Stanford grad Garrett Heath's first win at the Great Edinburgh Cross Country race in Scotland two years ago came as something of a shock. He surprised his opponents again, one year later, when he successfully defended his title. Yet, few would have put money on him beating double world champion Mo Farah and winning for a third time last Saturday.
But that is exactly what the U.S. distance runner did at Edinburgh's Holyrood Park, handing Farah his first cross-country defeat since 2010 in what was the double Olympic champion's first race of 2016.
In the last race of the day, and after a heavy shower of rain half an hour earlier, the course for the men's 8K event was choppy and muddy. Understandably, the race got off to a cautious start.
They each had their moments at the front on the last lap, but Heath '08 was the only one who was able to pull clear. He opened up a few meters on Farah leading into the final uphill section. By the time they had negotiated the muddy hill, Heath's lead had doubled. With the finish line in sight, both Heath and Farah unleashed their finishing kicks, but the Briton was unable to make a dent on Heath's lead.
Heath crossed the line in 25:29, two seconds ahead of Farah.
"I didn't expect to win again," Heath said. "Mo is such a great runner, I wanted to be up there running with him. I kept waiting for Mo to kick past me in the home stretch, because I could hear people shouting."
Farah, who will soon head off for a training stint in Ethiopia, was gracious in defeat.
"It's early in the season," he said. "I never want to lose a race, but it's better to lose now than later in the year. Garrett Heath is a great athlete."
Chris Derrick ('12), a contender for a U.S. Olympic berth in the 10,000 meters, qualified for the Olympic trials in the marathon and is leaning toward competing in the race, Feb. 13 in Los Angeles.
Derrick, a three-time U.S. cross country champion, never has run a marathon, but qualified by finishing third in the Jacksonville Bank Half Marathon in 1:03:41 on Jan. 4. In his debut at that distance, Derrick achieved the U.S. 'B' standard of 1:05:00.
Other Stanford men who have qualified for the marathon trials are: Brett Gotcher ('06), Brendan Gregg ('11), Ryan Hall ('05), and Jacob Riley ('11).
Stanford women to qualify are: Stephanie Marcy Dinius ('11), Sara Bei Hall ('05), and Teresa McWalters ('07).
A top-10 world ranking
Greek women's pole vaulter Ekaterini Stefanidi (Stanford Class of '12) earned a No. 6 world ranking for 2015 by Track & Field News, which will release its full annual U.S. and world rankings in its February issue.
It was the second consecutive world top-10 ranking for Stefanidi, who was No. 4 in 2015. Stefanidi was 15th overall at the World Championships, but already had built a strong season that included a Greek national indoor record and a silver medal at the European Indoor Championships.
Stefanidi won NCAA indoor and outdoor championships in 2012 and was a three-time Pac-12 outdoor champion. She continues to hold Stanford records indoors and outdoors.
The Stanford men's and women's track and field teams open their seasons Saturday at the UW Indoor Preview at the Dempsey Indoor facility on the University of Washington campus. The meet lasts from 9 a.m.-6:30 p.m.