Stanford junior Elise Cranny and freshman Thomas Ratcliffe, in the first cross country race of his life, captured victories at the 43rd Stanford Invitational on Saturday at Stanford Golf Course.
Cranny, competing in her first Stanford Invite, pulled away from three others, including teammate Vanessa Fraser, with about a half-mile to go and finished with a strong kick.
Ratcliffe kept alive a possible redshirt year by running unattached, and outkicked Tulane's Emmanuel Rotich for the victory, 23:17.0 to 23:19.9.
Tai Dinger was the top runner in a Stanford uniform, finishing seventh in 23:45.8 over 8K, with the Cardinal finishing ninth as a team with 224 points. Stanford was resting its top seven for the Wisconsin Invitational on Oct. 14.
Ratcliffe was a 4:01 miler at Concord-Carlisle High School in Concord, Massachusetts, but never ran cross country because he played soccer in the fall, winning the state Division II championship as a senior.
"I can't say I'm hugely surprised," said men's coach Chris Miltenberg, Stanford's Director of Track and Field. "He loves to compete, whether it's 800 or 8K. He wasn't thinking it was his first cross country race, he was thinking of his race."
Ratcliffe did not run with the leaders until late in the race. A group of Cal Poly runners paced the field for much of the race before Ratcliffe closed and then passed them over the final mile.
"Thomas is a guy who's competitive and believes in himself," Miltenberg said. "That's what makes the great ones great. That's how Grant Fisher is, how Sean McGorty is. We've seen that since the first day he got here. He's wired that way."
Because he wasn't a year-round competitor, Miltenberg feels that Ratcliffe has a great deal of potential.
"There's enormous upside there," he said. "It's going to require patience and letting him come along gradually. Today is a big step forward, but we're not going to change what we're doing with him training-wise. We're thinking about his big-picture development."
While Miltenberg leans toward redshirting his freshmen – to gain strength for the jump in distance in training and races (5K in high school to 10K at regionals and NCAAs) – it's still possible that Ratcliffe could compete for Stanford in the postseason. He would have to an impact to make it worthwhile. To be a No. 5-7 runner probably wouldn't be worth it.
Last year, freshman Fisher was second at the Stanford Invite while running unattached, before joining the Stanford lineup at Pac-12s and NCAAs, where he placed 17th and earned All-America honors.
"We'll be thinking about that the next few weeks," Miltenberg said. "Similar to what we did with Grant last year, where had an idea from the beginning that we could go either way. We'll see how he recovers from this and see how the next few weeks go and make a decision from there. "
Ratcliffe wasn't the only Stanford freshman to run unattached. Alek Parsons and Isaac Cortes did as well, finishing ninth and 29th. If running for Stanford, the freshmen would have finished 1, 3, 4 for the team.