Sports

Three not a charm in Pac-12 cross country

 

Three was not a charm for the Stanford men's cross-country team, which saw its bid for a third straight conference title run away as newcomer Colorado won the inaugural Pac-12 Championships on Saturday at Litchfield Park, Ariz.

The Stanford women, meanwhile, finished third as the Buffaloes also ran off with the crown.

The No. 4-ranked Cardinal men fell just short of the first Pac-12 title, as No. 6 Colorado didn't waste anytime making its presence felt. The Buffaloes finished with 46 points, while Stanford was not far behind with 53. Oregon, ranked No. 23, placed third with 90 points, but it was Colorado's day as the Buffs officially won the first-ever Pac-12 title in any sport.

Stanford was in the lead through four runners, but Colorado had the better fifth man and that was the difference. Colorado placed five among the top 15 and all seven runners among the first 28. Stanford's fifth-place runner was 29th.

"I was disappointed that we did not have a better fifth man," said associate cross-country coach Jason Dunn. "For all the depth we have, to not have someone step up was disappointing."

Stanford looked good up front, as Chris Derrick pushed Arizona superstar Lawi Lelang, before eventually falling off the pace to place second. Derrick covered the 8,000-meter course in a blistering 22:45, but was still eight seconds off Lelang. Derrick closed hard and was gaining on Lelang over the final kilometer, but ran out of room. It could be a good sign for the Cardinal senior, however, as the Regional and National meets move up to 10,000 meters.

Also running well up front was Jake Riley, who also went under 23 minutes with a time of 22:55. Riley was just out-leaned at the line by Richard Medina of Colorado and settled for fourth. Derrick and Riley were a part of a 1-2-3 finish at last year's Pac-10 meet with now graduated teammate Elliott Heath, but had to settle for second and fourth this year.

The other top-10 finisher for the Cardinal men was Brendan Gregg who placed 10th. The redshirt senior sat out last cross-country season with an injury, but is proving he is back at full strength this season. Gregg ran 23:32.

Completing the top five for Stanford were Erik Olson and Joe Rosa. Olson had a strong performance, finishing 12th with a time of 23:36. The freshman Rosa was 25th with a time of 23:57.

"We were really strong through four," said Dunn. "Counting on a freshman to be our fifth man with all the upperclassmen experience we have shouldn't happen."

The rest of the Cardinal finishers were JT Sullivan, who was 29th in 24:04, Miles Unterreiner who was 32nd in 24:18 and Riley Sullivan who was 52nd in 24:45.

Benjamin Johnson and Andrew Berberick also started the race, but did not finish. Johnson has been one of Stanford's top runners this season and his loss was a hit to the Cardinal title chances.

"Colorado was really good and they will definately contend for a trophy at nationals," said Dunn. "We just need to regroup and continue to make progress the next few weeks. I still think we are in a good place and will continue to get better as we prepare for regionals and eventually nationals."

The Cardinal women settled for third in a very tight race with six highly ranked teams. Again, it was the No. 16 Colorado Buffaloes taking the Pac-12 title, scoring 50 points. No. 2 Washington was second with 73 points and No. 8 Stanford was third with 75. No. 11 Oregon was fourth with 89, No. 5 Arizona was fifth with 104 and No. 10 California was seventh with 190.

"It was a really good race, particularly up front," said associate cross country=coach PattiSue Plumer. "We were so close to second, but I guess we just edged Washington last year so they returned the favor this year. It was Colorado's day though, they ran great today."

The Cardinal was led by Kathy Kroeger, who repeated her performance of last year while finishing as the conference runner-up. Kroeger covered the 6,000-meter course in 19:40 and was eight seconds back of individual champion Katie Flood of Washington. Kroeger did take down pre-race favorite Jorday Hasay of Oregon who was last year's champion, but finished third on Saturday.

"Kathy was just awesome today," said Plumer. "She was just so solid all they way through the race and just ran great."

Also running well up front were Stephanie Marcy and Jessica Tonn. Marcy placed seventh in her final conference meet, covering the course in 20:13. Tonn was just outside the top-10, placing 11th in her return to the Phoenix area where she grew up and attended Xavier Prep.

"Steph and Jess ran great," said Plumer. "Top-10 against this field is really good and Jess closed really well and passed a bunch of girls in the last stretch."

Completing the scoring runners were a pair of newcomers with much different backgrounds. Freshman Aisling Cuffe placed 24th in 20:44, a solid effort for the nation's No. 1 recruit. Claire Durkin completed Stanford's scoring, placing 31st in 20:58. Durkin has a much different story, coming to Stanford in 2008 and despite being a highly touted high-school athlete from the state of Ohio, chose not to compete in Varsity athletics. Durkin, now a senior (junior elig.) has since changed her mind and was running in a Stanford jersey for the first time.

Finishing the top seven were freshmen Mary Kate Anselmini and Molly McNamara. Anselmini was 41st in 21:20, while McNamara was 52nd in 21:29.

"We have a lot of freshmen," said Plumer. "This is a tough race for freshmen, but they are figuring it out. They will continue to make the adjustment and get better as we go along."

Also running for Stanford were Victoria Pennings who was 60th in 21:37, Alli Billmeyer who was 66th in 21:53 and Georgia Griffin who was 84th in 22:23.

The Cardinal will next compete when it hosts the NCAA West Regionals at the Stanford Golf Course on Saturday, Nov. 12. The men's race will begin at 10 a.m. with the women's race following at 11:15 a.m.

— Stanford Sports Information

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