Stanford will be seeking its 16th women's team title and 14th men's crown when the Cardinal competes at the Pac-12 Cross Country Championships on Saturday at the Robinson Ranch Golf Club in Santa Clarita in Southern California.
The Stanford men were second and the women third last year, after sweeping the titles in 2010. The Cardinal men, ranked No. 3 in the nation and the Stanford women, ranked No. 4, are among the favorites. Only the Colorado men (No. 2) and the Oregon women (No. 3) are ranked higher among Pac-12 teams.
In the women's competition, Stanford senior Kathy Kroeger enters the 6-kilometer race (3.73 miles, 9:40 a.m.) as a two-time runner-up and will attempt to become the Cardinal's first individual champion since Arianna Lambie won the last of her three consecutive titles in 2007. She leads a young team that has performed above expectations, with its second-place finish at the Wisconsin adidas Invitational on Oct. 12.
Stanford's problem, however, is identifying a No. 5 runner. Nos. 1-4 are strong enough, especially with the addition of freshman Cayla Hatton as a solid No. 2. Can a freshman such as Rebecca Mehra or Cami Chapus have the breakthrough meet that Stanford needs to solidify a top-five that can compete with anyone in the country? The gap between Nos. 1 and 5 in Wisconsin was 1:09.
Among the men, Stanford is coming off a victory over a stacked field at the Wisconsin Invitational on Oct. 12 that included six top-10 teams and 13 in the top 20. Stanford's strength is in its depth. Any of several runners could lead the Cardinal over the 8K course (4.97 miles, 10:40 a.m.). Stanford has had which has had six different individual champions since 2000, most recently Elliott Heath in 2010.
Twins Jim and Joe Rosa have swapped top Stanford finishes at the team's two major meets, with Miles Unterreiner right behind in both cases. Stanford is undefeated in each of the three meets in which it's fielded a full team: the USF Invitational at Golden Gate Park, as well as the Stanford and Wisconsin invitationals.
Stanford is competing under first-year coach Chris Miltenberg, who was hired on Aug. 27. The team competed in its first meet, at the USF Invitational, only five days later.