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Stanford Cross Country: The West Gets Painted Red

NCAA Football: Stanford Views Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The men’s and women’s cross country teams traveled to Sacramento for the West Regional Championships, and both left with identical title-winning plaques.

The men were favored in this one, and were able to cruise by second place Portland to their first West title since 2013. On the women’s side, the squad overcame the expected winner, Washington, to capture their first regional title since 2007.

The men’s team was led by All-America senior Sean McGorty to a 9-10-11 finish by the top three of McGorty (29:55.5s), Jack Keelan (29:55.5s), and Grant Fisher (29:55.6s) on the 10K course. Seeing by how close that pack finished, it was clear the approach taken by the team that day: run conservatively and just fast enough to take the team title.

"Over 10K, it's making sure we practice running with a lot of patience and composure," head coach Chris Miltenberg said. "If we don't need to pull the trigger the last 600 meters, that helps us get recovered for next week. It was pretty clear that with 1,000 to go, we had it locked up, so we just them to stay under control and finish together.”

After this meet, there is only one left: Nationals. Aside from the personal accolades, the main objective this weekend was to secure the team’s birth onto the national level with a victory. Therefore, the margin of victory was irrelevant.

"The biggest thing we stressed is get what you need to get done, but don't over-exert yourself," Sweatt said. "Three years ago, we won, but we over-exerted ourselves a bit too much and were a bit tired and burned ourselves out going into nationals.”

Now the men came in and did what they needed to do, as Sweatt said, they can look forward to Nationals with this confidence booster under their belts. Factor in the notion that their freshman phenom Thomas Ratcliffe and redshirt freshman Alex Ostberg were being rested this weekend, and we can only imagine what a Cardinal team with all systems a go looks like.

The women finished in similar fashion to their previous meets: Vanessa Fraser (19:44.1s) led the team out in 7th on the 6K course, followed by the freshman trio of Fiona O’Keefe, Christina Aragon, and Ella Donaghu in 13th, 17th, and 20th respectively. Mixed in there also was senior Danielle Katz, finishing 14th in 19:53.7s.

Coming in as underdogs, the situation was a bit different from their male counterparts, but the approach offered many parallels. The 6K distance made running conservative a little superfluous, so rather than taking the course with a grain of salt, the women treated it like their last hard workout before their final test on the national scale.

The women’s team has been without its top runner Elise Cranny for most of the season due to injury, but the athletes still remain optimistic and have rallied together to make up for her absence.

"I don't think anybody expected us to be this good," said Fraser, a redshirt junior. "But we knew how good we were. I could feel it and I could see that the freshmen were going to step up right away. It's fun to be able to show the world how good we are."

Both teams are advancing to the final round of their cross-country seasons with chips on their shoulders; each team is peaking at the right time, not only from the physical aspect, but also their mental psyche.

Saturday, November 19th will be the day, and Terre Haute, Indiana stands as the venue, for when No. 4 and No. 7 ranked Stanford men and women aim to show the nation that those rankings are meaningless.

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