Cross country competes for Pac-12 title

Nov. 1, 2019, 12:02 a.m.

Stanford cross country will compete at the Pac-12 Cross Country Championships on Friday in Monmouth, Oregon. The men’s team, tied for No. 3 in the nation, will have an opportunity to claim its third-straight Pac-12 title, while the No. 2 women’s team searches for its first conference crown since 2010.

Despite the graduation of All-Americans Grant Fisher ’19 and Elise Cranny ’18 — front runners at the NCAA Championships last year — the two programs are once again at the forefront of the collegiate distance scene. For the first time since 2006, both teams are ranked in the top three in the nation. And, more important for Friday’s conference showdown, the Stanford men and women are both ranked No. 1 in the West Region by the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Association. 

Friday’s race will be no easy feat for the Cardinal, however. The Pac-12 is one of the most competitive conferences in the nation this year, owning seven top-10 teams between the men’s and women’s programs. 

In the men’s race, the two-time defending Pac-12 champs will toe the line against several notable competitors, including No. 3 Colorado, No. 7 Washington and No. 10 UCLA. Washington and Colorado placed second and third, respectively, at the Pac-12 Championships last year, and both teams return respectable rosters. A program on the rise, UCLA is the only team in conference to have competed against the Cardinal this year, placing fifth to Stanford’s runner-up performance at the Nuttycombe Invitational.

The Stanford men’s program is led by a trio of veterans: seniors Alex Ostberg and Thomas Ratcliffe and sixth-year Steven Fahy. All three have finished in the top-10 at the conference championships in the past, led by Ostberg who placed third last year and has been a consistent front runner this season. Ratcliffe, the reigning NCAA outdoor 5k bronze medalist, has finished in the top-five in each of his two showings this year.

Friday will offer the men’s team an opportunity to win the program’s 15th conference title and secure the first three-peat since winning six straight from 2000-05. The gun goes off at 11 a.m. PST for the men’s race.

On the women’s side, the second-ranked Cardinal will face No. 3 Washington and No. 5 Colorado, runner up at this competition last year. Stanford is led by senior Fiona O’Keeffe who placed seventh at this race in 2017 and fifth last year. She has been the top-performer for the Cardinal this season and has the looks to be a conference champion come Friday.

While Stanford has yet to compete against Colorado this season, the Cardinal opened the season by edging out Washington for second place at the John McNichols Invitational in September. Although Arkansas claimed the team title with 49 points, the 12-point difference between runner-up Stanford (54) and third-place Washington (66) revealed how tightly matched the rosters are.

O’Keeffe, senior Ella Donaghu and junior Jess Lawson all finished in the top-10 for Stanford, compared to the Huskies’ two top-10 finishers. However, Washington’s strength that day came from their third, fourth, and fifth runners, who all finished ahead of Stanford’s fifth scorer. 

Friday will serve as a rematch between the two programs as Stanford’s front-running abilities will be matched against the Huskies’ tight pack-running strategies. The women’s race is scheduled for a noon start time at the Ash Creek Preserve in Oregon.

Contact Alejandro Salinas at asalinas ‘at’

Alejandro Salinas '21 is a Senior Staff Writer after serving as the Managing Editor of Sports for two volumes. Hailing from Pasadena, CA, he studies computer science and biology as a junior. In his free time he enjoys running, playing with dogs and watching sports. Contact him at asalinas 'at'

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