Stanford's women's 4x400-meter relay set a school indoor record to highlight an eventful Saturday for Cardinal track and field that included a victorious return from injury for sophomore All-America Elise Cranny, and a big-time victory for freshman Grant Fisher.
The relay team of Gaby Gayles, Olivia Baker, Michaela Crunkleton Wilson, and Kristyn Williams ran 3:33.78 on the 200-meter track at the Don Kirby Elite Invitational in Albuquerque, New Mexico, breaking a school mark of 3:34.92 that had stood since 2005, and running a full three seconds faster than any other Stanford quartet since then.
Fisher, who is redshirting, made his season track debut at the Husky Classic in Seattle and beat the 2015 NCAA 1,500 champ and a handful of professionals while winning the 3,000 in 7:50.06 on the 307-meter Dempsey Indoor track.
Cranny, a four-time All-America as a freshman, missed the cross country season with a hip injury and was making her season track debut without expectations. But Cranny looked patient and confident in coming from behind to win in 4:38.44, a personal record. It placed her fifth on the Stanford's all-time indoor performers' list for that distance.
"It was amazing to be back," Cranny said. "Traveling with the team again was so much fun, I forgot how much I missed it."
Cranny stayed midpack early, but at the half had moved outside and into fourth, and then third. At the bell on Lied Recreational Center,'s 300-meter flat track, Cranny moved to the outside shoulder of leader Shannon Morton of Virginia Tech.
On the backstretch, Cranny pushed forward and used the turn to shoot herself into the lead. She rolled down the homestretch to win going away, with Morton second in 4:39.38.
"My coaches wanted to make sure I didn't put any pressure on myself today or have high expectations," Cranny said. "They reminded me that today is just a starting point, and it was important to just get back out there and compete."
Cranny's time would've been fast enough to get her into last year's NCAA Championships. However, at this point it would have to be considered to be on the bubble to become one of the nation's top 16 times when the field is determined for nationals on March 11-12 in Birmingham, Alabama.
But qualification wasn't the goal. Simply racing for the first time since the NCAA Outdoor Championships last June was.
Cranny was the NCAA 3,000 indoor runner-up last year, the top freshman at the 2014 NCAA Cross Country Championships, and the first true freshman to make the NCAA outdoor 1,500 final in four years.