Oct. 31, 2010

 

Courtesy of Stanford Athletics

Seattle, Wash. -
Not since 2005 had Stanford won both the men's and women's Pac-10 championships, but 2010 would prove to be another magical season. Both teams ran superb races to capture a the conference championship.

The women started the day by narrowly defeating three teams in one of the most competitive Pac-10 races ever. Then the men looked nothing short of dominant with another 1-2-3 finish to go with a strong pack that moved up through the field.

The Pac-10 titles were 27th and 28th in Stanford history with the women now having 15 championships and the men 13.

"This is a great day for our program," said head coach Jason Dunn. "It is something we talked about at the beginning of the season, so I am certainly pleased with the results."

The Stanford women entered the meet as the ninth ranked team in the country, but No. 2 Oregon, No. 6 Arizona and defending champ No. 20 Washington made for one of the best fields in recent memory.

"I thought it would be really close," said Dunn. "I told the girls that the top four teams would be separated by less than 10 points and that turned out to be right."

The Cardinal finished with 62 points, which was the highest total for a winning team since Washington had 65 in 1989, showing just how deep this year's field was. Arizona placed second with 65, while Oregon and Washington tied for third with 68. The six point spread between the top four schools was the closest meet in Pac-10 history.

Kathy Kroeger led the Cardinal women with a runner-up finish. The Cardinal sophomore continued her tremendous season that already includes a Stanford Invitational title and a third-place finish at Pre-Nationals. Kroeger ran a 6,000-meter time of 19:49.43, which trailed only individual champion Jordan Hasay of Oregon.

The Cardinal was the only team to put three in the top-10, which might have been the difference. Stephanie Marcy placed fifth with a time of 20:12.26 and Jessica Tonn was eighth with a time of 20:16.14.

Marcy continued her reliability in big races, while the freshman Tonn was running her first championship race in college.

"Jessica really stepped up," said Dunn. "She has been a great addition to our team."

Rounding out the scoring for Stanford was Georgia Griffin in 21st with a time of 20:38.01 and Alex Gits in 26th with a time of 20:43.57. Just behind Gits was Alex Dunne in 27th with a time of 20:45.35, giving Stanford a very solid six, which will be a luxury going forward.

Madeline Duhon placed 52nd in 21:35.05 to complete Stanford's top seven.

On the men's side, the Cardinal completed another 1-2-3 finish, two weeks after doing the same thing at Pre-Nationals. Elliott Heath took the conference title, but finished with nearly identical times to teammates Jacob Riley and Chris Derrick.

Jake Riley, Elliott Heath and Chris Derrick swept the top three spots in the men's race.


Stanford finished with 25 points, surging over the second half of the race to run away from Oregon who was second with 56. Cal finished third with 86 points.

Heath finished with a time of 23:00.46, becoming the sixth individual Pac-10 champion in Stanford history. Riley was second in 23:00.57, while Derrick was third in 23:00.59.

The Stanford trio pushed the pace from the beginning, creating a lead pack almost immediately and eventually dropping Luke Puskedra of Oregon and Stephen Sambo of Arizona who held on as long as the could.

While Stanford's top three is formidable, it was the late charge of the second pack that made the difference. The Cardinal put six runners in the top 11 to run away from Oregon, who entered the meet ranked No. 3 in the country.

Staying together in a similar fashion to the top three, Miles Unterreiner, J.T. Sullivan and Erik Olson placed 9th, 10th and 11th. The trio started conservatively and midway through the race trailed Oregon's No. 6 runner, but by the time it was over all three had moved ahead of Oregon's No. 4.

"Our strategy for that second group was to hang back and work their way through the field," said Dunn. "They executed the plan perfectly."

Completing the top seven was redshirt sophomore Riley Sullivan who is now healthy after a series of bad luck in his first two seasons. Sullivan placed 15th in 23:55.37 in his first big race for Stanford.

"Riley had a huge race," said Dunn. "He is incredibly talented and it is great to see him finally healthy."

The Cardinal will now set its sights on the NCAA West Region meet in Eugene in two weeks. Stanford will again be among the favorites, although its main goal will be just to qualify for nationals and keep everyone healthy.