Stanford concluded the 121st Penn Relays on Saturday with three relay teams in action, but no events were more unusual than the men's 4xMile.
Stanford was third in that race, and also placed fourth in the women's 4x800 and fifth in the men's 4x800 at Franklin Field. The Cardinal now returns home to compete in the Payton Jordan Invitational, the country's premier distance-running meet, on May 2 at Cobb Track and Angell Field.
The 4xMile was uneventful until the anchor leg, and then it changed because of the presence of Oregon sophomore Edward Cheserek. The multiple NCAA champion possesses a lethal kick, and no one wanted to match his pure speed in an honest race.
The result was a pace that became so slow that it was almost a walk. Cheserek got the baton in front, but immediately slowed and moved into lane two, inviting Villanova's Jordan Williamsz to take the lead. Williamsz didn't bite. Neither did Stanford anchor Sean McGorty in third.
Suddenly, a race that had been somewhat separated over the first three legs slowed so much that nearly every team was back in contention, while running in a tight, slow pedestrian pack with no one willing to take control.
"Before the race, Coach (Chris Miltenberg) and I talked about playing poker with the other guys and working on my finish," Stanford anchor Sean McGorty said. "We had no idea it was going to be like that though. It was pretty ridiculous."
At one point, Georgetown's Ahmed Bile sprinted into the lead, forcing others to start to chase, only for Bile to immediately slam on the brakes, as the momentum of others swept them past.
"Cheserek didn't want to lead and Williamsz wasn't going to take it either. I thought about taking it, but realized I just didn't want to set the pace for everyone else," McGorty said. "Some points it felt like we were walking, but I just tried to prep myself for the last lap."
Finally, Wisconsin's Joe Hardy bolted into the lead and the race was on. But, for Cheserek, his unwillingness to push the pace ultimately was his undoing. When he did sprint, Williamz was able to stay with him, while McGorty was unable to keep up.
"Those two got away from me with about 150 left, but I tried to stay focused and keep finishing strong even though I wouldn't be able to win," McGorty said.
Williamz fed off the hometown crowd of more than 40,000 and outran Cheserek down the stretch to give Villanova the victory in 16:18.07 and Stanford was third in 16:20.44.
Stanford's splits were 4:02.2 for Thomas Coyle, 4:01.8 for Erik Olson, 4:04.3 for Jack Keelan, and 4:11.2 by McGorty.
In the women's 4x800, freshman Olivia Baker ran a 2:05.82 second leg to put Stanford into third and then fell onto the track in exhaustion after handing off to Anna Laman. The sophomore hung tough with Villanova and Georgetown in a three-runner pack before they broke away near the end of the third leg.
The Cardinal ran 8:33.95 with the team of Malika Waschmann (2:10.16), Baker, Laman (2:08.78), and Claudia Saunders (2:09.20). For Saunders, it was her third race in three days. On Friday, she anchored Stanford to victory in the 4x1500. It was Stanford's first Penn Relays victory since 2006.
The men's 4x800 featured a foursome of Justin Brinkley (1:51.31), Luke Lefebure (1:49.71), Coyle (1:51.50), and Scott Buttinger (1:48.66).
In Berkeley on Saturday, Stanford sophomore Jaak Uudmae made his collegiate debut in his specialty and set a personal best in the triple jump at the Brutus Hamilton Challenge at Edwards Stadium.
Uudmae, a freshman in eligibility, cracked 50 feet for the first time with a jump of 50-3 1/2 to place third. Winning was Marcus Robinson (52-7 1/4), a Stanford volunteer assistant coach.
Uudmae's performance came one day after winning the high jump at the Brutus Hamilton Open with a personal best of 6-10 3/4, (No. 9 in Stanford history) and during a year in which he has set bests in the long jump in all but one meet.
"This weekend, Jaak continued to show why we are so excited about him and his long-term potential now in all three jumps," Stanford jumps coach Michael Eskind said.
Even with a shortened approach run, Uudmae may have gotten himself a qualifying mark for the NCAA West Prelims.
"I can't wait to see what he does next weekend and beyond," Eskind said.
Stanford athletes earned two victories Saturday: Dylan Duvio won the men's pole vault at a season-best 17-1 and Daryth Gayles captured the women's long jump at 19-0.
Isaiah Brandt-Sims was second in the men's 100 meters in 10.55, just 0.02 off the personal best he ran two weeks earlier at the Big Meet. Another freshman, redshirt Patrick Perrier, was second in the 800 in a lifetime best 1:50.77.
Sophomore Vanessa Fraser continued her outstanding year by dropping her personal best in the 1,500 by four seconds. Fraser's 4:26.30 was good for third. She has dropped her lifetime bests significantly at three distances this year -- the 1,500, 3,000, and 5,000.
In the women's discus, Stanford grad Summer Pierson won with a throw of 187-5 with Stanford's Valarie Allman second at 176-11.