This past weekend, the Stanford Cardinal headed up to Seattle to represent the tree at the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Indoor Conference Championships, and returned home with some impressive hardware.
Headlining the evening was junior Olivia Baker’s NCAA Nationals qualifying 800m. As she predicted when I spoke to her after her race at the Millrose Games in New York two weeks ago, her previous run of 2:05.00 would not be enough and she would need to attempt the event again at conferences.
And “attempt” she did, winning the event in an indoor personal best of 2:03.41s. The field was led out fast by 3-time NCAA champ Raevyn Rogers of Oregon, who Baker challenged on the bell lap, only to unexpectedly see Rogers just step off the track. Strategically done, Rogers was meant to pace teammate Brooke Feldmeier, who ultimately took 5th. Once Rogers dropped, Baker had a clear lane to the finish, and earned herself a crack at besting her 3rd place finish at last year’s Indoor Nationals.
"There was never any doubt we were doing all the right things and today's performance shows things are lining up at the right time," said Gabe Sanders, who coaches Baker and the Cardinal sprinters and hurdlers. "We never wavered in our belief in our plan and her abilities. She's riding a big wave of momentum and we're enjoying the ride."
Baker will be joining Stanford’s other previous qualifiers that weekend in Texas: both men’s and women’s distance medley relay teams, Vanessa Fraser and Elise Cranny in the women’s 3000m, Jack Keelan in the men’s 3000m, and Harrison Williams in the men’s heptathlon.
The craziest part about Baker’s evening was that it didn’t end there. Nearly 90 minutes after her winning the 800m, she was summoned to anchor the team’s 4*400m relay. She split a fast 52.7s to place second at the meet with a 3:36.26s, good enough for a season-best and No. 4 all-time on Stanford’s indoor records. Rounding out the rest of the relay was Missy Mongiovi (54.97s), Gaby Gayles (53.8s), and Michaela Crunkleton Wilson (54.7s), in that order.
The men’s 4*400m had a few redeemable qualities about it as well, to say the least.
The team shot to the top of Stanford’s indoor and outdoor lists with a record setting time of 3:09.80s. Comprised of Frank Kurtz, Harrison Williams, Isaiah Brandt-Sims, and Jackson Shumway, this squad spent much of the race watching Arizona State and Arizona battle each other out front. Kurtz led off with a 48.9s leg, followed by Williams’s 47.6s. Brandt-Sims ran the identical time, 47.6s, to hand off to Shumway with a gap of about 7 meters behind the front.
Shumway closed in an outstanding 45.7s, “cementing his legacy as one of the greatest sprinters and leaders to ever don a Cardinal uniform.” Sanders said.
Jackson joined the team as a walk-on from Illinois and since then has been a member of three school-record relay teams. This will be his final season of eligibility on the collegiate track and he will be finishing it off with a bang as he mans the DMR at NCAA Nationals.
Up next will be that storied NCAA Nationals meet on Saturday, March 11th hosted by Texas A&M.