Cross country sets a PR at last-ever Pac-12 championships

Oct. 30, 2023, 9:20 p.m.

The men’s and women’s cross country teams traveled up to the University of Washington for the program’s final appearance in the Pac-12 championships Friday. The women’s team finished in second place, narrowly losing to Washington by just two points, and the men’s team won it all, taking back-to-back conference championships.

Going into the race, the women’s team was already the winningest program in conference history with 17 Pac-12 titles. The men’s team, however, was tied with Oregon at 16 titles each. After Friday’s win, Stanford broke that tie and will officially exit the Pac-12 as the most successful men’s and women’s cross country programs in the conference’s long history.

Runners from Stanford were the first to cross the finish line in both the men’s and women’s races. Senior and defending NCAA outdoor track and field 5K and 10K champion Ky Robinson dominated the men’s race, completing the 8-kilometer race in 22:40.2, 11 seconds faster than the second place finisher. Last year’s men’s race individual champion, Cardinal runner Charles Hicks, went on to win the 2022 NCAA championship. The women’s team was led by individual champion freshman Amy Bunnage, who finished her 6-kilometer race in 19:09.7 to become the first women’s individual champion from Stanford since 2019.

Despite finishing third in the nation last year, the men’s team has not quite lived up to expectations after several key departures, including 2022 NCAA champion Hicks. Prior to Friday’s race, the men’s team sat at 25th in the national coach’s poll ranking. The only other ranked Pac-12 team was Colorado at No. 9; Colorado ended up in fourth on Friday. The Cardinal women were highly touted coming in, ranking fifth in the coach’s poll. While Stanford led for most of the race, Washington took the lead over the closing stretches, winning with a team score of 60. 

The men’s team was propelled to its victory by standout performances across the board. Robinson led the race from the start, achieving real separation around the 5k mark and winning his first Pac-12 championship in the process. Senior Cole Sprout took third for the second year in a row. Junior Robert DiDonato, who was the team’s eighth runner for most of the season, had a career day, finishing ninth overall. Rounding out the scoring runners, freshman Lex Young took 12th and redshirt senior Evan Burke took 15th, running times of 23:17 and 23:20, respectively. Stanford’s non-scoring runners were sophomore Zane Bergen, freshman Milo Skapinsky, sophomore Callum Sherry, graduate student Liam Anderson and junior John Lester, who finished in 40th, 41st, 45th, 52nd and 63rd place, respectively.

The women ran in a stacked race; six Pac-12 teams were ranked in the top 25 going into the race. Stanford, at fifth, was the highest ranked, followed by Oregon State, Oregon, Washington, Colorado and Utah. Bunnage led the team and the race, winning by six seconds. Senior Lucy Jenks was the second Cardinal runner to cross the line, doing so in 19:30.0 to take fifth place overall. Sophomore Riley Stewart, redshirt senior Grace Connolly and senior Zofia Dudek all finished within two seconds of each other in 17th, 18th and 19th. Stanford’s non-scoring runners included freshman Sophia Kennedy in 22nd place, graduate student Abi Archer in 26th, sophomore Ava Parekh in 32nd, sophomore Nicola Hogg in 37th and sophomore Caroline Wells in 50th.

The next stop for both teams will be the NCAA West Regional on Nov. 10 in Sacramento, where they will try to advance to the NCAA Championship in Virginia Beach on Nov. 18. 

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