Track blog: Payton Jordan Invitational

May 4, 2015, 11:50 p.m.

Saturday’s Payton Jordan Invitational once again lived up to its billing as one of the most competitive track and field meetings on American soil, with professional, Stanford and collegiate athletes from across the country throwing down remarkable performances on Cobb Track.

By the end of the long night — the last event began shortly before 11 p.m. — three world-leading times had been established, two meet records had gone down and several Cardinal competitors had vaulted up the Stanford all-time lists.

(Stanford Photo)
Fifth-year senior Jessica Tonn made her last run on Cobb Track one to remember, PR-ing by over 15 seconds in her final collegiate 5K on the Farm. (DAVID BERNAL/

Here’s a by-event breakdown of the action at Payton:

800 meters: Perhaps the two most satisfying performances from Stanford’s distance athletes at Payton came courtesy of 800-meter stars Claudia Saunders and Luke Lefebure.

Saunders, slowed by an injury in the fall after placing second in the 800 at last year’s NCAA Outdoor Championships, appears to finally be back in top form, busting her previous PR in the two-lap by nearly a second on Saturday. Saunders executed her race plan to perfection, running smoothly and efficiently and being patient with her kick.

Even though she wasn’t able to catch Arkansas’s Chrishuna Williams on the final stretch, Saunders’s 2:01.79 was a season-best by nearly 5 seconds and proved that she’ll be a force to be reckoned with in postseason competition.

Lefebure also had a breakout performance on Saturday, coming within 0.06 of his personal best with a time of 1:47.73. Competing against several of the best collegiate and professional two-lappers in the land, Lefebure ran tough and composed — something that coach Chris Miltenberg has preached from day one.

I have no doubt in my mind that Luke will PR here in the next couple of weeks and be in contention at nationals in Eugene.

All things considered, it is awesome to see that Luke and Claudia’s health and racing sharpness are coming around at the most opportune of times. Both do an outstanding job of representing our program with class, perseverance and attention to detail.

1,500 meters: The large contingent of Stanford men in the metric mile did not disappoint, with PRs and solid performances abounding.

Alumni Mike Atchoo and Dylan Ferris — both competing professionally for Strava TC/Brooks — ran 3:40.20 and 3:43.84, respectively, and future Cardinal runner Grant Fisher threw down an incredibly impressive time of 3:42.89 (faster than all Stanford’s in-uniform milers on Saturday). Fisher, who has cemented himself as one of the best high-school distance runners of all time, will matriculate to the Farm in the fall and immediately compete for a spot in the cross country team’s top seven.

Recording PRs in the 1,500 were juniors Justin Brinkley and Will Drinkwater, sophomores Tom Coyle and Scott Buttinger and true freshman Steven Fahy.

Two of the three Stanford athletes running in the women’s 1,500 meters set new personal bests, and the third, freshman phenom Elise Cranny, moved into Stanford’s all-time top 10 in the event. Molly McNamara, who has done exceptional work as the leader/founder of Cardinal RHED (an ASSU group aiming to improve and enhance the resilience, health and emotional development of Stanford athletes), continued her strong senior season with a 4:20.86 PR.

Also PR-ing was 2014 NCAA Outdoor Championships qualifier Rebecca Mehra, who placed ninth in the second-fastest section of the 1,500 in a time of 4:17.67. And Cranny, competing in the fastest section of the 1,500 alongside elite professionals and collegians much more her senior, crossed the line in 4:16.22, the 10th-fastest Stanford performance of all time.

5,000 meters: Fifth-year senior Jess Tonn — competing for the last time on the her home track in the cardinal and white — cemented her status as one of the greatest distance runners ever to have graced the collegiate ranks, running an eye-popping 15:18.85. A 15-second PR, the time puts Tonn as the second-fastest Stanford 5K-er ever (just behind teammate Aisling Cuffe) and the seventh-fastest American collegian ever.

But what makes Jess truly great is how she carries herself, both on and off the track: always positive and composed, never negative or flustered. Plus, she’s developed into a great leader for our women’s team over the past few seasons; her hard work and determination are qualities all the athletes in our program should aspire to emulate.

This 15:18-and change performance will certainly give Jess a boost of confidence heading into the championship portion of the schedule — if she hadn’t realized it already, she knows now that she can compete with any woman in the nation.

Her sophomore teammate Vanessa Fraser continued her spring tear, breaking the vaunted 16-minute barrier for the first time in her career (15:54.12). Vanessa may be following in Jess’s footsteps — literally — in just a few years’ time.

On the men’s side, Jack Keelan (13:45), Garrett Sweatt (13:54) and Erik Olson (13:36) all recorded PRs on Saturday night. And while highly-touted sophomore Sean McGorty had, by his lofty standards, a tough race (13:48), he’s the type of competitor who has a short memory yet reflects on and takes important lessons from every race — good or bad. You can bet that he’ll be racing with a chip on his shoulder at the Pac-12 championships in a few weeks.

In non-Payton news, sophomore pole vaulter Dylan Duvio continued his rapid ascendency up the Stanford record books, this time at the UT Longhorn Invitational.

Duvio soared to a height of 18’-1 ¾”, a 6-inch PR and a 12-inch seasonal best. He is now the second-best vaulter in Stanford history, trailing only the legendary Toby “Crash” Stevenson, an Olympic silver medalist in 2004 and a former member of the Cardinal’s coaching staff. That’s pretty good company.

Dylan has several more years to surpass Stevenson, who is widely regarded as one of the Farm’s greatest track and field athletes.

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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