Although both Stanford’s cross country teams have already seen action early this season, Saturday morning marks the 39th running of the Stanford Invitational, the Cardinal’s only home meet of the year, featuring 12 high school races as well as the men’s and women’s collegiate races.
Both the No. 6 women and No. 9 men will be heavy favorites to repeat in the team races, as no top-25 men’s teams are in the field and No. 18 San Francisco is the Cardinal’s biggest competition on the women’s side.
But there will still be plenty of intrigue, as the men are looking for the heir to graduated senior Chris Derrick as well as the formation of a new core with the loss of several other key contributors to graduation. The women are hoping to build on a 10th-place finish at the NCAA Championships last season, returning senior All-American Kathy Kroeger and standout sophomore Aisling Cuffe.
The Cardinal men have gotten off to a good start this year, sweeping the top four places at the USF Invitational three weeks ago. Redshirt junior Tyler Stutzman led Stanford, finishing the 8,000-meter course against mostly local competition in 24:45.00. But redshirt sophomore Michael Atchoo, and redshirt seniors Miles Unterreiner and Benjamin Johnson all finished within a second of Stutzman, and redshirt senior Riley Sullivan finished 10th to complete the Stanford scoring in 25:21:00.
“We know we’re in great shape coming off a terrific summer of training and two weeks at altitude,” Unterreiner said. “But we also know Saturday’s race is just the beginning of a long season. We’re not going to go out there and race like it’s the national championship, but we’re looking forward to having a nice solid start to the season by winning on our home course.”
The women’s squad is also looking to start off with a win. In the meet at USF, Cuffe took the individual title, covering the 6-kilometer course in 17:08.00. Junior Jessica Tonn placed third in 17:11.70, while sophomore Mary Kate Anselmini also had a top-10 finish, placing ninth in 17:57.90–the two-time defending Stanford Invitational champion Kroeger did not compete.
With one of the top recruiting classes in the country this year, the Cardinal has a good chance to reach the podium at NCAAs and compete for the team’s 16th conference title when the postseason begins in late October.
Saturday’s meet will also be the first Stanford meet under recently hired Franklin P. Johnson Director of Track & Field Chris Miltenberg, who led the Georgetown women to an upset victory and the NCAA title a year ago, something not lost on either Cardinal squad.
As Unterreiner said, “You’ll really start to see us racing fast come November.”