Track blog: Gearing up for championship season

Feb. 24, 2015, 11:30 p.m.

The championship season is finally upon us. After a few months of invitational meets, the indoor track and field season is now in its stretch drive.

Stanford’s last chance to record qualifying marks for the NCAA championships is this Friday and Saturday at the MPSF conference championship meet. The meet will be held, as always, at the Dempsey indoor facility at the University of Washington. The national top-16 marks for each event will advance to the championships, with that number narrowing to twelve in the relays.

Before getting into a preview of MPSFs, let me update you on our team’s progress over the weekend. Our defending national champion men’s distance medley relay (DMR), seeking to solidify its spot in the national top-12, headed east to the Alex Wilson Invitational at Notre Dame.

What is the DMR? Like most other relays, it consists of four legs: a 1,200-meter, 400-meter, 800-meter and 1,600-meter (in that order). The Alex Wilson meet has grown in significance over the past several years, especially for the relay events. Given its position on the calendar, this invitational is for many squads their final opportunity to run a qualifying mark in the distance medley relay; last season, all twelve teams that advanced to the NCAA championships in the men’s DMR ran at Alex Wilson.

On the bubble heading into the race, our team, consisting of senior Luke Lefebure (800m), junior Jack Shumway (400m) and sophomores Tom Coyle (1200m) and Sean McGorty (1600m) won its heat in 9:29.34, fifth on the NCAA list. With 13th place on the list currently at 9:33.57, our 9:29 and change should be more than enough to get us into the NCAA field. Despite the fierce haggling over the size and composition of the heats that took place behind the scenes in the days leading up to the meet, our group tuned out the noise and ran tough for each other — our main goal from September through June. Although there’s only one holdover from our championship men’s DMR team from last year, this group knows how to compete in the clutch, which will serve it well at NCAAs.

Also running this past weekend was fifth-year senior Maksim “Maks” Korolev. He scored a big win at the Pan-American Cross Country Cup on Sunday held in Barranquilla, Colombia. The Pan-Am race featured a solid field of distance runners from across the Western Hemisphere.

In the men’s 10,000 meter race, his U.S. national team debut, Maks cruised to a 10-second victory over Gilberto Lopes of Brazil. According to Maks, “Colombia really does know how to create a legit cross-country course.” The course featured a combination of paved roads, sand and hacked forest. Besides the unique experience of international competition, one of the best parts of being on a U.S. team is the avalanche of gear USATF showers on its athletes, and Maks is definitely appreciating that right now.

A transfer from Harvard, Maks has seamlessly blended into the fabric of our team. He’s a goofy guy who’s serious when he needs to be, and he sets a great example of how to train and race with toughness.

As for the MPSF meet this weekend, here are a few names and events to keep tabs on:

Claudia Saunders (800m): Claudia, the 800-meter runner-up at the 2014 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, has been slowly rounding into form after an injury during cross-country. Her 2:06.33 puts her 27th on the national list; if she can run anything close to her personal record 2:02.68, she’ll have an excellent shot at breaking into the top-16.

Women’s 4×400-meter relay: The women’s 4×4 sits 15th on the national list, just over a second behind 12th. Despite the youth of this group — likely junior Kristyn Williams and three freshmen — a solid run on Saturday could push them over the top and into the NCAA field.

Marco Bertolotti (mile): Gunning for his first sub-four minute performance, Marco will be lining up in the men’s mile on Saturday. Though he hasn’t had a perfect season up until this point, Marco is as poised as they come, and is sure to put himself in a position for a season- and career-best.

Contact Cameron Miller at cmiller6 ‘at’

Cameron Miller is a sports desk editor for The Stanford Daily's Vol. 246 and is the men's and women's golf writer. He also writes on NCAA-related matters. Cameron is also a Stanford student-athlete, competing on the cross country and track and field teams. He is originally from Bakersfield, California, but spends most of his time away from the Farm on the state's Central Coast. Contact him at [email protected].

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