Last weekend, Stanford runners faced their last chances to qualify for the NCAA Championship Meet in Birmingham, Alabama on March 11-12. This 3-meet action-packed weekend, along with the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Championships on February 26-27 stand as the final meets before the postseason.
40 athletes competed (22 men, 18 women). Longer-distance runners (19) took to the Iowa State Invitational in Ames, sprinters and jumpers (15) traveled south to the Don Kirby Elite Invitational in Albuquerque, and throwers (6) headed up north for the Husky Classic in Seattle.
Aside from all looking to score a personal-best in their event, certain athletes on the fringe sought to improve their marks just enough to push them into the NCAA Championship meet.
One Cardinal took advantage of that opportunity.
That Cardinal was junior Sean McGorty in the Iowa State Invitational. Running a 7:48.79s 3000m to position him into the No. 2 slot on Stanford's indoor record list, he all but ensured himself a trip to Birmingham. Although still finishing second to Syracuse's Justyn Knight, who took McGorty at the line with a 7:48.71s, the two now stack up as the top times in the country at the moment. McGorty now only trails Chris Derrick's 7:46.81s time from 2012.
Chris Miltenberg, Stanford's Franklin P. Johnson Director of Track & Field extoled McGorty's race, "Sean is evolving into a complete runner. To be able to finish that fast over the last 1,200 and still have gears over the last 150 shows that. Very exciting sign of what is to come."
Besides McGorty seemingly being the fifth Cardinal individual to qualify, Olivia Baker (women's 800m), Darian Brooks (men's triple jump), Claudia Saunders (women's 800m), and Harrison Williams (men's heptathlon), along with both men's and women's DMR teams Stanford did see its fair share of personal bests.
Sophmore Steven Fahy chopped 30 seconds off his 5000m time, running 14:00.93s, and joining the now nine Stanford runners below 14:04. Collin Leibold, an All-American outdoors in the event last year at Georgetown before transferring, finished 10th in his race with a 13:50.04s, a personal best by 4 seconds. Vanessa Fraser in the women's 50000m managed to cut off 14 seconds from her previous time with a 16:06.25s, despite dropping back in the end off of a fast paced start. Sophie Chase attained a new PR of 9:23.51s in the women's 3000m by 9 seconds, as Danielle Katz finished 6th in the race with a 9:21.35s in her first crack at the event.
Out of the three meets, the women's performance in their 4*400m relay could easily be argued as Stanford's highlight of the weekend. The squad of Gaby Gayles (54.3s), Olivia Baker (52.9s), Michaela Crunkleton Wilson (54.0s), and Kristyn Williams (52.5s) finished in 3:33.78s to break the school mark set in 2005 of 3:34.92s.
"A school record wasn't even on our minds," Williams said. "But it was a very special and rewarding moment when we realized our performance was the best in school history."
Standing on its own, Cardinal supporters deserve to be grinning from ear to ear, except that time was only good enough for 3rd in the race behind Oregon (3:31.96s) and Arizona (3:33.29s). This just goes to show the immense depth in the relays this year. That performance would have easily qualified the women for the NCAA Championships in any of the previous six years, except this year it's borderline at best. Top 12 qualify, and when adjusting their time to a normal altitude from Albuquerque's high elevation, the calculated 3:34.22s, while still being school-record breaking, is only good enough for No. 13. The four will take to the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Championships on Saturday, the 27th, to try and climb up those rankings.
Aside from the quartet, a few more stellar performances were on display that evening. Sophomore Isaiah Brant-Sims, a receiver on Stanford's Rose Bowl-winning football team made his collegiate indoor track debut on the 60m and ran the second fastest time in school history by only 0.01s, a 6.81s.
Heptathlete Harrison Williams took the bronze in the 60m hurdles with a time of 8.15s.
Being a meet for only throwers, the accolades may be few, but certainly cannot go unnoticed. Sophomore Tristen Newman set a personal-best by 3 feet in the 35-pound weight throw with a 56' 11¼".
Discus first-team All-America Valarie Allman also set her own personal record, throwing 60' 10 ½" in the women's 20-pound weight throw, cementing herself at that No. 3 spot in the school record books.
As the indoor season's comes to a close, only the weekend of the 26th is marked on athletes' calendars, who seek the MPSF Championships as their final opportunity to send themselves to Birmingham in early March.