Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - June 13, 2014

Cardinal on track at NCAAs

Men already show marked improvement from last year's meet

by Rick Eymer and Dave Kiefer

Claudia Saunders, Amy Weissenbach and Luke Lefebure will be looking to tack on a few more points for Stanford at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene on Friday. Joe Rosa will be looking to join his twin brother, Jim, as a point-getter for the Cardinal.

Stanford also will have several athletes competing on Saturday as it looks to improve on its finish of a year ago for both the men and women.

Thanks to Jim Rosa, Stanford is guaranteed a better finish on the men's side. He placed sixth in the 10,000 meters at historic Hayward Field on the University of Oregon campus on Wednesday by running a personal best of 28:57.51.

Rosa deftly moved up through the field, earning first-team All-America honors by finishing among the top eight. His three points made sure the Cardinal men would not be shut out, as they were in last year's NCAA championship meet.

Joe Rosa will run the 5,000 on Friday. He placed fifth in the NCAA indoor 5K and currently owns the fourth-fastest season best in the NCAA field. He went 13:33.56 at the Payton Jordan Invitational, eighth on the school's all-time list.

Saunders and Weissenbach will compete in the women's 800 finals, while Lefebure will race in the men's 800 final.

Saunders ran a personal-record 2:02.68 in qualifying for the finals, improving her third position on Stanford's all-time list. Weissenbach finished second in her section to earn an automatic berth in the final.

Lefebure ran a lifetime best of 1:48.46 to gain a spot in the finals, qualifying on time.

Saunders, a hurdler in high school and competing in only her second season focusing on the 800, ran a smart race. She was patient, remaining in the pack with an eye on favored Laura Roesler of Oregon.

When Roesler made a move, Saunders simply followed Roesler to the line, remaining a step behind as Roesler clocked 2:02.60. They were the fastest of the day's competitors.

Weissenbach ran 2:04.46 to finish second to Iowa State's Ejiroghene Okoro (2:04.28) in the second heat. Her road was bumpier. She was boxed on the inside rail for most of the race and had to keep her balance during contact in a tight pack on the final lap.

As the pack rounded the turn into the homestretch, Weissenbach tried to squeeze through on the inside, but found her path blocked. Instead, she bolted sharply into lane two and found room outside to stride out to the finish.

Weissenbach was sixth in the NCAA's outdoors as a freshman last year, in 2:02.29. She's run 2:00.98, at the USTAF championships last summer, a national freshman record.

Lefebure Is assured of his first individual All-America honor. His time was the fourth-fastest of the day, and bettered his previous best of 1:48.79 from the Big Meet. Not a bad rebound for Lefebure, who didn't make the Pac-12 final.

Stanford junior Aisling Cuffe, who will run in the 5,000 women's final with Jessica Tonn on Saturday, became the third-fastest collegian of all-time and the second-fastest American collegian when she ran a 15:11.13 for 5,000 meters at the Payton Jordan Invitational.

That time not only makes her the fastest active collegian in the country, but set the school and Pac-12 Conference record, previously held by three-time NCAA outdoor 5,000 champion Lauren Fleshman.

Cuffe was the 2013 Pac-12 cross country champion and placed fourth at the NCAA cross-country championships last fall.

Darian Brooks, who competes in the triple jump, put himself into contention after missing last season with an injury. He went on to set four personal bests at the Pac-12 championships, winning with a final jump of 52-6 3/4, a school record.

Michael Atchoo and Rebecca Mehra were also looking to run in Saturday's finals of their respective 1,500 races. Both competed in Thursday's semifinals.

In field event finals, Stanford's three-time Pac-12 women's javelin champion Brianna Brain placed ninth with a top throw of 171-9, and freshman Dylan Duvio was 17th in the men's pole vault, clearing 17-2 3/4.

Bain was coming off NCAA finishes of third in 2013 and second in 2012, but had been nursing an arm injury this season. Her best throw of 171-9 came on her third attempt, and was an improvement of 14-6 over her second throw. It got her into the final and the opportunity for three more attempts, but she did not improve.

Baseball

Stanford fell one comeback short of returning to the College World Series, falling to Vanderbilt, 12-5, in the championship game of the NCAA Super Regional in Nashville on Sunday.

In a season that saw frustration morph into satisfaction, the Cardinal reestablished itself as a player on the national baseball scene.

The last Pac-12 team standing, Stanford gave all it could squeeze out of a group expected to finish sixth in the conference in a vote of the coaches just over four months to exceed all expectations, with the exception of the team itself.

"If there is one thing I've learned about this team is its resilience," Stanford junior infielder Alex Blandino said. "We battled the whole year. We never quit, especially in the playoffs where we had some unbelievable runs."

The Cardinal (35-26) qualified for the postseason by the thinnest of margins, overshadowed by schools like the nation's overall No. 1 seed Oregon State and higher-ranked Washington, Oregon and Arizona State.

Stanford took full advantage of its opportunity to showcase a talented group of seniors and juniors, eight of whom were chosen in Major League Baseball's First-Year Player Draft over the past week, and an equally talented group of freshmen.

Led by freshman All-American Cal Quantrill, the rookies (freshman pitchers started 45 of 61 games) have a future in this game.

Stanford's wild postseason ride ended just short of its 17th College World Series appearance. The Cardinal finished the year competing in its 10th Super Regional and recording its 20th 30-plus win season in the last 21.

Austin Slater, drafted by the San Francisco Giants, finished as the team's top hitter with a .341 average. Hoffpauir was next at .324, with included seven home runs. He also drove in 40 runs.

Menlo School grad Danny Diekroeger, selected by the St. Louis Cardinals, hit .313 and led the team with eight stolen bases and a .404 on-base percentage.

Blandino, taken in the first round by the Cincinnati Reds, hit .310, with team highs in home runs (12), RBI (44) and slugging percentage (.531).

Quantrill (7-5, 2.68) and Brett Hanewich (4-4, 3.17) led a freshmen group that started the first 27 games of the season. The group also included Chris Viall (2-3, 4.74), Tyler Thorne (2-0, 4.76), Griffin Weir (0-0, 4.15) and Chris Castellanos (0-1, 4.12, three saves).

Edman was the top offensive freshman, appearing in 58 games, with 48 starts, and hitting .256, with three homers. Alex Dunlap, Jack Klein and Matt Decker combined for one homer and 20 RBI.

Women's basketball

Stanford senior Chiney Ogwumike always had more going for her than mere talent. The overall first pick of the WNBA draft also has a personality.

That's why it comes as no surprise that Ogwumike was named the Pac-12 Woman of the Year on Wednesday.

She is Stanford's second recipient of the award since its inception in 2006. Cross country and track and field standout Arianna Lambie earned the honor in 2008.

The Pac-12 Woman of the Year award honors a graduating student-athlete who has distinguished herself throughout her collegiate career in the areas of academic achievement, athletics excellence, community service and leadership.

Ogwumike has now been nominated for the NCAA Woman of the Year award.

Ogwumike enjoyed one of the most decorated seasons by a Stanford athlete this school year.

On the court she became Stanford women's basketball's first recipient of the John R. Wooden Award as national player of the year, as well as sweeping the Pac-12 Player and Defensive Player of the Year awards for the second straight season, with the top defender nod also being her third straight.

Her play helped lead the Cardinal to a 33-4 record, its 12th Final Four and sixth over the past seven years, and 14th consecutive Pac-12 regular-season title.

Ogwumike was also named a consensus All-American after finishing the season as the only player to rank in the national top 10 in scoring (26.1 ppg, fourth), rebounding (12.1 rpg, ninth), field-goal percentage (60.1, fourth), and double-doubles (27, third).

She ended her four-year career as the Pac-12's all-time leading scorer (2,737 points) and rebounder (1,567), and set the conference record for points scored in a season with 967.

In the classroom, Ogwumike achieved a cumulative grade-point average of 3.47 while earning her bachelor's degree in international relations. She was named the 2014 Capital One Academic All-American of the Year in February, and earned her second straight selection to the Capital One Academic All-America Team.

Diving

Two-time Olympian Patrick Jeffrey was hired as the head diving coach at Stanford on Wednesday. He spent the past 15 seasons at Florida State.

"It is an honor to be offered the position at Stanford University," said Jeffrey. "The university has the best athletic department in the country and continued success in swimming and diving. I'm very excited to be a part of it."

Jeffrey's divers have rewritten the Florida State and ACC record book, while establishing the Seminoles as one of the top programs in the country.

Men's golf

The first round of the 114th U.S. Open Championships is over for a pair of Stanford golfers, who need to make some improvements if they wish to be playing in Sunday's final round.

Cardinal freshman Maverick McNealy and senior teammate Cameron Wilson both made their debuts on Thursday at the tough Pinehurst No. 2 Course in The Village of Pinehurst, N.C.

McNealy, with his father Scott as his caddie, did get off to a good start after teeing off on the 10th to start his round. He birdied the 385-yard, par-4 13th, but bogeyed the 17th and 18th holes to finish at 1-over 36.

On the front nine, McNealy was 2-over through 12 holes but suffered a double-bogey on the 497-yard, par-4 fourth. A bogey on the par-4 seventh dropped him to 5-over before McNealy birdied the 179-yard, par-3 ninth to finish 38-36-74.

He was six shots behind the early leaders.

Wilson, who last month won the NCAA individual title, was four shots behind his teammate after suffering though eight bogeys during an 8-over 78. He'll need a drastic improvement in order to make the cut.

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