It’s the middle of May, which means the championship portion of the season is finally upon the Stanford track and field program. Head coach Chris Miltenberg says this is his favorite time of the year, and for good reason: In the span of a month, the Cardinal will compete at the Pac-12 championships, the NCAA West Regional and NCAA finals. All three competitions will feature the best of what the collegiate ranks have to offer, and more than a few Stanford athletes figure to be in contention for conference and national titles.
One of those athletes, freshman decathlete Harrison Williams, has already gotten the Cardinal’s postseason run off on the right foot. While the Pac-12’s individual and relay events will be held this coming weekend at UCLA’s Drake Stadium, the multi-event athletes competed for the conference decathlon (10 events, men) and heptathlon (six events, women) last Saturday and Sunday at the same venue.
Williams, who hails from Memphis, Tennessee, turned in a truly outstanding performance over the two-day decathlon. The rookie finished second in the 13-competitor field with a cumulative score of 7,679, breaking the 63 year-old school record in the process.
The previous record (7,592) was set at the 1952 Summer Olympics by Central California native Bob Mathias ’53; Mathias won gold in the decathlon that year, defending his 1948 Olympic title. The longest-standing record in the Stanford books, the decathlon is a particularly grueling event that requires athletes to be good — but not necessarily great — at a variety of sprinting, running, jumping and throwing disciplines. Though Williams won just one event (the 110 hurdles), he placed second in the pole vault behind eventual winner Pau Tonnesen of Arizona, and secured runner-up honors with a breakthrough performance in the 1,500 meters, running a 7-second PR of 4:29.84. His 7,679 score puts Williams as the third-best U.S. junior (19 years old and under) of all time, and is the fourth-best mark in the NCAA this season.
Remember, guys, Harrison is just a freshman! He’s going to be an integral part of our program over the next several years, during which time he’ll be gunning for championships, titles and records — but most importantly, he’ll be setting a great example of competing tough each and every time he laces up his spikes.
Now, here’s a short Stanford-centric preview of the remainder of the Pac-12 championships:
Distances: Fifth-year senior Jess Tonn is the defending champion in the women’s 10,000 meters, and she heads in to this year’s iteration of Pac-12s as the favorite in the 5K as well. Although attempting to pull off the 5K/10K double is a monumental task, Jess is certainly up to it if she elects to contest both events. True freshman Elise Cranny should challenge for the conference crown in the women’s 1,500 meters, as will junior and 2014 NCAA qualifier Rebecca Mehra. And in the 800, junior Claudia Saunders will seek to improve on her fourth-place showing in last year’s conference meet.
On the men’s side, sophomore Sean McGorty will run the men’s metric mile in his first Pac-12 outdoor track and field championship meet. McGorty, who is certainly one of the best runners in his class and one of the NCAA’s fastest-rising stars, figures to be motivated as ever after his off-night in the Payton Jordan 5K. Erik Olson and Garrett Sweatt will be representing Stanford in the 10K for the second consecutive year; last season, Olson finished fourth, while Sweatt was 13th. The Card got 16 points from the 10K last year, and Erik and Garrett, along with fifth-year senior Maksim Korolev, are sure to meet and even exceed that standard.
Sprints: Freshman Isaiah Brandt-Sims headlines a sprint contingent that, though it will head south without the services of junior quarter-miler Steve Solomon, will be key to Stanford’s success in the Southland. The Cardinal didn’t score a single point in the 100 or 200 in 2014, and Brandt-Sims is just the athlete to end the drought. The women will rely on another true freshman, standout sprinter Olivia Baker, in their quest to bounce back from a point-less 2014, when they were shut out of the 100-, 200- and 400-meter races.
Jumps: Sophomore Dylan Duvio enters as the favorite in the men’s pole vault, and junior Garrett Starkey is also a threat to score points for the Cardinal. Senior Darian Brooks will attempt to defend his title in the men’s triple jump, and Jaak Uudmae could score in the triple (his specialty) as well as the high jump (his newfound strength). Bay Area native Marisa Kwiatkowski, only a freshman, will contend for West Coast supremacy in the women’s jumps.
Throws: Stanford’s deep group of female throwers will challenge for conference titles in each event over the two-day meet. Although it would be fitting if senior Rebecca Hammar won the women’s hammer throw, she’s more of a threat in the shot put. Valarie Allaman, the runner-up in last year’s discus throw, is looking to turn in her silver for gold in 2015. Freshman Lena Geiger is one the top hammer throwers in the nation, as is senior javelin thrower extraordinaire Brianna Bain. Bain is gunning for her fourth consecutive Pac-12 title in the javelin, and would certainly like to become one of only a select few athletes who can lay claim to four consecutive conference championships in a single event.
Contact Cameron Miller at cmiller6 ‘at’ stanford.edu.