Stanford cross country ran away with a pair of second place finishes in arguably the most competitive meet outside of championship racing on Friday. Held in Verona, Wisconsin, the Nuttycombe Invitational hosted 20 of the top 30 programs in the country, including six of the top-10 teams for both men and women.
Seniors Alex Ostberg and Thomas Ratcliffe finished third and fourth, respectively, to lead the No. 5 Cardinal to a decisive runner-up performance. With 133 points, Stanford only lost to reigning NCAA champions No. 1 Northern Arizona (59).
On the women’s side, senior Fiona O’Keeffe finished fourth in the race, with classmate Ella Donaghu in sixth and junior Jess Lawson in 12th. The trio helped No. 4 Stanford score just 98 points, second to No. 1 Arkansas (62).
“Both teams are moving in the right direction,” said recently-appointed head coach J.J. Clark. “We’re in a good position as we approach the championship part of our season.”
In the men’s race, Ostberg and Ratcliffe ran with the lead pack until just before the 6-kilometer mark when Iowa State’s Edwin Kurgat surged to a decisive lead that would win him the race. Heading into the final stretch, Ratcliffe ran in second before Wisconsin’s Oliver Hoare found another gear and passed him. Ostberg followed soon after, catching Ratcliffe at the line, as the duo finished in the top five for the Cardinal.
Ostberg and Ratcliffe traversed the 8-kilometer (4.97-mile) Thomas Zimmer Championship course in 23:41.4 and 23:41.5, respectively. Sophomore Clayton Mendez (24:09.1) and juniors Callum Bolger (24:14.5) and Alek Parsons (24:15.1) placed 37th, 44th and 45th, respectively, to round out the scorers for the men.
“They had to overcome a little adversity with some minor injuries which required a little time off,” said Clark of his men’s team. “[Men’s coach] Ricardo [Santos] did a great job managing that entire situation. Everyone is up and running now.”
On the women’s side, O’Keeffe’s fourth-place performance marked the highest finish for a Stanford woman at this meet, improving on Kathy Kroeger’s fifth place in 2012. O’Keeffe ran in the lead pack for the first half of the race, before the eventual winner Alicia Monson of Wisconsin and New Mexico’s Weini Kelati broke away. Despite a spersed front pack, O’Keeffe maintained her pace and completed the 6-kilometer (3.73-mile) course in 19:55.4.
O’Keeffe was soon followed by Donaghu, who placed 120th at this race in 2017. Friday was a different story for her as she had one of the best cross country races of her career, covering the course in 20:04.7 for sixth.
“It’s great to see Alex and Ella run up closer to the potential that we know they have,” Clark said. “Their performances, along with Thomas and Fiona, just strengthens our team.”
With two meets in the books, the Cardinal will head to Monmouth, Oregon for the Pac-12 Championships on Nov. 1.
Contact Alejandro Salinas at asalinas ‘at’ stanford.edu