Grant Fisher led a full-strength Stanford men’s cross country squad to second at the high-powered Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational on Friday, fortifying hope for the postseason.
Fisher was fourth and Sean McGorty sixth in an 8K (4.97-mile) race that brought together 19 of the nation’s top 30 teams. Stanford placed five among the top 41 to score 118 points, but it wasn’t enough to offset the 78 points of top-ranked Northern Arizona, which had all five scorers ahead of Stanford’s No. 3 runner.
Stanford entered the race with a No. 11 ranking, based on three results without Fisher and McGorty, who were making their season debut. Chris Miltenberg, Stanford’s Franklin P. Johnson Director of Track and Field, wanted to bring them along slowly after a long season of track that culminated with the Olympic Trials in July.
Syracuse junior Justyn Knight won on a ferocious kick down the straightaway, finishing the race on the undulating Thomas Zimmer Championship Course in 23:53.1.
Northern Arizona’s Futsum Zienasellassie was second in 23:55.1 and Wisconsin’s Morgan McDonald was third in 23:55.4.
Fisher was the top American-born finisher, running 23:55.2, with McGorty close behind in 23:58.6. Garrett Sweatt led a group of three Cardinal, placing 32nd in 24:25.9, followed by Jack Keelan (35th, 24:27.5) and Sam Wharton (41st, 24:28.9).
Stanford’s top five finished within 32.7 seconds of each other, while NAU had a 31.1-second difference.
The individual race was largely viewed as competition among McGorty, Knight, and Zienasellassie, and all immediately bolted into the large lead pack.
McGorty spent much of the early going on Zienasellasie’s shoulder. Fisher stayed on the fringes of the front pack and started to assert himself as it thinned over the final 3K.
North Carolina State’s George Parsons made a big move with about 1K to go, taking a substantial lead. Though Zienasellasie led the chase pack, Knight whipped around everyone with 100 meters left and won going away, with Parsons dropping to fifth.
The result was huge for Fisher, a sophomore in his third cross-country meet for Stanford – he was 11th at Pac-12’s and 17th at NCAA’s last year. This was the first time he finished as the Cardinal’s No. 1 runner.
This is the last regular-season meet for the Stanford men, who next race at the Pac-12 Championships in Tucson, Arizona, on Oct. 28.