Cranny, Baker lead Stanford women at NCAA track and field


A pair of Stanford sophomores -- Elise Cranny in the 1,500 and Olivia Baker in the 800 -- earned runner-up finishes Saturday to lead the Cardinal women to seventh at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships at Hayward Field in Eugene.

Stanford used four top-four finishes, including Valarie Allman's third (discus) and Claudia Saunders' fourth (800), on a day of women's only finals. The Cardinal scored 29 points, its' highest place and point total in three years. Stanford's combined 44 points for men and women was the most for the program since 2011.

Elise Cranny/David Bernal Photo
Cranny set a school record of 4:09.54 to place second by 0.01 to Mississippi State's Marta Freitas. Cranny nearly stole the victory by catching Freitas, who raised her arms in triumph just before crossing the line, not realizing that Cranny had closed the gap considerably down the homestretch.

"I saw her beginning to celebrate before the line, which made me think I could catch her," Cranny said. "But we were already at the line. I would have had 10 more meters."

The race was a huge breakthrough for Cranny, who ran 4:10.95 in high school, but just now is understanding the importance of staying calm and relaxed in pressure situations. That was her approach in Saturday's final, to stick on the rail while Freitas' shoulder. The only problem was the gap Freitas built on the final turn, one that seemed insurmountable.

"I wish I could go back and redo the part between 150 and 100 to go, because I let her go a little bit, which made it more difficult to try to get her," Cranny said. "I didn't really think I would end up that close, because there was quite a gap and she was moving. But the crowd was awesome, so I kept sprinting, trying to get as close as I could."

Though the race was so close, the end result was positive for Cranny.

"I was super excited to run a best time and excited that I wasn't focused on time," Cranny said. "As Coach (Chris Miltenberg) says, the time will come if you just compete. I just wanted to compete and put myself in the race. It's a little bittersweet to have been so close, but I'm happy because I fought hard all the way to the end."

Cranny broke the Stanford record of 4:10.23 set in 2009 by Lauren Centrowitz, and matched Stanford's highest finish in that event, by Sally Glynn in 2001.

In the 800, Baker shotgunned around the final turn to pass three runners, including Saunders, in pursuit of Oregon's Raevyn Rogers, who won her second consecutive NCAA outdoor title. Baker ran 2:02.65 and Saunders, the runner-up the past two years, was fourth in 2:02.99.

Saunders and Baker were fourth and fifth with 200 to go when Rogers made her move. Saunders tried to respond, but was unable. Meanwhile, Baker went wide off the turn with the best kick of any competitor not named Rogers, to earn her highest NCAA individual finish.

In the discus, Allman broke set lifetime bests three times before finishing with a top throw of 201-6. Allman opened with a personal record 195-6 to take the lead, and 200 for the first time, with a mammoth 201-1 to extend her advantage after two rounds.

A third-round toss of 203-10 gave Wisconsin's Kelsey Card the lead for good, but Allman improved to 201-6 on her first attempt of the finals, only to be overtaken for second in the next round on a 201-7 throw by Florida State's Kellion Knibb.

Allman, who was fifth last year, strengthened her hold at the No. 2 spot on Stanford's all-time performers' list with her performance.

"Today was the combination of everything everyone has invested in me to help me succeed," Allman said. "We knew if everything came together, that we could see some big throws, but the recurring theme was to stay patient.

"Being able to break 200 is something that has been a big mental barrier, and I'm still in a state of awe that it actually happened."

In the 5,000, fifth-year senior Aisling Cuffe tried to intensify a dangerously slow pace by taking the lead a mile in.

Midway through, Vanessa Fraser moved up to Cuffe's shoulder to give Stanford a 1-2 front. However, Arkansas' Dominique Scott pulled in front with 500 left and the pack swallowed Cuffe and Fraser, who finished ninth and 13th, respectively, in 16:08.56 and 16:21.35.

"Seeing Elise, Olivia, and Claudia do so well was incredible," Allman said. "Their success was so motivating and energizing. There is no better feeling than wearing the Stanford uniform, and today is one I'll remember for the rest of my life."

— David Kiefer/Stanford Athletics

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