The Stanford men's and women's cross country teams advanced to the NCAA Championships for the 19th consecutive year following their performances at the West Regional.
The No. 3 Stanford men captured their third regional title in four years and the No. 5 Cardinal women were second under sunny skies and mid-40-degree temperatures at Jefferson Park Golf Course on Friday. Only the top two teams in each of nine regional meets received automatic berths into the NCAA Championships on Saturday, Feb. 17 in Louisville, Ky. Others will be awarded on an at-large basis.
In the 10,000-meter men's race (6.2 miles), Stanford's top six runners finished within 20 seconds of each other and all were among the first 13 finishers as the Cardinal scored 45 points to crush runner-up Portland (107).
In the 6,000-meter women's race (3.7 miles), Pac-12 champion Kathy Kroeger placed third, her best regional finish ever, to lead Stanford to 85 points, behind only Oregon's 44. Jordan Hasay, Oregon's Pac-12 runner-up, won the individual title in 19:16. Kroeger finished in 19:27.
For the 17th time in 19 years, Stanford claimed at least one regional team title. It was the 13th men's title for the Cardinal and first under coach Chris Miltenberg.
"We did everything we talked about," Miltenberg said. "We did all the things we needed to practice going into next week - being assertive, building together, and running strong to the finish."
Joe Rosa was fourth in 29:44 to lead the Cardinal, but the strength of the team is its ability to run together, which was never more evident than on Friday. Joe's twin, Jim Rosa, was sixth (29:52), Tyler Stutzman 10th (29:56), Benjamin Johnson 12th (30:00), Erik Olson 13th (30:01), and Miles Unterreiner 16th (30:04). Not far behind, in 30th, was Michael Atchoo in 30:24, meaning Stanford's top seven were within 40 seconds of each other.
"Everything we do in practice is about running together," Miltenberg said. "We're learning more and more about how to race. We're absolutely getting better every week."
Defending NCAA champion Lawi Lalang ran away with the race in 29:02, far ahead of his Arizona teammate Stephen Sambu, the runner-up by 36 seconds.
In the women's race, Cal Poly's Laura Hollander bolted to a huge lead and strung out the pack, only for Kroeger and Hasay worked together to close the gap. Kroeger finished just short of Hollander for second, but impressed Miltenberg with her ability to persevere even while running by herself during the final stages.
Stanford placed three women in the top nine, with freshman Cayla Hatton in fifth (19:51) and Aisling Cuffe in ninth (19:53). Despite taking a hard fall at the 4K mark, Jessica Tonn placed 27th (20:19), Megan Lacy (41st, 20:46) was impressive in the No. 5 spot, and was followed by Justine Fedronic (64th, 21:12) and Rebecca Mehra (126th, 22:00).
"This was a huge step for our women," Miltenberg said. "They took a big step forward in terms of keeping their composure and running together."
The NCAA meet will take place at E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park in its first foray into Kentucky. The women's 6K race begins at 9 a.m. PT and the men's 10K follows at 10:15 a.m.
As for the men's title chances, "The biggest thing is that we run the way we've always been running," Miltenberg said. "If we focus on what we're doing, anything is possible."
Adam Jahn scored three goals and Stanford finished the regular season with a 6-1 victory over host California on Friday.
The Cardinal (5-4-1, 9-8-1) finishes third in the Pac-12 after going 6-3-1 over its last 10 games.
Aaron Kovar and Eric Verso also scored for Stanford and then added an own goal.
The six goals were also the most scored by a Cardinal team since a 6-0 win over Richmond on Sept. 21, 2002.
"It feels amazing. Everything went the way it should have today, it was just fun all around," said Jahn, who finished the regular season with a career-high 13 goals and 30 points.
"It's an unbelievable feeling to go out with a bang like that and get a result with everyone pitching in and doing their part," said fellow senior Hunter Gorskie. "We've put in loads and loads of time doing extra work, how to make the team and ourselves better. It was awesome to look over my shoulder to see the guys I've played with for four years and I was happier for them than I was for myself."
The four-man senior class, which was a constant presence in the lineup, missing only four games collectively during the season, helped guide a young Cardinal squad through a challenging opening half to the campaign.
"I'm excited and proud of everything the team has done this year," said Stanford coach Jeremy Gunn. "Every single member of our class is extremely passionate and I'd like to think some of that spilled to the other players. They have helped push this program in a forward direction and made us a little bit more disciplined."
The good feelings didn't come right away as Friday's match got underway, as California struck first as John Fitzpatrick finished off a cross from Tony Salciccia in the 15th minute to give the Golden Bears the 1-0 lead.
Stanford would shake off the goal and get back onto the attack over the next few minutes. Dersu Abolfathi shot high in the 23rd minute, and Brandon Vincent fired wide in the 30th as Stanford continued to apply the pressure. That pressure would finally pay off in the 37th minute when Ty Thompson's cross went through a gaggle of players and ended at the foot of Jahn, who coolly finished into the open net from 10 yards out.
Each goalie, Drew Hutchins for Stanford and Kevin Peach for California, would be tested once before the end of the half, but the opening 45 minutes would end with the teams deadlocked at 1-1.
The Cardinal wanted to continue bringing the pressure as the second half got underway and it paid immediate dividends. Jahn bagged his second goal of the match just 40 seconds into the half, expertly heading from distance, stunning the Golden Bears and swinging the momentum well over to the Stanford side.
Abolfathi would force Peach into a pair of saves while Jimmy Callinan would also call the California goalkeeper into action in the 60th minute. Two minutes later the lead would be doubled as Aaron Kovar collected a pass from Eric Verso and fired a shot past Peach and inside the far post for his third goal of the season.
Stanford's defense would withstand a pair of corner kicks from California before Verso would strike with a highlight goal. The redshirt freshman pressured Peach, forcing the keeper to fumble possession. Surrounded by a scrum of Golden Bear defenders and Peach, Verso, with his back to goal and nearly 15 yards out, got a clean strike on the backheel to net Stanford's fourth goal of the match and demoralize the Golden Bears.
At this point it was open season on the goal for the Cardinal, and it took less than three minutes for Jahn to complete his hat trick. The senior forward latched onto a pass and from the corner of the six yard box and hit a piledriver into the roof of the net for his 13th goal of the campaign.
Stanford would add a sixth goal when a cross into the box would ricochet off of Peach and bounce off of California defender Max Oldham and into the net for an own goal.
"I'm incredibly proud of the boys and how far we've come," said Abolfathi. "It's been four years now. I think we can expect great things from this team in the coming seasons."
"It's obviously an unbelievable feeling to culminate four years in this fashion," added Eric Anderson. "We just really started to perfect the formation that coach knew that he put in place for us. We weren't satisfied with the results in the first half so we dug deeper to finish the season in strong fashion."
"We're glad that this year we could make a big influence on the team and start the new era of Coach Gunn," Jahn noted. "The next few years will be exciting for this program and I have no doubt this team will be excellent next year. We've done well creating a wining culture going forward."