You read that headline right: Stanford men finished up their XC season with a nationwide silver, while the women also cracked the top-5. The last time the Cardinal had both teams place this high was 10 years ago; not too shabby, Stanford.
Aside from the team plaques, the others at the front of the podium with All-America honors included Grant Fisher and Sean McGorty on the men’s side, and freshmen Fiona O’Keeffe and Christina Aragon on the women’s side.
In the men’s race, Stanford was led by sophomore Grant Fisher, who finished 5th in 29:57.9s on the 10K (6.2 mile) Terre Haute, Indiana course, after passing Mississippi’s M.J. Erb on his kick in the final stretch.
Behind him was McGorty in 24th at 30:13.3s and then Sam Wharton in 41st at 30:28.2s.
At the halfway point, the Cardinal had the lead, but at the 6K mark, the race’s winner Patrick Tiernan of Villanova began to push the pace and it turned into a 3-man race between him, Oregon’s Edward Cheserek—the 3-time reigning NCAA champion—and Syracuse’s Justyn Knight. Fisher and McGorty were not fazed by the change of pace and decided to remain conservative, while others in the race chose to follow suit. As the race unfolded over the final 4K, the lead-3 kept the pace while the rest of the race fell back to Fisher.
"The team is really happy with second and I couldn't be happier for where our program is now. And I think that Grant can definitely win this in the future. He's ridiculously talented and runs super mature. His future is really bright." said McGorty after the race.
Stanford placed its top-6 within the first 86 spots, while phenom freshman Thomas Ratcliffe did not finish and was pulled off in an unfortunate end to what was a historic rookie campaign. The Pac-12 Freshman of the year was seen struggling, and Coach Chris Miltenberg and the rest of the coaching staff felt it was best to take him out.
Coach Miltenberg has worked to instill a team-first mentality into his squad, and its repercussions resonated last weekend.
"We all approached the race with a team mentality," Fisher said. "Even though things didn't go perfectly, we all were fighting when it got tough. Knowing that the guys were fighting hard for every position definitely gave me an extra boost, especially at the end of the race.”
The men continue to chase their first title since 2003, but second place was certainly a step in the right direction.
On the women’s side of the competition, expectations were slightly lower than those for the men. It was hard to see Stanford in contention for a spot on the podium without a healthy Elise Cranny, the team’s top runner, but the world is full of surprises.
Under first year head coach Elizabeth DeBole, the team’s goal this year was to simply “secure a top-10 spot and work our way up from there," DeBole said, “and we did that.”
In fact, they did that by a whole 5 spots, and only trailed making it 6 by just 2 points to North Carolina State.
The women came in planning to play it conservatively—just like the men—up until the 4K marker, and then begin to make advances forward.
Fiona O’Keeffe led in 37th in 20:23.3s on the 6K (3.7 mile) course, with Christina Aragon right by her side in 38th. Vanessa Fraser took 3rd for the team in 67th at 20:39.1s on a sub-par individual performance, but she managed to sum up the race quite well.
"I didn't feel good out there, but I put my best possible effort forward to help the team result, and I think a lot of the other girls would say the same about their races, which is why we had such a positive team result," Fraser said. "We were able to scrap for places even when we didn't feel great."
Once again, the collective culture instilled into this tremendous group of athletes paid dividends.
This marks a wrap to the 2016 Cross Country season, and it’s hard to imagine it ending on a more positive note.
Follow us on Social Media: