By Sofia Scekic
Thirty two teams on the men’s side and 36 teams on the women’s side will create two stacked fields that the Stanford men’s and women’s cross country teams will be competing against on Friday at the Nuttycombe Invitational in Madison, Wis. The race is the final of the regular season for the Cardinal.
The women’s team championship, scheduled to begin at 10:20 a.m. PT and features six of the top 10 teams in the nation, including the top three: NC State, BYU and New Mexico. No. 9 Stanford rounds out the teams ranked within the top 10. The women’s race also includes 13 more teams ranked among the top 30 by the USTFCCCA, leading to the most competitive field the Cardinal has competed against thus far this season. Four of the women who placed among the top 10 at the NCAA championships last spring will be competing, headlined by Oklahoma State’s Taylor Roe, who placed second.
As for the Cardinal women, 12 are listed on the start list. Graduate student Julia Heymach is the only one on the start list who has not yet raced this season; nine of the others have at least two races under their belt while two raced for the first time two weeks ago at the Sacramento State Invite. One notable exemption from the start list for Friday is fifth-year Jessica Lawson, who has not competed since the team’s first meet of the season on Sept. 4. Sophomore Zofia Dudek and Grace Connolly will both toe the starting line for only the second time this season.
Dudek exploded onto the college cross country scene last season, taking second or third place in all three races, including the Pac-12 Championships, before the NCAA Championships. A foot injury hampered her at the national championship, where she placed 156th last season. She began this season strong, albeit a little later than others on the team, with a win in Sacramento last week, clocking the team’s best time of the season in 20:47.3. Dudek remains the runner to watch for the Cardinal, as she seems to be back to full health, but graduate student Christina Aragon could turn in a strong performance as well. She has been among the team’s top four runners in each race this season and as a graduate student has the most experience racing competitive fields.
The Cardinal men, the top-ranked team on the men’s side at No. 3 in the nation, listed 15 on the start list. Junior Charles Hicks, who placed 14th overall at the national championship last season, will race for the first time in nearly a month after placing second at the FSU Open in his only race of the season thus far. Freshman Robert DiDonato is another Cardinal runner to watch after he placed second in the season opener and won the Sacramento State Invite last weekend in 24:07.3. Without any experience racing uber-competitive fields at the collegiate level, the Nuttycombe Invite is good exposure to the stacked fields he will face at the Pac-12 and national championships should the Cardinal qualify.
The Cardinal are also sending a group of runners to the Bronco Invitational in Sunnyvale on Saturday; many men are cross-listed between the starting lists for Nuttycombe and Bronco, so it is unclear who exactly will race in which meet.
On the men’s side, 13 of the top-20 teams ranked by the USTFCCCA will be competing; along with Stanford, there are four other top-10 teams competing too. Wesley Kiptoo of Iowa State, the third-place finisher at last spring’s national championship, headlines the men’s field. Along with Hicks and Kiptoo, three of the top-15 finishers from last season’s NCAA Championships will be racing. The men’s race is slated to start at 11:00 a.m. PT.