The Stanford men's and women's cross country teams will open the season ranked among the nation's top 10, and each was identified as the best in the region.
The Cardinal men are ranked No. 2, equaling their NCAA finish of last year, and the women are No. 7, in the polls released by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association on Tuesday. Each is No. 1 in the West Region rankings.
The Stanford men bring strong depth -- seven under 14 minutes for 5,000 meters, four cross country All-Americans, and three sub-4 milers. The Cardinal returns five of its top seven from the 2014 NCAA runner-up lineup. However, the two graduation losses are significant: Maksim Korolev placed fourth and Michael Atchoo placed 29th and was vital to Stanford's high finish by leading a secondary pack of Cardinal runners through the field.
The Cardinal welcomes a strong recruiting class, though only Grant Fisher is expected to compete this fall. Fisher was a two-time Foot Locker national cross country champion and one of seven high school runners ever to run a sub-4:00 mile.
Stanford head coach Chris Miltenberg said Fisher will be brought along slowly and race sparingly this fall as he adapts to higher mileage and longer race distances. Freshmen Alex Ostberg and Will Lauer, the past two New Balance Outdoor national 5,000 champs, will redshirt.
The men are expected to be led by junior Sean McGorty (8th in the NCAA 5K outdoors) and the fifth-year Rosa twins, Jim and Joe, each an All-American in both cross country and track. Senior Garrett Sweatt and junior Jack Keelan are expected to emerge among the team's top runners. Stanford cross country All-America Sam Wharton and Georgetown graduate transfer Collin Leibold, a second-team outdoor All-America in the 5,000, enter the season battling injuries, but hope to be ready as the season progresses.
The Stanford women placed 14th at the NCAA meet last year with a lineup that included five freshmen in eligibility. The entire top seven returns. Among them is sophomore Elise Cranny, the top freshman NCAA finisher last year (12th) and the highest Stanford frosh placer in 15 years.
Cranny and Aisling Cuffe, the 2013 Pac-12 champion and fourth-place NCAA finisher who redshirted last season, lead a Stanford team that seems improved across the board. Vanessa Fraser, a junior who was on the fringe of the top seven for much of last year, was 13th at the NCAA outdoor 5K and could prove to be a frontrunner this season. The addition of a small, but talented, recruiting class -- Hannah Long, Catherine Pagano, and Canadian junior national 3,000 champ Claire Smith -- will help, as well.
Stanford left Wednesday for 10 days of high-altitude training at Mammoth Lakes in Eastern California, and returns from the Sierra Nevada via Fresno, the site of the season-opening Fresno Invitational on Sept. 11.
Stanford's lone home meet is the 42nd Stanford Invitational on Sept. 26. The Pac-12's will be hosted by Washington State on Oct. 30, the West Regionals are in Seattle on Nov. 13, and the NCAA's return to Louisville, Ky., on Nov. 21.