Olivia Baker won three events to pace the Stanford women to an 85-74 victory over California in the Big Meet, the 123rd annual track and field duel, while the Cardinal men lost 91-70 at Cobb Track and Angell Field on Saturday.
Baker, the reigning Pac-12 400 champion, won the 100 and 200 meters and rallied Stanford to victory in the final event, the 4x400 relay, to punctuate the Cardinal's third consecutive victory in the women's series. She chased down Cal anchor Rebecca Croft off the final turn and kicked to the finish, giving Stanford the victory for the seventh consecutive year in that event, in 3:41.79.
Isaiah Brandt-Sims and Jaak Uudmae matched Baker's feat as double individual winners and members of a Cardinal winning relay, the 4x100 in their case. Brandt-Sims, also a receiver on the football team, won the 100 and 200. Uudmae, from Estonia and the son of a Soviet Olympic gold medalist, won the long and high jumps.
Though the Cardinal men lost, the team score was 77-70 until the penultimate event, the discus, which Cal swept to clinch the victory. Either way, the meet was exciting until the end. The decision to redshirt healthy All-America decathlete Harrison Williams, who likely would have won the pole vault and made enough of a difference to change the result of the 4x400 may undoubtedly made a difference for Stanford in the meet, although there is no guarantee it would have changed the overall result.
"What we just told them is we value how we compete," said Chris Miltenberg, Stanford's Director of Track and Field. "Do we come out and compete to the best of our ability no matter where the situation is? The score isn't really part of that. Today, in every single spot that we lined up –- men or women -- we competed incredibly tough, overachieved.
"And right now, the way we're training, we're not ready for this. We're in a deep heavy work phase right now where we just come out and grind when we weren't really feeling great. And to me, that says a lot about where we're headed in the spring. But more than anything, it was how tough we competed every chance we got. I'm really proud of that and excited about it."
Stanford extended the longest winning streak in the meet, capturing the women's javelin for the 15th consecutive year. Reigning Pac-12 champion Mackenzie Little, three-sport athlete Jenna Gray, and Victoria Smith gave the Cardinal a sweep. Little threw 171-10 (52.38 meters), and Gray threw 160-9 (49.00) a day after competing for Stanford in beach volleyball.
Lena Giger continued her progression in the shot put. From the momentum of a personal-record performance at a last-chance meet immediately after the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation indoor championships, Giger has kept her foot on the gas. Saturday, she won the Big Meet at 55-5 ½ (16.80), an absolute personal best by nine inches over that indoor throw.
Giger jumped one spot to No. 3 on Stanford's all-time perfomers' list, behind only Olympians Jillian Camarena and Carol Cady.
"The thing you see from Lena is about the synergy in our throws group now, and so much is what Coach Sion has brought," Miltenberg said of first-year throws coach Zeb Sion. "They believe they're good, and they want to be really good. They're all feeding off each other and getting excited. We saw that with Lena. She's turned a huge corner and she's going to keep getting better."
Giger was among three throwers to strengthen their positions on the Top-10 lists. Gray improved upon her position at No. 6 in the javelin, and another newcomer, Michael Painter won the hammer with a personal best of 219-3 (66.84), to strengthen his spot at No. 8.
Painter's success can be viewed as a bonus for Stanford. An Englishman and graduate from the University of Cambridge, Painter established his previous PB of 215-5 (65.67) at Eton last year.
Now a grad student in computer science, Painter didn't know his eligibility status on the Stanford team until just a few weeks ago and was deemed a junior in eligibility by the NCAA.
"You love having an older guy like that who just brings a professionalism and maturity every day that affects that whole group really positively," Miltenberg said. "When you add a grad transfer, the No. 1 thing you're looking for is that level of maturity and professionalism that helps your younger athletes."
In the women's high jump, Rachel Reichenbach tied her personal best of 5-8 3/4 (1.74), and reached that mark for the third time in her career. It ties her for the No. 10 spot all-time at Stanford outdoors.
The Big Meet also signified the return of Grant Fisher. Competing in his first race since placing fifth at the NCAA Cross Country Championships in November, Fisher was treated cautiously during the indoor season after experiencing some discomfort, but always with a goal of getting him ready for the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in June.
Racing in the 1,500, Fisher split Cal's Garrett Corcoran and Thomas Joyce on a big move off the final turn and came in hot at 3:46.18, with Joyce, an NCAA indoor mile finalist, next in 3:46.79.
Last year, Fisher was sixth in the NCAA Outdoor 5,000 as a freshman, but he also is a sub-4 miler. His event of choice will be among the storylines this season.
Elise Cranny, Stanford's NCAA 1,500 runner-up last spring, is far ahead of her fitness level of this time a year ago, Miltenberg said. Her performance in leading a blanket of Stanford runners across the line in a fast 800 was encouraging in several ways. For one, Cranny seems on track to make another NCAA run. For another, Stanford's depth in that event opens up some possibilities, including its prospects at the Penn Relays in three weeks.
Miltenberg plans to run two or three women's relay teams at Penn, with one definitely to be the 4x800. The Big Meet showed why Miltenberg is so enthusiastic about that group. Without Baker, the team's 2016 NCAA outdoor 800 runner-up, Stanford still had four runners under 2:08.
Cranny and Malika Waschmann hunted down Croft, but had to work hard to do so after the Cal runner led for all but the final 50 meters. Cranny finished in 2:05.43 and Waschmann in 2:05.77, and season bests were recorded by freshmen Christina Aragon (2:06.21) and Sarah Walker (2:07.88).
As for Cranny, "She's in a great spot," Miltenberg said. "She's in a better spot than she's ever been at this point in the season. And if you look at where she was last year at this time, and look at how she finished by NCAA's, with a PR and almost winning the national championship – she's way ahead of that right now.
"The whole key with Elise is being patient and knowing we don't need to do anything big in the next month. We just need to stay steady."
The Stanford women hold a 26-12 series lead, and Cal leads 70-51-2 in a series that began in 1893.
But now the focus switches to the Cardinal Classic (April 21-22), a second-year meet that has expanded from last year's single-day Twilight Meet into a two-day event that will feature full teams from such schools as Florida State, Colorado, and Oklahoma State, among others.
It should provide a stronger collegiate full-event program than the Stanford Invitational, as well as typical fast evening distance races that have become the norm on Cobb track.