Sports

A marathon day of track and field at Stanford Invitational

 

A marathon 14 1/2 hours after the first javelin throw, Garrett Sweatt closed out a day of track and field by racing to victory in the final section of the 10,000 meters at 11:30 p.m. Friday night.

The Stanford junior ran 28:51.56 to shatter his personal record by more than 2 1/2 minutes and highlight Stanford performances at the Stanford Invitational at Cobb Track and Angell Field. The two-day extravaganza will include more than 3,300 athletes by the time it's done Saturday.

Three meet records were broken and one stadium mark -- by China's Guowei Zhang with his 7-7 3/4 high jump. He punctuated his record clearance with a Gangnam Style dance on the pit.

Later, Texas A&M sophomore Shamier Little, the reigning women's NCAA and world junior 400 hurdles champ, sliced the meet record to 56.42 in her season debut in the event. And Nike's Riley Dolezal established another such mark with his 255-6 in the men's javelin.

Shalane Flanagan, the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist in the 10,000, prepped for the Boston Marathon with a 10K duel against Ethiopia's Gelete Burka, whose final-lap kick aced the U.S. star, 31:08.16 to 31:09.02.

"This was a hard workout for me," said Flanagan of how this race fit into her Boston preparation plans. "Typically, I would do exactly this, a 10K time trial and then go do some 400s -- fortunately, I get to skip the 400s tonight. I'm simulating the last 10K of my marathon -- running with tired legs and seeing how fast I can run when I'm tired. It's truly what the marathon's all about, running fast when you're tired.

"I was not sharp by any means, as you can see over the last 400. That was my top end speed right now. But that was about as fast as I'll need at the end of a marathon, and that's all that matters."

For Stanford, the meet's proximity to the NCAA indoor championships (two weeks earlier) and the Big Meet against visiting California (one week later), limited participation somewhat. But, in a meet that acts as the outdoor opener for most of the 109 participating four-year colleges, Stanford had plenty to be happy about.

Sophomore Vanessa Fraser, for one, dropped 19 seconds off her personal best in the 5,000, running 16:01.23. Fraser made a bold move with six laps to go by passing nearly the entire field to move to the front and push the pace. She would eventually finish fifth in the race's second section.

"Something we talk about a lot is the power of consistent training," Fraser said. "Now that I've been here 18 months training at the next level, I've really started to see the light. I've just got to continue to go through that tunnel of progress. Just really trusting the coaching and staying healthy and having fun every day, helps me feel like I've been able to set myself up for success."

In his section of the men's 5,000, sophomore Patrick Gibson became the eighth current Stanford runner to break 14 minutes for that distance. His time of 13:58.96 got him 16th in Section 3.

Freshman Lena Giger continued her run of strong early performances, winning the women's shot put invitational (top level) competition in 51-2 1/4, the No. 8 performance in Stanford history.

And sophomore Jaak Uudmae launched himself seven inches farther than he had ever long-jumped before, winning the collegiate section in 23-11 1/2.

Finally, Sweatt, in only his second track 10,000, closed with a negative split of 14:09 for the final 5,000. Grinding out laps of 70 seconds, Sweatt steadily moved up the faltering field and closed with a 61-second final lap to secure the victory.

"I told Coach (Chris Miltenberg) a couple of days ago, I feel like I'm in the best shape of my life," Sweatt said. "I just feel like I'm coming into my own, where I can run best for myself and best for my team."

Sweatt had run one 10,000 on the track, but this another level, in terms of his health, fitness, and experience. His performances over cross country in the fall and the indoor season in the winter, which included his first sub-14:00 5,000, showed that the junior truly is coming into his own.

"I pride myself on being able to stick with it," he said. "I may not be the quickest guy, but I pride myself on having one of the best kicks.

"I'm excited for the season. I'm really happy. This is a great first step. I'm hoping to keep it going and keep improving on this."

Flanagan has run at Stanford regularly, holding the 10,000 meet records at both the Stanford Invitational and the Payton Jordan meets. She explained her willingness to run at Cobb Track and Angell Field.

"For the athletes, it's all about the support and fanbase, and that's why I'm infatuated with Boston, because the fans are so intense," Flanagan said. "This is my West Coast version of Boston. It's seriously a very magical place to run. I can't even explain it. I just feel a lot of support. And it doesn't hurt that the facilities and the weather always seem to be perfect. It seems exactly what I would order up if I could."

High schools

Gunn junior Maya Miklos won the overall title in the girls' 400 hurdles as she clocked 1:00.69, just off the meet record. It was the fastest time in the nation this season in an event not rarely run by high school athletes.

Fellow Gunn junior Gillian Meeks ran a personal best of 9:54.83 while taking fourth in the fast heat of the girls' 3,000. The top five finishers clocked the nation's top five times this outdoor season.

The time by Meeks converts to 10:38.55 for 3,200, which makes her No. 4 in Gunn history. That time also is faster than the 10:46.17 she ran while finishing 16th at the CIF State Meet last year.

The fast time by Meeks, however, was tempered by the fact that Cupertino's Caroline Gee overtook her in the final five meters to grab third in 9:54.48.

The Menlo-Atherton girls' distance medley relay team of Cat DePuy, Annie Harrier, Olivia Shane and Annalisa Crowe set a school record of 12:38.57 while taking 11th overall in the fast field.

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