s), Thomas Ratcliffe in 8th (24:31.9s) in his official collegiate debut, Garrett Sweatt in 14th (24:48.6s), and Steven Fahy in 16th (24.52.5s).
Despite not taking the gold, what needs to be deduced from this performance is how close together our top-5 finished. That is the power of the pack: running together and pushing each other to better all-around performances.
Ratcliffe was, for obvious reasons, the one everyone had their eyes on to see break out of the forest. With only one meet under his belt—a meet victory—nobody knew how he’d fare, and an 8th place finish against top tier competition, coupled with overflowing amounts of untapped potential, offers the team a major cause for optimism.
"When I looked around the pack with 1K to go and saw Thomas, it was definitely a confidence booster," Grant Fisher said. "He ran incredibly well. He's made awesome progress."
The team’s combined 47 points positioned them only behind Colorado’s 41, but went down as the school’s lowest total since 2010.
"We're happy with our performance, but we're looking to do even better at NCAA's." said No. 2 Fisher, who extended the Cardinal’s streak of having a top-3 finisher to 4 years.
Transitioning to the women, Vanessa Fraser led their squad in 8th on the 6K (3.73 mile) course in 20.35.2s. 15s behind her was freshman Fiona O’Keefe in 11th, followed by two others making their collegiate debuts: Christina Aragon in 14th (20:58.0s) and Ella Donaghu (21.18.8s).
"Across the board, the women ran with total confidence in themselves," said Stanford women's coach Elizabeth DeBole. "We knew we could be really good if we ran as a team – together, together, together. And that's exactly what we did the second half of the race."
Like with Ratcliffe, dominant performances by these freshmen women shine a huge bright spot on the team. Contributing to a third place finish as a team in this meet, those three women should be running immensely faster by Nationals. Coming directly out of high school, freshmen are still getting adjusted to the lengthened distances associated with collegiate XC, and as they gain experience, their times drop. None of the previously mentioned rookies have ran more than 2 races this season: that’s a lot of experience left to be had, and a ton of time left to be cut.
The season is truly winding down now. Conference championships are officially behind us, as the Cardinal takes yet another step closer to its ultimate test: NCAA Nationals. Next up for Stanford is the NCAA West Regional Championships in Sacramento on November 11th, giving the runners 2 weeks to recover before entering the true grind of the season.
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