Saunders sets Stanford track and field record at NCAA meet


Stanford junior Claudia Saunders set a school record in the women's 800 meters and finished second at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene on Saturday, matching the school's best finish in the event.

She was among three top-finishers for the Stanford women, which finished 13th with 18 points.

In the 5,000, fifth-year senior Jessica Tonn finished third in 15:41.72 to the give the Cardinal its second consecutive top-three finish, following Aisling Cuffe's runner-up last year. Stanford sophomore Vanessa Fraser, out of Scotts Valley, was 13th to earn her first All-America honor.

Moments after Saunders' feat, sophomore Valarie Allman placed fifth in the discus, throwing 184-11 on her fifth attempt. It was Stanford's best NCAA finish in that event since Karen Nickerson was second in 1986.

Saunders ran 2:00.63 to break the school mark of 2:00.97 set by Justine Fedronic in a Diamond League meet in France in 2013. Saunders bettered her personal best of 2:01.79.

Saunders tucked into fourth for the first lap as the field let Clemson's Natoya Goule break away to a 26.72 first 200. Saunders' 400 split was 58.27.

On the backstretch, Saunders moved into third as the field began to reel in Goule. And with 150 to go, Saunders caught Goule to move into second behind Oregon freshman Raevyn Rogers. That's where they finished, with Rogers winning in 1:59.71.

In the 1,500, Elise Cranny placed 10th to finish as the top freshman in the country, running 4:24.40.

Cranny went out aggressively, tucking in behind defending champion Shelby Houlihan of Arizona State for the first two laps. After the fast pace began to take its toll and by the final lap Cranny had lost contact.

However, Cranny was one of two freshmen to reach the final and finished ahead of Oregon's Nikki Hiltz, who was 11th. Rhiannwedd Price of Mississippi State rallied past Houlihan in the final steps to win in 4:09.56.

Some context is necessary on Cranny's run: No freshman has finished higher than 10th since 2010, and no frosh have even been in the final since 2011. Also, Cranny is the first Stanford woman to reach the 1,500 final since Lauren Centrowitz was third in 2009.

— David Kiefer/Stanford Athletics

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