Fired up and ready to go, Stanford opens the indoor track and field season with the annual UW Preview on Saturday. Under the leadership of first-year head coach J.J. Clark, the team will face a variety of west-coast opponents in its season debut at Washington’s Dempsey Indoor.
Saturday’s meet will be more of a “measuring stick” for the Cardinal, according to Clark, who recognizes most athletes haven’t formally competed since the outdoor track and field season last spring.
“We’re, of course, taking it seriously, but to a degree, because it’s the first opportunity to perform,” he said of the upcoming meet.
Stanford’s strongest opponent is perhaps Oregon, a school with both men’s and women’s programs ranked in the top 10 of the preseason national ratings. The No. 9 Oregon women’s team placed third at the 2019 Indoor NCAA Championships, and the No. 10 men’s team returns a strong roster, including veteran sprinter Cravon Gillespie and distance specialist Cooper Teare, both top finishers at the national level.
Despite being unranked in the preseason ratings, the Cardinal men had an impressive season last year. Accompanying a pair of fourth-place finishes at both the indoor and outdoor NCAA championships, last year’s indoor championships marked the highest finish for the Stanford men’s team in over a decade.
The Cardinal, however, will be tasked with relying on a younger generation of talent, with the loss of NCAA champions Harrison Williams ’19, the school recorder holder in the decathlon and heptathlon, and Grant Fisher ’19, a 12-time All-American who broke the indoor 3,000-meter collegiate record last year.
“If every Stanford member performs at their best, we’re going to dominate the meet,” said Clark, whose primary focus in this early part of the season has been on making sure every athlete is “prepared” to be successful.
“The energy is here,” said Clark after Tuesday’s practice, which marked the first day the entire track team gathered together.
On the women’s side, Stanford is ranked 19th in the preseason ratings, following a 10th-place finish at the outdoor championships and 12th-place finish in the indoor season last year. The Cardinal distance women are coming off a fall cross country season that saw them place third at the NCAA championships in November and win the Pac-12 crown for the first time since 2010 — both are remarkable accomplishments for Clark, who was tapped only in late July to serve at the helm of the cross country and track and field programs.
Since his appointment, Clark has hired several assistant coaches. Along with Ricardo Santos, who assisted with the men’s cross country team and now focuses on the distance crew, the new track and field coaches include sprints and hurdles coach Jarius Cooper; jumps, pole vault and multi-events coach Arthur Ignaczak; and throws coach Jennifer Svoboda.
For Clark, the transition to Stanford has not come without sacrifices. The former Tennessee head coach moved to Stanford in August ahead of the fall cross country season, preventing him from seeing his family until November. He would wake up at 4 a.m. PST every day to say “good morning” to his son, he said.
Over the most recent break, though, his family moved to the Bay Area to accompany him. While unpacking 200 boxes was not an easy feat, Clark said he’s “excited” to be surrounded by both his nuclear family and track family.
The UW Preview kicks off with the women’s 3,000 meters on Saturday at 8:45 a.m. Live results will be available online.