Sports

Stanford track and field signs top group of runners

 

The Stanford track and field program signed six during the fall signing period, including a top class of women's distance runners.

The women's recruits were Hannah DeBalsi (Westport, Conn.), Ella Donaghu (Portland, Ore.), Fiona O'Keeffe (Davis), and Sarah Walker (Lower Gwynedd Township, Pa.). Discus thrower Landon Ellingson (Jefferson, Wis.) and middle-distance runner Thomas Ratcliffe (Concord, Mass.) comprised the men's class for the signing period, which ended Wednesday.

Among the nation's high school runners, DeBalsi is No. 1 in the two mile, while Walker (800 meters), Donaghu (3,000) and O'Keeffe (3,200) rank No. 2 in their top events.

"We're really fired up about both of these classes, especially our women's," said Chris Miltenberg, Stanford's Director of Track and Field. "All the credit goes to (assistant coach) Liz DeBole. She did a phenomenal job of identifying the right people for us and then building great relationships with them.

"On the men's side, it's a great group that's shaping up well. We had a couple of really strong classes in a row, so we wanted it to be a smaller class this year. We're still honed in on a few guys (for the spring signing period), but we're really excited about the ones we have so far."

DeBalsi has been described as possibly the greatest female high school distance runner ever from Connecticut, though Ceci Hopp (Stanford '85) may have a say in that as well. DeBalsi became the first girl in Connecticut prep history to break 10 minutes in the two mile, running 9:55.05 to place second at the 2014 Brooks PR meet. Her second place in the 2013 Foot Locker national cross country championships was the best finish by a Connecticut female in 22 years. DeBalsi is the 2014 New Balance Outdoor Nationals two-mile champ and holds four state records – in the indoor and outdoor 1,600 (4:47.50 best) and 3,200 meters (10:10.26 best). She has won eight New England championships -- three each in cross country and the indoor two-mile and two in the outdoor 3,200 -- and eight Connecticut State Open titles for the Wreckers. The national indoor sophomore two-mile record-holder (10:12.95) is a two-time Gatorade Connecticut Cross Country Runner of the Year.

Donaghu recently broke the 22-year-old Oregon state cross-country meet course record by nearly nine seconds at Lane Community College, running 17:26 to capture her third consecutive 6A title. Donaghu now has seven state championships, ranging in distance from 800 to cross-country's 5K. In 2014, Donaghu broke the state record in the 3,000, with a 9:24.86. Her junior track season seemed lost by a bout of mono, but she rallied to win titles in the 800 (2:11.12 PR) and the 1,500 (4:20.83), and ran a leg on the Generals' third-place 4x400 team. On Sunday, Donaghu will attempt to repeat as the winner of the Oregon-Washington BorderClash duel at the Nike Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon.

O'Keeffe is a two-time defending California state Division I cross-country champion. On Sept. 26, O'Keeffe ran a stunning 16:32.1 over 5K to win the Stanford Invitational seeded race and set a Stanford Golf Course record, while establishing the fastest time in the country. A week earlier, she ran 16:41 to break the 19-year-old De La Salle Invitational course record held by former Stanford star Julia Stamps. O'Keeffe twice has finished fourth at the Nike Cross Nationals and, on the track, her 10:00.85 in the 3,200 set a Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Meet record last spring. She went on to finish second at the State Meet (one division). O'Keeffe has a 1,600 best of 4:45.68 and was the 2014 Gatorade California Cross Country Runner of the Year.

Walker is the No. 1-ranked senior in the nation in the 800, unleashing a 2:03.70 at a summer open meet. Walker, who also has a 400 best of 56.05, was second at the New Balance Outdoor Nationals in the 800 and third at the U.S. junior championships, narrowly missing a U.S. team berth in the Pan Am Junior Championships. Walker ran 10 sub-2:10 races this year, including a 2:05.79 to win the Caribbean Scholastic Invitational in Cuba. The 2015 Stanford Invitational high school winner perhaps is best known for her kick to win the indoor 600 at the Armory Invitational in New York, passing three runners down the homestretch to win by 0.08 in 1:32.30.

Ratcliffe has accomplished much on the track, including winning the Massachusetts All-State indoor mile last year. However, there is a great upside to Ratcliffe, who has spent his falls playing soccer, even helping his Concord-Carlisle High team to the state Division II title to cap an undefeated season. Ratcliffe ran a 4:07.63 mile to finish fifth at the Prefontaine Classic last year and is a two-time Massachusetts Division III indoor mile champion. He also was fourth in the New Balance Grand Prix indoor meet in Boston in 4:10.45. Ratcliffe has a 1,500 best of 3:49.03 and a two-mile best of 9:06.86. He comes into the track season as the No. 4-ranked high school miler in the country. Thomas is the son of Tom Ratcliffe, a 2:14 marathoner and now director of KiMbia Athletics, representing elite runners such as Shalane Flanagan and Stanford's 2011 NCAA indoor 3,000 champ Elliott Heath.

Ellingson has a best of 179-8 in the discus and has twice been a Wisconsin state Division II runner-up in that event. Ellingson, who also has a shot put best of 52-9, is a superb athlete and a rapidly improving thrower, having extended his personal record in the discus by more than 22 feet between his sophomore and junior years. Ellingson sometimes runs the 100 and 4x100 for Jefferson High, with a best of 11.28 in the 100. Ellingson, an All-Rock Valley Conference selection at both offensive line and defensive end in football, is a product of the Madison Throws Club, which has advanced several area throwers to the major-college ranks.

— Stanford Athletics

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