Track and field Blog: Entering the final stretch

April 28, 2015, 11:47 p.m.

The Stanford track and field program will host its final meet of the 2015 outdoor season this weekend when the nation’s best distance runners will descend on Cobb Track for Saturday night’s Payton Jordan Invitational (known colloquially as “Payton”).

The meet bears the name of Stanford’s longest-tenured track and field coach (1957-79) and one of the most influential figures in U.S. track and field history.

Jordan, a sprinter who starred at USC in the late 1930s, was truly a mover and shaker in the world of athletics. He coached the U.S. Olympic track and field squads in 1964 and 1968. He also brought the 1960 Olympic Track and Field Trials to Stanford, as well as the U.S.-USSR Dual Meet Series in 1962.

He continued to compete in the short sprint events well into his eighties, setting Masters age-group world records in the 100-meter and 200-meter races before dying just short of his 92nd birthday in 2009. Jordan’s impact on the U.S.’ and Stanford’s track and field programs will not be forgotten; his legacy will live on for as long as the Payton Jordan Invitational is held.

This year’s rendition will feature the following events…

800 meters: The men’s 800-meter field features a mix of NCAA standouts, seasoned professionals and a two-time Olympian. Nike-sponsored pros James Eichberger, Mac Fleet (former Oregon Duck) and Andrew Wheating (2008 and 2012 1500-meter Olympian) will battle with Brooks runner Mark Wieczorek (who coached current Stanford middle distance runner Will Drinkwater at Gig Harbor High School). On the college side, Stanford’s Luke Lefebure will attempt to exact revenge on Cal stud Eugene Hamilton III for the latter’s victory at the Big Meet a few weeks ago, and Iowa State’s Edward Kemboi will attempt to take down a Penn State contingent headlined by junior Brannon Kidder.

In the women’s half mile, Cardinal star Claudia Saunders will toe the line against the precocious Mary Cain of the Nike Oregon Project and a litany of other collegiate harriers. Stanford sophomore Malika Waschmann will be aiming to keep her momentum going as she guns for another PR, and junior sprinter Kaitlyn Williams will run a distance up as she continues her comeback from injury.

1500 meters: Stanford head coach Chris Miltenberg has no fewer than 12 current, former or future runners in the men’s 1500-meter race. Headlining the group is Michael Atchoo, who now competes for Strava/Brooks, and highly-touted high school senior Grant Fisher, who will join the Cardinal in the fall. Several well-known professionals are also in the metric mile, including multiple-time NCAA champion Lawi Lalang, Canadian Olympian Nate Brannen, Nike’s Evan Jager and the always-entertaining Nike Symmonds of Brooks Beasts. There is no doubt that the men’s 1500 will be one of the more hotly-contested events of the night.

The women’s 1500 will feature an epic, battle-royale showdown between three of America’s best young middle-distance stars: professionals Cain and Alexa Efraimson and Stanford’s own Elise Cranny. Unlike her peers, Cranny decided to go the college route as opposed to turning pro right out of high school, but it hasn’t hampered her training or success in any way. She’s coming off an excellent weekend at the Penn Relays and will be using Payton as a final tune-up before the postseason. She and the other young guns will face seasoned professionals Brie Felnagle, Jordan Hasay, and Lauren Wallace, as well as a smattering of collegians (such as the Cardinal’s Molly McNamara and Rebecca Mehra).

5,000 meters: The Cardinal’s Erik Olson, Sean McGorty, Garrett Sweatt and Jack Keelan will all be looking to shave off seconds for their respective personal bests in the 5K, and, given the field they’re up against, they won’t be wanting for a fast pace. The stacked lineup features former Stanford All-American Garrett Heath, 2012 Olympians Galen Rupp (U.S.) and Henrik Ingebrigtsen (Norway) and a strong pool of collegiate talent that features runners from Colorado, Oklahoma State and Cal.

The fast-rising Vanessa Fraser will be aiming to break the 16-minute barrier in the women’s 12.5-lapper and follow in the footsteps of teammate Jess Tonn (who is also in the field). Teammates Sophie Chase, Julia Maxwell and Abbie McNulty are racing the 5K, too, as are pro and collegiate standouts Dominque Scott (Arkansas), Sally Kipyego (Nike), Rachel Johnson (Baylor), Marielle Hall (Nike) and Erin Finn (Michigan).

Also competing in the cardinal and white this weekend is a group of women’s throwers, who are headed to Austin, Texas for the Longhorn Invite (the rest of Stanford’s athletes will be at Payton or the USF Last Chance meet). The final opportunities for Stanford athletes to record NCAA regional qualifying marks following this weekend’s action will be the UCLA-hosted Pac-12 Championships, held May 9-10 and May 16-17.

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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