Stanford junior Aisling Cuffe took the kick out of seven-time NCAA champion Abbey D'Agostino and beat the Dartmouth runner while ultimately finishing second in the women's 5,000 meters at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships on Saturday at Hayward Field.
Cuffe ran 15:37.74 and held the lead for most of the last two miles before being passed by Texas senior Marielle Hall with just over a lap to go. Cuffe stayed within two strides of Hall until the Texas runner began widening the lead over the final half-lap. Hall won in 15:35.11.
Cuffe matched her runner-up finish from the 2014 NCAA indoor championships, though she finished behind D'Agostino in that one. However, this marked Stanford's highest outdoor finish in this event since Sara Bei was second in 2005.
Teammate Jessica Tonn, a redshirt junior, was 13th in the same race (16:19.13) to earn her highest national finish.
For the men, Michael Atchoo placed eighth in the 1,500 in a season-best 3:40.66 to earn first-team All-America honors by 0.09 of a second, and Darian Brooks was 21st in the triple jump with a top jump of 51-0 ¾.
Stanford placed 11th in the women's team competition, scoring 19 points, and was 32nd in the men's, with 9. The Cardinal women placed among the top 15 for the 13th time in 14 years, including the past five.
In all, seven Stanford competitors earned first-team All-America honors by placing among the top eight four men and three women. The Cardinal earned three second-team honors (places 9-16) and four honorable mention (17-24).
Cuffe sat back in the pack for just over a mile, and then moved to the front and pushed the pace.
"The plan had been to get a feel for the how the race was playing out," she said. "If it was still slow at a mile in, then just take the lead and start hammering 73s. We were still running 80s at the mile, so I waited another lap and then I took the lead and just went for it."
The pack began to string out until it was just Cuffe, Hall, and D'Agostino, in that order. With 600 to go, D'Agostino dropped off the pace, and soon Hall moved into the lead.
"I tried to stay latched on, hoping she would start to falter a little, but she was ready for her kick," Cuffe said. "It was tough knowing that she stayed tucked in behind me the whole way, but she ran to win, and it worked out.
"I wish I had a little more at the end, but I'm happy that I stuck to the plan. It took everyone else out of the race. Coach Milt is always telling us that the key to a solid race is pulling yourself in a position where you have a chance to win with a lap to go, and I felt I definitely did that today."
In the 1,500, Atchoo made a challenge on the final lap, moving up to fourth place with 300 to go. But Atchoo was unable to mount a kick down the stretch and finished eighth in the men's 1,500.
Atchoo clocked a season-best 3:40.66 in his final collegiate race he is the only of Stanford's 14 NCAA competitors to complete his eligibility. And by placing eighth, by 0.09 seconds, Atchoo earned first-team All-America honors for the first time.
Brooks completed a season in which he overcame a heel injury to win the Pac-12 championship in dramatic fashion and advance to his first national championship meet. Brooks' best jump was his first, but it wasn't enough to get to the final and earn three more jumps.
No matter. The Cardinal has much to be proud of, and a strong foundation to build upon.