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Stanford Cardinal Track and Field: Little comes up big in outdoor opener

The Stanford Cardinal women's track and field team had a fantastic opening meet.

Brian Bahr/Getty Images

The wait is over; Stanford Track is back. Hosting the team's spring opener and the 41st annual Stanford Track & Field Invitational at Cobb Track and Angell Field, no highlight could match freshman Mackenzie Little's astonishing collegiate debut in the javelin throw.

It was the 19-year-old Australian's first real meet since winning the 2013 World Youth Championships in Ukraine due to a surgery to remove a cyst in her leg and the gap between Aussie and American track seasons. Understandably, she admitted to having some initial butterflies, which can explain her low opening throw of 144' 11". As the meet progressed, she settled into her true form and threw for 183' 4", winning the event by over 20ft. That mark currently stands as the second farthest collegiately this year, and now the No. 2 in school history.

Kaitlyn Merritt, another Stanford freshman, made her own respective debut by winning the pole vault with a 13' 5 ¼" jump. She currently stands only 2 ½" away from shattering the school's freshman record, although the only number in her mind is 14' 1" for the NCAA Championships.

On the track, it was a bit of a day of experimentation for the women.

Bona fide 400/800 runner Olivia Baker slid down in distance to the 100m and 400m for the day, just a few weeks after placing third at the NCAA Indoor Championships in the 800m. She took silver in the 400m with a 53.49s, and then came back 45 minutes later to place fifth in the 100m final with a 12.04. Her teammates Michaela Crunkleton Wilson and Gaby Gayles finished right in front of her with an 11.53 and 11.80 for third and fourth respectively.

"Doing 4x400s and the 400 today helps so that when I come through the first lap of the 800, a 59-60 pace doesn't feel too bad. I'll have the speed from the 400 to come through comfortably. And running more 800's helps with the strength part at the end, to be ready to bring it home." Baker appreciated the opportunity to step a bit out of her comfort zone in an early season meet.

Sliding up in distance were Baker's fellow half-milers, Malika Waschmann and Claudia Saunders. Both ran the 1500m, and both topped their personal bests. Washmann finished in 4:16.53, demolishing her previous time by over 12 seconds to win the third section. Saunders ran 4:17.33, taking down her next closest mark by four seconds.

Junior Danielle Katz also ran a personal best, hers by nearly two minutes in the 5000m, finishing in 16:09.45s. Despite a great race, she still holds firm in her forte being the steeplechase, which she looks forward to carrying this success into at next weekend's Big Meet in Berkeley, California.

The men's team wasn't filled with nearly as many accolades as the women, but cannot go unmentioned. Justin Brinkley took third in the 1500m with a 3:44.53, and Jackson Shumway finished fourth in the 400m hurdles at 52.25s.

Next, the Cardinal will travel up north to Berkeley on Saturday, April 9th for the annual Big Meet.