Sports

Stanford's Cuffe shatters school track record in women's 5,000

Stanford junior Aisling Cuffe crushed the school record in the women's 5,000 meters on a Sunday night of fast running at the Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational at Cobb Track & Angell Field.

Cuffe shattered her personal record by 42 seconds and took down a seemingly unreachable Stanford mark while recording a time of 15:11.13.

"I wasn't sure I fast I expected to run," Cuffe said. "I was ready to run . . . wanted to mix it up with the big dogs . . . it was a lot of fun."

It was the third-fastest in collegiate history and the second-fastest ever by an American collegian, trailing only Colorado's Jenny Simpson, who ran 15:01.70 indoors in 2009. Thus, Cuffe is the fastest collegian outdoors.

Stanford school record was 15:20.44 set by three-time NCAA 5,000 champion Lauren Fleshman in 2003. Fleshman, who was in attendance Sunday, ran as fast as 15:12.71 at the World Championships the summer of her senior year, after turning pro. Cuffe even beat that time.

"It's really cool," Cuffe said of the school mark. "I didn't even knokw what the school record was."

Cuffe, the NCAA indoor 5,000 runner-up in March, had a previous best of 15:53.95, and knew her splits were heading into uncharted territory, but felt good enough to keep up the pace and felt she had nothing to lose.

The race was so fast, that Cuffe placed sixth in an international field of mostly professionals at the 19th annual distance running showcase.

"It's great, going foward to Pac-12s," Cuffe said.

In the men's and women's 5,000 alone, seven Stanford runners beat personal records, with four establishing themselves on Stanford's all-time Top 10 lists.

Behind Cuffe, Jessica Tonn's 15:32.26 placed her No. 7 at Stanford all-time -- a personal best by 22 seconds.

In the second section of the men's 5,000 (the top section was beyond belief, as will be explained later), Joe Rosa was second in 13:33.56, setting a personal best by 11 seconds, to place him at No. 8 all-time in Stanford history. Rosa made a bold move to the lead with four laps remaining and held it until the homestretch.

Erik Olson was fifth in 13:36.91, a best by five seconds and good for No. 9 all-time. And Sean McGorty, in his first track 5,000, was sixth in 13:37.64, which would have been No. 10 all-time and the No. 2 ever by a Stanford freshman, except that he's redshirting.

McGorty's time makes him the fourth-fastest American junior ever, behind only German Fernandez, former Stanford star Chris Derrick, and Gerry Lindgren. It also displaced Galen Rupp and Steve Prefontaine, who never ran faster than McGorty while under 20 years of age.

Among other outstanding performances were the 800 times of sophomore Amy Weissenbach, who was fifth in the top section in 2:02.60, a time faster than she ran in placing sixth at the NCAA championship meet last year.

In the third section of the same race, sophomore Claudia Saunders crushed her personal record by running 2:03.44, placing her No. 3 on Stanford's all-time list. Saunders, in only her second season ever in the event, had not previously broken 2:05.

Now, Saunders must be regarded among the elite in the country. While Weissenbach's time was the second-fastest among collegians this year, Saunders vaulted to the seventh spot on that list.

Now, about that 5,000 . . . the top section of the men's 5,000 was expected to be the marquee event of the meet -- and the race exceeded expectations. The top eight times in the world this year all came out of that single race.

Lopez Lomong broke his two-year-old meet record of 13:11.63 by four seconds -- and he was third. The new Payton Jordan recordholder is Ben True, who ran 13:02.74 to edge Hassan Mead by 0.06 of a second in a race in which seven runners were in contention going into the last lap.

Another meet record was broken, and this was wholly unexpected. Middle Tennessee State's Eliud Ruto emerged from the second section of the men's 800 to run 1:45.37, the second-fastest collegiate time in the nation this year and nearly a second faster than the 2000 meet record of 1:46.25, held by Marko Koers since 2000.

And we can't forget Stanford recruit Elise Cranny. The senior from Niwot, Colo., became the second-fastest 1,500 runner in girls' high school history. Competing in the fast section against collegians and pros, Cranny was sixth in 4:10.95, about a five-second improvement upon her best, set last year at this meet. It also moved up her past Jordan Hasay on the all-time high school list, trailing only Mary Cain.

It also placed Cranny at No. 4 on the all-time U.S. Junior list, trailing only Cain, Suzy Favor, and Jan Merrill.

The races at the Payton Jordan were expected to be fast, and they were. But, for Stanford, the team's collective speed seemed to put individuals at another level, and nowhere was that more true with Cuffe, the fastest 5,000-meter runner in Stanford history.

— Dave Kiefer/Stanford Athletics

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