By Jeremy Rubin
Every meet matters during an abbreviated season like that of Stanford cross country. As the Pac-12 and NCAA Championships inch closer, Stanford’s cross country team will travel to North Las Vegas on Friday for the UNLV Battle Born Challenge.
This will be the team’s second meet of the season, as the Cardinal took part in the FSU Winter Classic on Feb. 5. Stanford shone in Florida, with the No. 12 men’s and No. 4 women’s teams scoring first and second, respectively. The competition was the first cross country race for the teams since Nov. 23, 2019.
The men’s team finished with 67 points, well ahead of Iowa State and Colorado’s 98 points each. Freshman Cole Sprout paced the Cardinal with a fifth place finish as four total Stanford runners placed in the top-20. Sophomore Charles Hicks finished one spot behind Sprout, and the duo was followed by fifth year Alek Parsons (12th), senior DJ Principe (18th) and sophomore Devin Hart (29th) to round out the Cardinal’s top five in the runaway victory.
On the women’s side, Colorado’s 72 points edged out Stanford’s 77 for first place, but Donaghu and freshman Zofia Dudek finished first and third respectively in the team race. The Cardinal’s top five also included senior Julia Heymach (10th), senior Jessica Lawson (32nd) and sophomore Grace Connolly (34th). The race was Connolly’s first at the collegiate level.
On Friday, Stanford will be competing against Northern Arizona, Colorado, Boise State, Cal Baptist, Colorado State, New Mexico, Nevada, Southern Utah, Utah, Washington, Washington State, Weber State and Wyoming.
Also on Friday, Stanford track and field was originally scheduled to travel to Lubbock, Texas for the Matador Qualifier. However, Stanford Athletics spokesperson David Kiefer confirmed on Thursday that Stanford would not be competing, but did not volunteer additional information on the matter.
The meet was going to be the first for the Cardinal since the team’s 2020 season, which was canceled the day before the NCAA Indoor Championships would have started on Mar. 13. Despite the abrupt finish, nine athletes were named All-Americans and multiple school records were surpassed that season. Two sprinters — senior Ashlan Best and sophomore Dorien Simon — broke Stanford’s indoor women’s 400 and men’s freshman 60 marks, respectively, over the course of the shortened season. Best, who originally set the new school record for the 400 at the Don Kirby Invitational, broke her own time two weeks later at the MPSF Championships in late February of last year.
Fifth year Ella Donaghu finished with Stanford’s fastest indoor women’s 3000 time in 37 years at the Husky Classic and also broke the team’s mile time record on a track that was regulation size at the Razorback Invitational. Her mile time was later surpassed by Heymach on an oversized track at the University of Washington.
This is the second year on The Farm for Director of Track and Field J.J. Clark, who had previously coached at the University of Connecticut and University of Tennessee.