Jaffe: Stanford nearing 100th championship

Nov. 17, 2010, 1:33 a.m.

It’s Big Game week, and for a few days, everyone and their IHUM TF is suddenly a football fan. Rose Bowl scenarios and Cal’s home/road splits are bandied about like they’re SAT scores. Stuffed bear limbs are strewn about White Plaza, the Big Everything is pitting every possible student group from Cal and Stanford against each other and the colors blue and gold are such a Taboo on campus that the AxeComm might very well set up its own team of Snatchers to apprehend the traitors.

With such football fervor on campus, it’s easy to overlook the rest of the sports world. I, as well as many other Daily columnists, am somewhat guilty of this football-centric attitude. And while football is certainly worthy of our attention, sports fans everywhere would be missing some amazing sporting achievements if they focused only on Big Game.

Considering Stanford football is currently ranked No. 6 in the country, it would be easy to believe that no other sport on campus could compare to its success. Oddly enough, though, five of the seven other fall sports teams on campus are ranked even higher. Men’s cross country, women’s cross country, women’s soccer, women’s volleyball and men’s water polo find themselves in the top four nationally in their respective sports, and all have the chance to bring home a national title this season.

A national championship in a Division-I sport is a truly remarkable achievement, but the next Cardinal team to bring home the crown will have added significance.

Stanford presently owns 99 NCAA team championships, so the 100th could be just around the corner. Only UCLA has eclipsed the 100 NCAA team titles mark, but at 106, the Bruins are very much in reach.

For a school that prides itself so much on having success across all sports, winning 100 titles would be enormously meaningful. Stanford already has the most women’s team titles in the country with 39, and it has a huge lead in individual titles with 421 (only USC comes within 100 of that number). The Directors’ Cup could basically be named the Stanford Cup after the Cardinal brought it home each of the last 16 years. The NCAA and ESPN even created a new award, the Capital One Cup, which is specifically geared toward stopping Stanford from winning every year.

The 100th title is one of the few accomplishments that has eluded the Cardinal to this point, but it doesn’t figure to last too much longer.

First crack at No. 100 comes in less than a week, and it’ll be a double whammy. Both cross country teams will be competing at the NCAA Championships in Terre Haute, Ind., this Monday. Both come in with impressive resumes and Pac-10 titles under their belts.

The men feature the outstanding trio of Elliott Heath, Jake Riley and Chris Derrick, who swept the top three spots at Pac-10s. Coming off last year’s disappointing finish at nationals as the No. 1 team, the red-hot Card comes into this year’s race ranked No. 2 but with every shot at bringing home the championship.

The women have exceeded expectations this season, rising all the way to No. 4 nationally and winning a very tough Pac-10. They made nationals as an at-large team after placing third in the West Regional, but they will certainly be in contention next week, led by Kathy Kroeger, who has been the Cardinal’s top finisher in every race this season.

Women’s soccer, women’s volleyball and men’s water polo will all have chances to win titles in December, but I, for one, have no intentions of waiting until then to celebrate No. 100. We’ll all be watching this Saturday when Stanford and Cal battle in Memorial Stadium. And if the Cardinal brings the Axe back to its rightful home, we’ll all be celebrating through the weekend.

But do yourself a favor and wake up Monday morning and watch the races on NCAA.com. Whatever you may think you know about cross country, you don’t know. There’s nothing like watching a race unfold as the Cardinal runs for a title, and this time it’ll be even more special.

Cheer on Stanford this weekend, from football in the Big Game to cross country in nationals, and everything in between. We just might bring more than an Axe back to Stanford’s trophy case.

Jacob Jaffe discussed bowl scenarios with his IHUM TF this week. Find out how to keep your IHUM relationships going into junior year at jwjaffe “at” stanford.edu.

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