Track blog: Team takes Stanford Invitational in stride

April 6, 2015, 11:40 p.m.

What a weekend it was for the Stanford track and field program at the gigantic Stanford Invitational — the first of its three home meets this season! In all, over 3,000 athletes from hundreds of colleges, universities and high schools descended on Cobb Track and Angell Field in what will likely be remembered as one of the most competitive non-championship meets of the entire season. The Cardinal turned in solid marks in all event areas on Friday and Saturday. Here are some of the highlights:

Distances: Stanford didn’t send an army of distance runners onto the track this weekend, but the athletes who did compete did so in an overwhelmingly positive fashion. The biggest pop on Friday came courtesy of junior Garrett Sweatt in the second section of the men’s 10,000 meters — a race that started at 10:51 p.m.! As most distance runners will tell you, there is just something special about racing at Stanford at night. The impeccable weather, stacked fields and incredible fans create a racing experience unlike anything most of these runners have seen or will ever see.

A 10k on the track is no joke: 25 times around the oval makes it one of the more grueling events in the sport, and this was just Garrett’s second attempt at the event. Nevertheless, he raced like the grizzled vet he is quickly becoming, not panicking after the field went through the halfway point a few ticks over 14:40 — well off the desired pace. Staying calm and composed in the pack, Garrett slowly moved up over the latter half of the race and dropped the hammer with a 61-second final lap to win with a time of 28:51.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Garrett is such a great example for all of the athletes on this team in terms of how he competes and the way he carries himself. All of us were incredibly pumped to see him have such a big breakthrough on equally as big a stage.

Other distance highlights on Friday evening included sophomore Vanessa Fraser’s huge personal record of 16:01 in the 5k and classmate Patrick Gibson’s first sub-14:00 performance in the same event. Also, Justin Brinkley, Jack Keelan and Patrick Perrier all recorded personal bests in the men’s 1500 meters, as did sophomore sprinter-turned-distance runner Malika Waschmann (4:28.83).

Sprints/Hurdles: While the Stanford Invitational has a well-earned reputation for being a distance runners’ haven, our coaching staff did an incredible job of assembling world-class fields in the sprint events as well. Junior Kristyn Williams and freshman Olivia Baker proved themselves to be very capable against those competitors, with both competing well in the women’s 400 meters on Friday. Baker’s time of 54.32 is the sixth-fastest mark in Stanford history and the fourth-fastest for a freshman. She doubled-back, along with Williams, in the women’s 4×400-meter relay on Saturday afternoon, with the quartet (which also included freshmen Gaby Gayles and Michaela Wilson) crossing the line in third with a time of 3:38.84.

Coach Jody Stewart is doing an outstanding job with our sprint crew; they will be ready to roll at the Big Meet versus Cal next Saturday. Freshman Isaiah Brandt-Sims — you may know him as a member of the Stanford football team — made his collegiate debut on Saturday, blazing the 200 meters in 21.52 (the fastest Stanford time in the event since 2012) with football head coach David Shaw in attendance. Isaiah has the top-end speed few others Cardinal runners have ever possessed and is poised to be an integral part of both the football and track programs in the years to come.

Throws: The Cardinal throwers recorded some really impressive marks at the Invitational, especially on the women’s side. Highly-touted freshman Lena Geiger continued her strong start to her collegiate career by winning the shot put on Friday while also finishing sixth in the hammer throw. Lena’s mark in the shot put was a personal best, and it came against strong (and older) competition — a mix of both pros and collegians. Lena seems to always have a great, positive attitude whenever she’s training or competing, which, as most track and field athletes can attest, is not an easy quality to embody.

Discus throwers Rebecca Hammar and Valarie Allman followed-up with equally solid performances on Saturday — Hammar recorded a personal best 182-7, with Allman not far behind in 177-6. Both have really flourished under coach Michele Eisenreich, whose steady demeanor is very much reflected in how her athletes compete in the ring.

Jumps: Last but certainly not least, the jumps! Sophomore Jaak Uudmae was the standout of this group, winning his section of the men’s long jump in a personal-best 23’-11 ½”. After being slowed by an injury last year, Jaak is out to live up to his lofty family name (his father was an Olympic gold medalist in 1980, and his brother was an NCAA national champion in 2005).

Junior Garrett Starkey continued his strong return from injury, placing third in the pole vault, one spot ahead of sophomore teammate Dylan Duvio. On the women’s side, Bay Area freshman Marisa Kwiatkowski (Sunnyvale, Calif.) showed her versatility, finishing second in the triple jump on Saturday (setting a Philippines national record in the process) a day after placing second in her section of the long jump in a personal-best 19’-1 ½”.

On Saturday, the Cardinal play host to UC Berkeley in the annual Big Meet. Please make your way down to the track to support Stanford track and field and all the other teams that are slated to compete on Saturday. Admission is free! Go Stanford; beat Cal!

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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