NCAA, Olympic hopefuls take aim at qualifying marks


The first Stanford Twilight meet, created to give collegiate distance runners a spotlight and greater opportunities to earn NCAA and Olympic Trials qualifying times, will be held tonight.

Runners from 13 schools are competing at Cobb Track and Angell Field, representing some of the top distance programs in the country, including Boise State, Colorado, Georgetown, Iowa State, Oklahoma State, Penn State, Villanova, and Wisconsin. The meet is centered around three distances – the 800, 1,500, and 5,000 meters, for men and women.

Highlighted events include:

7:10 p.m., Women's 800: Two-time NCAA outdoor 800 runner-up Claudia Saunders of Stanford is part of a loaded field that includes veteran U.S. national teamer Maggie Vessey and the unveiling of Georgetown's Sarah Schmidt . . . Georgetown's contingent features two members of its NCAA Indoor-winning distance medley relay: Emma Keenan and Heather Martin . . . Vessey owns the fastest PB in the field (1:57.84) and holds the Stanford Invitational meet record . . . Saunders is the Stanford school recordholder at 2:00.63 and is coming off a swift 2:03.63 to win the Big Meet dual against Cal . . . Oklahoma State's Savannah Camacho was the 2014 NCAA Indoor runner-up and a three-time NCAA finalist with a best of 2:02.84 . . . Schmidt is a freshman from Germany making her collegiate individual-event debut. She was second at the European Junior Championships last year and has a best of 2:01.44. The Georgetown record is 2:02.35 set by Treniere Clement in 2004.

7:20 p.m., Men's 800: This looks like a battle between Penn State freshman sensation Isaiah Harris and four-time Big East champion Joseph White of Georgetown . . . Harris ran 1:46.05 at the Florida Relays in his collegiate outdoor 800 debut on April 2 and is the fourth-fastest collegian this season. Earlier, the Maine native won the Big Ten indoor 800 title . . . Christian Soratos grew up in Salinas, 60 miles from Stanford, and has come a long way since he was a local high school runner. As a Salinas High senior, Soratos was 10th in the Central Coast Section 1,600 in 4:35.54. Five years later, he was an NCAA champion, winning the 2015 indoor meet while at Montana State . . . White is the reigning Big East 800 champion indoors and outdoors and has bests of 1:47.40 (800) and 47.07 (400).

8 p.m., Women's 1,500: Judging from its performances at the Stanford Invitational, Stanford has a growing collection of outstanding 1,500 runners. Six Cardinal have run under 4:18 and four -- Elise Cranny, Rebecca Mehra, Saunders, and Malika Waschmann -- are on the entry list for this race . . . Cranny, who has run 4:10.95, returned late in the indoor season after months off from injury and is working herself back to the form that made her the first true freshman in four years to reach the NCAA outdoor 1,500 final, last spring . . . Andrea Keklak led off Georgetown's NCAA-winning DMR team in March and came back a day later to place fourth in the mile . . . Annemarie Schwanz has set two Fresno State records this month, running a 16:05.58 5,000 at the Stanford Invitational and 4:17.03 in the 1,500 at the Bryan Clay Invite in Azusa . . . Ellie Staker was an NAIA indoor 800 champ while at Embry-Riddle and now runs for New Balance's Big Bear TC.

8:20 p.m., Men's 1,500: Five collegiate runners in the field have seed times of under 3:40 for 1,500 and that list does not include 3:53 miler Sean McGorty, or two other sub-4 Stanford milers -- freshman Grant Fisher and Tom Coyle. This one promises to be fast . . . McGorty runs the 1,500 this week and then the 5,000 at the Payton Jordan Invitational next week. His indoor 3:53.95 was a Stanford absolute mile record and made him the second-fastest American collegian ever indoors on any-sized track . . . this will be Fisher's home collegiate track debut. He set a 1,500 best of 3:42.86 in his collegiate track debut two weeks ago at the Big Meet, placing behind McGorty and Coyle . . . McGorty is familiar with Penn State's Brannon Kidder. He is a 1:45.58 800 runner who was the NCAA outdoor runner-up in that event last year. Kidder outleaned McGorty to the finish of the Penn State National indoor DMR with both teams running among the top-10 times in collegiate history . . . look out for Boise State's David Elliott, fifth in the NCAA Indoor mile . . . Georgetown boasts three sub-4 milers – Amos Bartelsmeyer, Ahmed Bile, and Michael Lederhouse.

8:45 p.m., Women's 5,000: Two-time Pac-12 cross country champion Aisling Cuffe opens her outdoor season with the big picture in mind. She is a two-time NCAA 5,000 runner-up and will be working toward Olympic Trials qualifying and being in top fitness for the NCAA's. Because of injury, Cuffe raced once indoors this year, but hasn't run an outdoor track race since placing fourth at the 2014 U.S. Championships . . . Tansey Lystad makes her outdoor debut for Boise State as a graduate transfer from Portland, where she won the 2014 West Coast Conference cross country title. She set her personal record 15:42.22 on this track at last year's Payton Jordan.

* * *

While Stanford distance runners look toward the Twilight and Payton Jordan meets as the key portion of the regular season, the sprinters, jumpers, and throwers are looking to Baylor's Michael Johnson Invitational for the same reason this weekend in Waco, Texas.

Women's gymnastics

Stanford grew stronger when Aleeza Yu signed a National Letter of Intent recently to join the Cardinal in the fall of 2016.

Yu joins the Cardinal from Ontario, Canada, as a four-year honor roll student with a wealth of international gymnastics experience. She has been a Canadian National Team member since 2011 and a member of the Senior National Team since 2014.

Yu competed with the 2014 World Team and the 2014 Pacific Rim Team. She won a team silver medal at the 2014 Pacific Rim competition and added an individual bronze on floor.

Yu trained at Gemini Gymnasics Club under Elena Davydova and Valery Yahchybekov.

Yu joins a Stanford team that competed in its ninth NCAA Championships in the past 10 years and 16th overall, tied for the highest score at the NCAA Ann Arbor Regional and picked up four regular season wins against NCAA Championships teams.

— Stanford Athletics

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