Cross Country: Running to first place

Oct. 18, 2010, 1:45 a.m.

If there’s one thing Cardinal fans have learned from the No. 1 Stanford men’s cross country team, it’s that the stars love to shine together. For the second straight race, junior Chris Derrick, senior Elliott Heath and redshirt junior Jacob Riley crossed the finish line shoulder-to-shoulder.

The 1-2-3 finish for the Card capped off a day of dominance at NCAA Pre-Nationals in Terre Haute, Ind. on Saturday. Stanford easily won the White Race, accumulating just 43 points compared to runner-up No. 18 Iona’s total of 127. Derrick was officially declared the overall winner, but the top three Cardinal runners recorded the same time of 23:16.9.

Cross Country: Running to first place
The women's cross country team finished third at pre-nationals in Terre Haute, Ind. over the weekend, well out-pacing their No. 17 ranking. (SIMON WARBY/The Stanford Daily)

“I wouldn’t necessarily say it was easy, but I wasn’t hugely surprised,” Derrick said of the finish. “A couple of guys that we thought might be able to run with us weren’t there and the strength of our pack was able to overcome the other individuals present.”

While the strength of the Cardinal’s top three has not been in question this season, the surprise performances of redshirt sophomores Benjamin Johnson and Miles Unterreiner have distanced the team from the competition. The two finished in 18th and 19th, crossing the finish line in 24:02.8.

“They are tremendously important,” Derrick said of Johnson and Unterreiner. “Five score in cross country, and with how competitive the NCAA is, if you don’t have a four and five, no matter how good your [top three] are, you’re not going to win.”

Up next for the men are the Pac-10 Championships on Oct. 30, a meet that, though Stanford will be favored to win, will challenge the Cardinal’s stellar season record.

“Looking ahead, there are a lot of teams that will be legitimate competition in our upcoming championship meets,” Heath said. “What they do is out of our control, so we are just focused on taking care of our business as best we can.”

Meanwhile, the No. 17 women, who had dropped from No. 14 in the national rankings prior to the Indiana meet, narrowly missed a second-place finish in the White Race, finishing in third with 125 points. No. 5 Georgetown was victorious with 100 points, while No. 9 Colorado snuck just past Stanford, taking silver with 123 points.

Despite outclassing their national ranking, the Cardinal women were not happy with their final position on Saturday.

“We are definitely not satisfied with the third-place finish,” redshirt junior Stephanie Marcy said. “Our goal was to win and we know that we were capable of winning since we were only two points away from second and 25 from first. The results are just fuel for the fire now, and we have five weeks to progress and get to where we need to be.”

Sophomore Kathy Kroeger, the leader of the women’s team at the Stanford Invitational, once again paved the way for the Cardinal, finishing in third place overall with a time of 20:12.0. In an extremely tight race, she finished just four seconds behind the winner, Lucy Van Dalen of Stony Brook.

Freshman Jessica Tonn ran her second consecutive impressive race, finishing in 19th with a time of 20:53.7. Veteran runners Stephanie Marcy and Alex Gits, who finished 23rd and 31st respectively, emphasized first-year Tonn’s value to the team.

“Jess has been improving every week,” Gits said. “She has 100 percent of her heart committed to the team and that is exactly what we need.”

“Jess has been such an incredible asset to the team this season,” Marcy added.

The women’s team will also race next at the Pac-10 Championships. Despite the team’s disappointment surrounding Pre-Nationals, the collective goal remains the same.

“We can win Pac-10s, there’s no question about it,” Marcy said. “If we perform the way we do every day during practice, we will prove to be a formidable opponent in the most competitive conference.”

The Pac-10 Championships take place in Seattle on Oct. 30.

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