Sports

Saunders turns in highest finish by a Stanford runner in 800

 

Claudia Saunders finished second in the 800 meters at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships on Friday in Eugene, earning the highest-ever finish by a Stanford woman in that event.

Saunders ran 2:02.92 and teammate Amy Weissenbach was sixth in 2:04.16, completing the Cardinal's strong representation in the 800.

A race earlier, Stanford math and computational science major Luke Lefebure ran a personal record 1:47.64 to place sixth in the men's final.

Three Stanford runners were crowned first-team outdoor All-Americans for the first time: Saunders, Lefebure, and Joe Rosa, who was seventh in the men's 5,000 in a personal best 13:31.69.

In her first NCAA outdoor championship meet and only two years removed from a 2:18 personal best, Saunders improved upon Justine Fedronic's third-place finish last year – Stanford's previous best finish.

On the backstretch of the final lap, sophomores Weissenbach and Saunders moved into first and second, only for Oregon's Laura Roesler to bolt into the lead with 200 to go. Both Stanford runners tried to respond, but Weissenbach began to fade on the turn.

Meanwhile, Saunders continued to push ahead, not fast enough to catch the meet favorite Roesler, but fast enough to pull away from the rest of the field and finish alone.

Moments later, Weissenbach matched her sixth-place finish of 2013, earning her first-team outdoor All-America honors for the second time.

Saunders' performance is even more remarkable considering that her main event in high school was the 100 hurdles. But her versatility was evident in that she won Ohio state titles in the hurdles and in cross country.

For college, she decided to focus on the 800, though she had never trained for the event, and she has dropped 16 seconds in the two years since.

Lefebure earned Stanford's highest Stanford men's 800 finish since Olympian Michael Stember was fourth in 2001.

Lefebure crushed his previous best of 1:48.46, set in Wednesday's semifinal round, and broke into Stanford's all-time top-10 list at No. 5.

Rosa was patient in the 5,000, holding back while the past three NCAA cross country champs – Texas Tech's Kennedy Kithuka, Arizona's Lawi Lalang, and Oregon's Edward Cheserek -- took the pace out quickly.

As Rosa moved up in the chase pack, he helped drive it toward the leaders. The pack caught the front group with 2 ½ laps to go, only for Lalang to again push the pace, with only Cheserek to follow.

Rosa's pack fell back and the Stanford junior was unable to mount a kick that would move him up in the field.

Still, it was an improvement over his strong 13:33.56 effort at the Payton Jordan Invitational on May 4 and solidified his standing at No. 8 on Stanford's all-time list.

The four-day meet concludes Saturday with four Stanford athletes in action: Darian Brooks in the men's triple jump final (12:30 p.m.), Michael Atchoo in the men's 1,500 final (2:18 p.m.), and Aisling Cuffe and Jessica Tonn in the women's 5,000 final (3:24 p.m.).

— Stanford Athletics

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