Stanford's Maksim Korolev said he is in the best shape of his life as he prepares for the biggest race of his life -- the IAAF World Cross Country Championships this weekend in Guiyang, China.
Korolev earned the sixth and final qualifying spot for the American team through his performance at the U.S. Championships in Boulder, Colorado, on Feb. 7. He first represented the U.S. national team at the Pan Am Cup on Feb. 22, winning the race in Barranquilla, Colombia.
"I'm probably in the best shape of my life, so I'm excited to see what I can do," Korolev said before leaving Sunday for China. "I think I can get a few of the Americans that got me at USAs and I'd like to get top 15 overall. Otherwise, it'll be fun just to compete on Team USA again."
A top-15 finish is an automatic qualifier for the IAAF World Track and Field Championships in Beijing on Aug. 22-30. The men race 12 kilometers (7.46 miles) and the women 8K (4.97 miles).
Korolev is among three current or former Stanford runners competing, including Chris Derrick ('12) and Sara Bei Hall ('04).
Derrick, a 14-time All-America at Stanford, has won three consecutive U.S. titles, the first to do so since the late Pat Porter won eight straight from 1982-89. Derrick earned a resounding 30-second victory at nationals and is regarded among the favorites at worlds. This is his second world cross country championship, having placed 10th in Bydgoszcz, Poland, in 2013, to help the U.S. team to a silver medal.
Hall was fifth at nationals and advances to worlds for the second time and first since 2006, when she placed 26th over 4K in Fukuoka, Japan. Complicating matters for Hall is that she ran the Los Angeles Marathon on March 15, finishing in 21st place.
Korolev, a graduate student in management science and engineering, becomes the first active Stanford men's runner at worlds since Ian Dobson '05 was 61st in the 12K race in 2005 in France. Tony Sandoval '76 (20th) and Roy Kissin '79 (139th) also accomplished the feat, in 1976 in Wales.
The highest world finish by any Stanford runner was second by Canada's Alison Wiley '86 in 1983 over a 4.4K distance in Gateshead, England. Derrick's 10th place in 2013 is the best finish by a Stanford male.
Many consider the World Cross Country Championships to be the most difficult races to win, even more difficult than the Olympic Games. At most major championships, the world's best distance runners are separated into a few races of different distances. Not so in cross country, where the best race the best. Winner take all.
Four Stanford gymnasts earned All-Pac-12 honors, including three on the first team, as announced by the conference Tuesday.
The Cardinal was well-represented on the first team with Taylor Rice (all-around), Ivana Hong (bars) and Elizabeth Price (vault). Samantha Shapiro claimed second team recognition on bars. It is the third all-conference honor for Hong, second for Shapiro and the first for Rice and Price.
Rice has been Stanford's most consistent gymnast throughout the season, competing in the all-around in eight of 11 meets and hitting 38-of-42 (90 percent) of her routines on the season. She accumulated 11 individual victories with five in the all-around, four on floor and one on vault and beam.
Hong returned to Stanford's lineup after missing the 2014 season due to injury and flourished on bars and beam, hitting 20 of her 22 routines on the year. She produced two of Stanford's top four scores on bars and tallied four individual event victories in the event.
Price made an immediate impact during her freshman campaign, earning 11 individual event victories in 14 performances. She tied for the Pac-12 title on bars with a 9.950 and tied for third on vault with a 9.950 to help lead Stanford to a third-place finish at the championships. Price registered Stanford's first 10.0 on vault since 2004 when she delivered a perfect performance in her home debut against Oregon State on Jan. 26.
Shapiro, a two-time NCAA Championships runner-up on bars, continued to showcase why she's one of the nation's best in the event during the season. She has hit 10 consecutive routines and scored 9.850 or higher in each of the past nine performances. She tied for fifth in the event at the Pac-12 Championships with a 9.900.
The quartet will look to help Stanford continue its momentum when it travels to the NCAA Morgantown Regional on April 4, when it will pursue a spot at the NCAA Championships.
Nationally No. 9 Stanford was unable to hold a five-goal second-half lead and suffered its first loss this season, 17-15 to host No. 15 Penn State in nonconference action Tuesday.
Stanford (4-1) got four goals from Kyle Fraser and two apiece from Hannah Farr, Lucy Dikeou, Rachel Ozer, and Kelly Myers.
Stanford scored the first three goals, and never trailed until Steph Lazo scored a free-position goal with 2:21 left in the game for a 16-15 lead. Madison Cyr closed it out with the clincher, with 58 seconds left.
Stanford led 11-6 in the second half and took a 14-11 lead with 7:29 left when Fraser found room on a run around the goal for an open shot from in front. After that, however, Penn State won five of seven draws, with every possession leading to a goal. After one of its draw controls, Stanford immediately turned the ball over and Penn State was able to control the ball for all but 11 seconds of the final 4:41.
Myers gave Stanford a 15-13 lead when she cut through the middle of the defense, took a pass from Rachel Ozer, and fired in a shot from close range with 4:41 to go, only for the Nittany Lions to close the game on a 4-0 run.
This was the first-ever meeting between the two schools. The game-time temperature was 42 degrees and sunny, with the artificial turf field ringed by piles of snow. Stanford was hoping for a third victory over a top-20 opponent in as many tries. The Cardinal resumes play Friday at Harvard (3-3) at 4 p.m. PT in a game to be broadcast live on ESPN3.com.
Women's water polo
For the second time this season, Stanford freshman Katie Dudley was named MPSF/Kap7 Newcomer of the Week when the conference announced its weekly awards on Tuesday afternoon.
Dudley scored two of Stanford's 23 goals in the No. 2 Cardinal's 23-7 rout of Harvard on Friday night at Avery Aquatic Center. She is seventh on the squad this season with 16 goals. She has scored in 12 of Stanford's 16 games and has posted four multi-goal efforts.
The Cardinal's goal total against the Crimson was its most since scoring the same number in a 23-3 win over against Pomona-Pitzer at the National Collegiate Championships on May 14, 2010.
The Cardinal travels to Arizona State for its second conference game at noon on Saturday before returning to The Farm to host UC Davis on Sunday at 1 p.m.