Uploaded: Thursday, September 27, 2012, 4:26 PM
Stanford teams begin chase for NCAA honors
|By Rick Eymer
Palo Alto Online Sports
First-year Stanford cross-country coach Chris Miltenberg will be watching his teams race on their home course for the first time Saturday. By all accounts, the ninth-ranked Cardinal men and sixth-ranked women should have no trouble defending their home turf at the 39th running of the Stanford Invitational.
The best competition, among the large field to race on the Stanford Golf Course, will likely occur between the Stanford A runners and the Stanford B runners in both genders. The Cardinal men won't be facing any teams ranked among the top 25 while the women have only No. 18 USF to deal with for team honors.
The college men's race, over an 8,000-meter course, takes off at approximately 9:50 a.m., while the college women, racing a 6,000-meter course, will start around 10:30 a.m.
There are also 12 high school races scheduled throughout the day, all on a 5,000-meter course.
Miltenberg, who led the Georgetown women to the national title last year with one runner finishing among the top 32, hopes to lead the Stanford men to their first NCAA title since 2003 and the Cardinal women to their first championship since 2007.
For the first time since that 2003 title, the national championship will be decided on a course other than Terre Haute, Ind. This year's NCAA race will be held at E.P. Tom Sawyer Park in Louisville, Ky.
The NCAA West Regional will be hosted by Washington on the Jefferson Park Golf Course in Seattle.
The Stanford women return five of their top seven runners from a team that finished 10th at the national meet a year ago, including senior Kathy Kroeger, who finished 15th in the championships final.
"I'm excited to lead this team," Kroeger told flotrack.org. "I want to take this team to the NCAAs and finish strong there. I want to finish among the top four."
Kroeger was an intern with Facebook over the summer, working as a data anaylst helping the marketing team. She is the two-time defending individual champ at the Stanford Invitational and is favored to challenge for a third title.
Sophomore Aisling Cuffe, junior Jessica Tonn, and sophomores Alli Billmeyer and Mary Kate Anselmini are also back. Cuffe ran second at the 2011 Stanford Invitational after arriving on The Farm as the nation's top female cross-country runner.
Senior Emilie Amaro, sophomore Marrisa Ferrante, and freshmen Camille Chapus, Cayla Hatton and Megan Lacy also will be running with the A team.
"We have the opportunity to be national champions," Hatton said. "There are no expectations for us to do so and that's a great position to be in."
Stanford's freshmen class is among the top-rated recruiting classes in the nation for women's coach PattiSue Plumer.
"Right now I think we're just trying to get to know each other," Chapus said. "This is a whole new experience for us and we want to embrace and keep building off of it."
The Cardinal men finished fifth in last year's NCAA meet but lost its two top runners to graduation and Chris Derrick and Jacob Riley.
Seniors Miles Unterreiner and Benjamin Johnson are the most experienced on the team, while junior Tyler Stutzman was the top individual at the early USF Invitational.
"This is a team is a bunch who are young and hungry," Miltenberg told flotrack.org. "In a lot of ways this is a team that has not established an identity and they are fired up to do it and write their own story. I think we are on a path to something big and exciting."
Senior Riley Sullivan, junior Erik Olson, sophomore twins James Rosa and Joe Rosa, Michael Atchoo and Kenny Krotzer and freshman Timothy Luthin will also join the A team for Stanford.
Olson is the team's top returner from the Stanford Invitational, where he finished fourth overall last season. He also was a scorer at the NCAA meet as the team's No. 5 finisher.
"Anybody out there really can be part of the top seven," Unterreiner said. "Anyone can show up and be an intregal part of what we call the machine."
Added Olson: "It's great not knowing who the No. 1 is. It makes everybody try a little harder. Every one wants to be that No. 1 guy and every race it could change. I think that can only make us better."
The course records are held by Oregon Olympian Galen Rupp and Stanford grad Arianna Lambie. Rupp, who earned the silver medal in the 10,000 in London this summer, set the men's 8,000-meter record at Stanford in 23:02.1, while Lambie clocked the women's mark of 19:29.3 for the 6K layout.
2012 STANFORD INVITATIONAL CROSS COUNTRY
Saturday at Stanford Golf Course
9 a.m. -- Division 4 varsity boys
9:25 a.m. -- Division 4 varsity girls
9:50 a.m. -- College men's 8K
10:30 a.m. -- College women's 6K
11 a.m. -- Division 1 varsity boys
11:30 a.m. -- Division 1 varsity girls
Noon -- Seeded (elite) varsity boys
12:30 p.m. -- Seeded (elite) varsity girls
1 p.m. -- Division 2 varsity boys
1:30 p.m. -- Division 2 varsity girls
2 p.m. -- Divisions 3 varsity boys
2:30 p.m. -- Division 3 varsity girls
3 p.m. -- Division 5 varsity boys
3:30 p.m. -- Division 5 varsity girls
All high school races are 5,000 meters (3.1 miles)
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