By Rick Eymer
Palo Alto Online Sports
The men's and women's cross-country teams certainly have done their share of adding to the championship legacy at Stanford. The programs have combined to bring home 24 Pac-10 championship banners.
The Cardinal also has won a combined nine NCAA titles since 1996, but none since the women took home the trophy in 2007. The men haven't won since 2003.
Stanford still fields teams worthy of championship consideration every year, and those teams will likely be on display Saturday as part of the Stanford Invitational run on the splendor that is the Stanford Golf Course.
Nearly 300 high school teams will compete in 12 divisional races, beginning at 9 a.m., with two college races running back-to-back starting at 10:50 a.m.
The Stanford men and women have consistently finished among the top 10 in the nation, and it's been no different since Jason Dunn took over four years ago.
Dunn did make one change this season and it could prove to be his best decision. Until this year he coached both genders but until this year he didn't have a coach the quality of former Stanford All-American PattiSue Plumer.
Plumer will concentrate on coaching the women's team while Dunn will take of the men's squad.
"We're fortunate to have her," Dunn said. "She can work directly with the women and we work in tandem with the whole group. We're very happy to have that arrangement."
Both coaches have a lot of talent in their midst. Dunn will use a lineup that includes seniors Chris Derrick and Jake Riley, two of the most-decorated runners in school history.
Derrick, a 10-time All-American, has finished seventh, third and fifth, respectively, at the national championships his first three years.
Riley, a six-time All-American, joins Derrick in the discussion as possible national titlists. After finishing 55th and 54th his first two years, Riley jumped to sixth at the NCAA meet last year.
"They are both great runners and great leaders," Dunn said. "They have a passion for finding out how good they can be. They look forward to running against the best. They challenge their teammates."
Also entered Saturday are juniors Ben Johnson and Riley Sullivan and sophomore twins Ryan Valdes and Tyler Valdes, plus Erik Olson.
Olson is a runner to watch, says Dunn. He won the U.S. Junior National championship in February. "I see good things from him," Dunn said.
Dunn also will get a look at freshmen Marco Bertolotti, Travis Edwards and Kenny Krotzer in a competitive situation.
The Cardinal has so much depth that Dunn won't run some of his top recruits. Highly touted twins Joe Rosa and Jim Rosa are scheduled to run unattached.
The remainder of the lengthy roster has either competed at the season-opening USF Invitational or will likely run at the Notre Dame Invitational next weekend.
Stanford senior Brendan Gregg led the Cardinal to the team title in Golden Gate Park last weekend, finishing first. He was joined by sophomore Tyler Stutzman, senior JT Sullivan, sophomore Andrew Berberick and Kevin Havel, all of whom finished in the top 10.
Edwards and Krotzer also ran, with fellow freshman Mike Atchoo. Freshmen Graham Bazzell, Matt Carpowich, Luke Lefebure, Thomas Mallon and juniors Dylan Ferris and Miles Unterreiner have not been scheduled to run yet.
"The challenge is to utilize our depth as we work toward the championship season," Dunn said. "We talk about the importance of the top 10 or 15 runners. We want to make sure everybody feels a part of what we're doing here. Anybody can push our top five runners."
Stanford likely will split its squad for two scheduled meets in mid-October before determining who competes at the Pac-12 championships on Oct. 29.
The NCAA West Regional meet will be held at Stanford on Nov. 12, nine days before the national meet in Terre Haute, Ind.
The focus remains on this weekend, though.
"It's an opportunity to showcase the team in front of local fans," Dunn said. "We get to compete and start getting a sense about our teams and how strong we can be."
Stanford returns six of the seven runners from last year's national meet and begins the season ranked No. 2 in the country.
Plumer, meanwhile, takes over a young but talented women's team and is thrilled to be back on The Farm.
"I feel really lucky to be here," Plumer said. "I wasn't in any hurry to leave (Los Altos High), but I kind of owe my life to Stanford, for what it did for me and my career."
A former NCAA champion and two-time U.S. Olympian, Plumer will draw on her vast experience as an athlete and coach.
"I've been to where they want to go," she said. "I know what it takes both physically and mentally to be a national champion."
Stanford may have its best women's team on paper since the last NCAA title in 2007. Returning is six of seven that ran at last year's NCAA meet and will be bolstered with a recruiting class that could be second to none. The Cardinal women also are the defending conference champs.
"If we can stay healthy and stay mentally fresh, then we can be successful," Plumer said.
Returning is a trio of potential frontrunners in Stephanie Marcy, Kathy Kroeger and Jessica Tonn. All are listed to run Saturday.
Marcy is a back for a fifth year after earning All-America status on the track in the 10,000 meters for a second consecutive season. She has been a model of consistency for the Cardinal, always coming through in the big meets. She was the team's No. 1 runner at the past two NCAA finals. This season, she will look to add her first All-America honor in cross country.
Kroeger returns for her junior season, having been the Pac-10 runner-up in cross country last season. She is a two-time All-American in the 5,000 meters during the track season and has potential to run near the front of any race she that she competes.
Tonn completed a standout freshman season, helping Stanford to the Pac-10 title by placing eighth at the conference meet. With another year of experience, Tonn should challenge for All-America honors at the NCAA meet this season.
Also returning from last year's NCAA squad are Georgia Griffin, Alex Dunne and Madeline Duhon also slated to run Saturday. Griffin and Dunne have been top-five runners at various points in the Stanford careers and are more than capable of getting back to that point again. Duhon returns for her fifth season and hopes to parlay her success on the track to the cross-country course.
Other returners looking to breakthrough are Emilie Amaro, Kristin Reese, Victoria Pennings and others.
Joining the large group of returners is a potentially program-changing group of incoming freshmen. The group is deep and talented and offers a chance at super-stardom from more than one athlete.
Aisling Cuffe headlines the class, having won the Footlocker national title last year and being named Gatorade National Cross Country Runner of the Year. Cuffe then went on to qualify for the World Junior Cross Country team, competing against several college freshmen and finishing at the top American at the World meet.
Cuffe is not alone, however, as Chelsey Sveinsson is another with incredible potential. She was the Footlocker national runner-up in 2008, one spot ahead of Cuffe, and after battling injuries is back at full strength this season.
Also in the class are two of the top milers in the nation in Alli Billmeyer and Molly McNamara. They are joined by other potential standouts, Mary Kate Anselmini, Jaye Buchbinder and Aimee Trujillo.
Plumer hopes her young team won't get caught up in all first-week activities.
"It's orientation week for the freshmen," she said. "They're supposed to be out Friday until 1 a.m. Hopefully they're not out that late."
2011 STANFORD INVITATIONAL CROSS COUNTRY
Saturday at Stanford Golf Course
9 a.m. -- Division 5 varsity boys
9:25 a.m. -- Division 5 varsity girls
9:50 a.m. -- Division 4 varsity boys
10:15 a.m. -- Division 4 varsity girls
10:50 a.m. -- College men's 8K
11:30 a.m. -- College women's 6K
12:10 p.m. -- Division 1 varsity boys
12:40 p.m. -- Division 1 varsity girls
1:10 p.m. -- Seeded (elite) boys' race
1:40 p.m. -- Seeded (elite) girls' race
2:10 p.m. -- Division 2 varsity boys
2:40 p.m. -- Division 2 varsity girls
3:10 p.m. -- Division 3 varsity boys
3:40 p.m. -- Division 3 varsity girls
All high school races are 5,000 meters (3.1 miles)
B -- Stanford Sports Information contributed