Stanford track and field strengthened its incoming freshman class by signing five to national letters of intent, including Montana miler Christina Aragon, the top women's middle-distance recruit in the nation.
Aragon, of Billings Senior High, became the No. 5 performer in high school girls' history when she ran 4:16.36 in the 1,500 meters last year as a junior -- trailing only Mary Cain, Alexa Efraimson, Jordan Hasay, and current Stanford sophomore Elise Cranny. She grabbed further national attention by kicking to victory in two of the biggest summer invitational races in the country -- the Dream Mile and the Brooks PR Invitational 800.
Julian Body, the No. 3 high school 300-meter hurdler in the country this year, and Alek Parsons, third at the Nike Cross Nationals, headline the men's spring signings.
Erika Malaspina, a local product out of tiny Pacific Collegiate School in Santa Cruz, is the No. 4 pole vaulter in the country, and Indiana state 800 champ Hariharan Sathyamurthy -- "Hurricane Hari," to his friends and coaches -- is as fast as his nickname implies.
They join six from the fall signing period to comprise a class of 11 that will grow when those on academic scholarships who didn't sign NLI's, and walk-ons, enroll in school.
Stanford's recruiting class of women's runners may be the best in the country. Besides Aragon, it consists of fall signees Hannah DeBalsi (Westport, Conn.), Ella Donaghu (Portland, Ore.), Fiona O'Keeffe (Davis), and Sarah Walker (Lower Gwynedd Township, Pa.). The fall men's class was Landon Ellingson (Jefferson, Wis.) and middle-distance runner Thomas Ratcliffe (Concord, Mass.).
Here is a closer look at Stanford track and field's spring signees:
Christina Aragon (Billings, Mont./Billings Senior HS): Aragon is familiar with Stanford's Cobb Track, running 4:16.36 at the Payton Jordan Invitational last year to become the fifth-fastest high schooler ever at 1,500 meters. In June, she captured the adidas Dream Mile in New York with an impressive kick, clocking 4:37.91 -- making her the No. 9 high school performer ever at that distance. A week later, Aragon cemented her status as the nation's leading middle distance runner with a 2:04.00 800 victory at Seattle's Brooks PR Invitational. Aragon captured three Montana AA track titles last year -- the 400 in a state AA record 55.87, the 800 in 2:11.01, and 1,600 in 4:46.34, a state all-class record. Christina comes from a well-known running family. Her father, Chuck, was among the top U.S. milers in the 1980s. Her mother, the former Kathy Pfiefer, ran in three Olympic trials. And sisters Alexa and Danielle have been state high school champions and stars at Notre Dame, where Chuck ran. An Aragon sister has won a Montana state title the past 11 years. Christina is a Level 10 gymnast who competes for the Billings Gymnastics School.
Erika Malaspina (Santa Cruz/Pacific Collegiate School): On Saturday at the Bill Kearney Invitational in Salinas, Malaspina cleared 13-6 in the pole vault, passing current Stanford sophomore Taylor Jaques for second on the Central Coast Section's all-time list and breaking her Santa Cruz County record. It was the third time Malaspina has cleared 13-0 this season. She is the defending CCS champion and was fourth in the state. She adds to a strong women's group of what should be five vaulters next season.
Julian Body (Portland, Ore./Jesuit HS): Running in the rain, Body won the 300-meter hurdles at the prestigious Arcadia Invitational on April 9 in 36.68, the No. 3 time in the nation this season and the second-best time ever in Oregon. This puts Body within range of Oregon's oldest record (36.34c), held since 1979. Body also was runner-up in the 110 hurdles at Arcadia, running a personal-best 14.18. Body is the defending Oregon 6A champion in both events, in 14.36 and 37.44.
Alek Parsons (Ogden, Utah/Ogden HS): Parsons placed third at the Nike Cross Nationals, covering the 5-kilometer course in Portland in 15:05.60. It was his second consecutive appearance at the meet, finishing 22nd a year earlier. Parsons captured the Utah 6A cross country championship during the fall, following a 2015 track season in which Parsons ran 8:55.56 in the 3,200 at the 2015 Arcadia Invitational. Parsons, who has a 1,600 best of 4:14.87, was a finalist for the Wendy's High School Heisman for his athletic and academic achievements.
Hariharan Sathyamurthy (Indianapolis, Ind./Brownsburg HS): Sathyamurthy won the Indiana state 800 crown in a personal best 1:51.50 last year. In 2014, he was second in the state in 1:51.58, an Indiana sophomore record, and came from behind to run a 48.1 split to anchor Brownsburg to the 4x400 title. For the past two years, he has swept the 800 and 1,600 at the Lafayette-Jefferson Regional, and has a mile best of 4:16.45. Sathyamurthy showed his versatility by placing fifth at the Indiana cross country championships in the fall. Sathyamurthy is the son of Indian immigrants and shares an interest in robotics with his brother.