Track blog: Big Meet edition

April 20, 2015, 11:48 p.m.

While this past weekend was a relatively quiet one for Stanford’s track and field program, both teams were enjoying a well-deserved break after the efforts they put in at the 121st Big Meet versus Cal the weekend prior. The Cardinal women crushed the Bears by a score of 111-40, while the men fell 101-62. I’ll hit the event-by-event highlights of the Big Meet — the longest-running (pun intended) rivalry dual meet in collegiate track and field — and then turn to some other news and notes.

(DAVID BERNAL/isiphotos.com)
Freshman two-sport athlete Isaiah Brand-Sims took first in both the 100- and 200-meter races at the 121st Big Meet, helping the Cardinal’s sprinters topple Cal’s for the first time in recent memory. (DAVID BERNAL/isiphotos.com)

Sprints: Unlike in recent years, the Stanford sprinters dominated their cross-bay competitors at the Big Meet, with true freshman Isaiah Brandt-Sims leading the way. Isaiah, who joined the team in late January after fulfilling his football responsibilities, broke the tape in both the 100 and 200-meter races, prevailing over Cal’s sensational sophomore Khalfani Muhammed.

Muhammed, who anchored the Bears to victory in the 4×100-meter relay, was no match for Brandt-Sims in the men’s short sprints, which Stanford swept for the first time in recent memory.

Like Coach Milt said after the meet, Isaiah brings his football mentality to the track, meaning that he approaches every race like he would every game: with a win-now attitude and a sense of urgency. Oftentimes, track and field athletes focus on “peaking,” or performing best at a certain point in the season. Although running your best when it counts is undeniably important, the “peaking” philosophy allows athletes and coaches to place less importance on competition opportunities earlier in the season — an outlook that can hamper the development of an athlete’s competitive toughness.

Luckily, we know that Isaiah will bring his A-game every time he steps on the track; he is a potential game-changer for this program in the years to come, and everyone involved with Stanford track and field is thrilled that he has chosen to be a two-sport athlete at Stanford.

Also impressing in the sprints was junior Jack Shumway, who won the men’s 400-meters in a personal-best time 47.71. Junior Kristyn Williams collected wins in the 200- and 400-meters, and freshman Amber Lewis was also a double-winner in the 100- and 400-meter hurdles.

But the highlight of the 121st Big Meet on the sprint side, as per usual, was the closing 4×400-meter relays. As is the long-standing tradition, both teams form a tunnel around the competitors on the home stretch, cheering their teammates on from arms length. In my experience, the 4x4s tend to be the highest-energy event of the meet, particularly because of the team-like feeling that track and field athletes often don’t experience.

The Cardinal women, on the backs of three true freshmen and a junior, easily knocked off Cal in the women’s portion of the event, cruising to a 10.5-second victory.

The men’s race was much closer. Shumway led off and handed to sophomore Dan Brady, who then passed the stick to classmate Scott Buttinger. Though Buttinger had a slight lead at the outset, he was quickly swallowed up by his Cal counterpart. He kept things close, however, and handed the baton to senior anchor Luke Lefebure with the Cardinal still well within striking range.

True to his nature, Luke stayed patient and did not panic, even as Cal appeared to be pulling away on the backstretch; with 150 meters to go, Luke shifted into another gear, powering past his opponent on the home stretch for the win, with all of his teammates screaming at the top of their lungs just feet away.

All in all, it was a great day for coach Jody Stewart’s sprint squad, and the results show how far the group has come in the last year. Though dominant distance runners have headlined Stanford’s track and field teams for the past decade or so, this current group of sprinters has the ability to be one of the best in school history.

Distances: The Cardinal’s women distance runners had a big day on their home track, collecting 26 out a possible 27 points in the 800-, 1,500- and 3,000-meter races, with sophomore Danielle Katz opening the meet with a victory in the women’s 3000-meter steeplechase.

Their male counterparts turned in a solid but winless performance thanks to the Herculean effort of Cal junior Thomas Joyce, who won the 1,500 in a meet-record 3:39.43 — a blistering time for a dual meet — and also took home top honors in the 3,000-meter. On the bright side, four of Stanford’s five competitors in the 1,500 wound up with personal bests in the event, highlighted by sophomore Sean McGorty’s 3:40.62.

Throws: Stanford’s female throwers showed off their incredible depth at the Big Meet, with four different Cardinal athletes taking victories in the shot put, discus, javelin and hammer throws. Sophomore Valarie Allman PR’d in both the discus and hammer throws (she won the former), while senior Rebecca Hammar — competing in her final Big Meet — recorded a personal-best mark of 50’-11” en route to winning the discus.

On the men’s side, junior Andy Rondema was victorious in the men’s javelin.

Jumps: It was the Marisa Kwaitkowski show in the women’s jumps, as the Stanford freshman leaped to gold in the triple and long jump; she PR’d in the former. The always-smooth Darian Brooks won the men’s triple, while Garrett Starkey and Jaak Uudmae collected wins in the pole vault and high jump, respectively.

***

There are many Stanford track and field alumni competing on the professional track and field circuit, but there was a performance this past weekend to which I’d like to draw your attention. Mike Atchoo, who finished up his NCAA eligibility in the fall, won the men’s 1,500-meter race at the prestigious Mt. SAC invitational, running 3.40-point against a stacked field. Mike’s leadership on this team, especially on the men’s side, over the past several years has been invaluable.

Mike, a co-term candidate in MS&E, is the epitome of a student-athlete and does all the little things — sleep, rest, recovery, etc. — that enable elite performance. Most of all, he trains and races with toughness, and everyone on the team cannot wait to see where his legs will take him in his professional career.

Contact Cameron Miller at cmiller6 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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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