Cross Country Preview: Continuing A Cardinal Legacy In 2002
Aug. 20, 2002
Stanford, Calif. - The 2002 Stanford men's and women's cross country teams will be looking to continue a legacy that Stanford has developed during the 10-year leadership of current Director of Track & Field/Cross Country Vin Lananna. The Stanford men's team has posted seven straight finishes among the nation's Top 5, including NCAA titles in 1996 and 1997. The Cardinal just missed its third national title last season, finishing one point behind national champion Colorado in the closest NCAA finish ever. The women's team, which finished fifth at the NCAA's last year, has six straight showings in the Top 5 at the NCAA Championships. Stanford won the women's NCAA title in 1996.
Both teams have also been successful at the NCAA Regional and Pac-10 level. The Stanford men have won six straight West Regional titles and five of the last six Pac-10 Championships. The women's squad has won five of the last six West Regional championships and six straight Pac-10 crowns.
'We have established a great niche for ourselves,' explains Lananna. 'That niche is that any middle distance or distance runner that is also a good student has to look seriously at Stanford, with its world-renowned academic credentials and world-class athletic performances in all sports. We have been a contender for the NCAA title year-in and year-out. Any young man or woman who is looking to pursue his or her dream at the collegiate level really has to consider Stanford.'
Men's Cross Country Outlook
The outlook is extremely bright for the 2002 squad with a talented and deep roster that features four returning cross country All-Americans from a team that finished in second place, just one point behind national champion Colorado at the 2001 NCAA Championships.
'The strength of the 2002 men's team will be that we have great big meet experience,' says Lananna. 'But, the rest of the country is strong as well with perennial national powers such as Arkansas and Colorado returning nearly their entire teams.'
Stanford's depth is stunning. Six of seven runners that participated in last year's NCAA Championships will lead the Cardinal squad in 2002.
'We have a great group of men returning and will have many options for selecting our lineup,' emphasizes Lananna. 'They will play interchangeable parts for most of the season. The important concept is for us to work as a finely tuned machine.'
'We had great improvements by many of the athletes between the 2000 and 2001 NCAA Championships. We will need another series of big improvements if we are to be in a position to contend for the NCAA title again. The challenge will be difficult, but I am confident that the athletes are excited for the process.'
Donald Sage heads the group of four returning All-Americans, all juniors, and is arguably at the top of the list of runners that could make a difference at the NCAA's. Sage came on strong towards the end of his sophomore cross country season last year, finishing seventh overall as the Cardinal's top runner at the NCAA Championships. He earned 2001 Pac-10 Cross Country Athlete of the Year honors, after being named the Pac-10 Cross Country Newcomer of the Year in 2000. Sage won his first individual cross country title with a victory at the 2001 NCAA West Regional. He also finished third at the 2001 Pac-10 Championships. Sage followed his 2001 cross country season with an outstanding 2002 track & field campaign, winning the NCAA title in the 1500 meters and recording the sixth-fastest 10,000 meter time in school history with a mark of 28:40.12 at the Stanford Invitational.
Grant Robison returns to the Cardinal as the defending Pac-10 Cross Country Champion and the 2001 West Region Cross Country Athlete of the Year. Robison was one of Stanford's most consistent runners in 2001, finishing first at the Stanford Invitational and second at the NCAA West Regionals and the Pre-NCAA meet. At the NCAA Championships Robison earned All-American honors with a 21st place finish. During the 2002 indoor and outdoor track and field seasons, Robison was named All-American four times. Robison finished a strong fourth in the 1500 meters at the 2002 U.S. Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
Louis Luchini saved his best performance of the 2001 cross country campaign for the NCAA Championships, when he finished 12th as Stanford's second runner at the event. Luchini had shown potential earlier in the season with a pair of tenth place finishes at the NCAA West Regional Championships and the Pre-NCAA Gold Race. He achieved more national success during the 2002 NCAA Track & Field Championships, finishing fifth in the 10,000 meters and tenth in the 5000 meters to pick up a pair of All-American honors. He also posted a career-best time of 13:34.18 at the 2002 U.S. National Championships to finish fifth. The time was also the third-best in Stanford history. Luchini also posted the best 10,000 meter time of his career with a mark of 28:49.86 at the Stanford Invitational.
Ian Dobson is the fourth cross country All-American returning from the 2001 club after finishing 20th at the NCAA Championships. Dobson's NCAA performance capped a strong postseason effort as he also placed fifth at the Pac-10 Championships and ninth at the NCAA West Regional. Dobson's track season, his first after redshirting in 2001, was also outstanding as he set a freshman school record in the 3000 meter steeplechase with a mark of 9:03.06. He also competed at the NCAA Championships in the 10,000 meters after qualifying with a career-best 29:06.41 at the Stanford Invitational, the fourth-best freshman performance in Stanford history.
'The four returning All-Americans are obviously a key component to this year's team,' says Lananna. 'We will need those four men to finish higher and lead their teammates to the front of the pack if we are going to be a factor at the NCAA Championships.'
Senior Seth Hejny will lead a large group of Stanford runners who are also expected to contend for All-America status this fall. Hejny finished 43rd at the 2001 NCAA Champion-ships after placing 12th at the Pac-10 Championships. Hejny continued his success during the 2002 track & field campaign, taking second at the Pac-10 Championships in the 5000 meters and placing ninth at the NCAA Championships to earn All-America honors.
Talented sophomore Ryan Hall is Stanford's final returning performer from the 2001 NCAA Championships. Hall, a highly touted recruit prior to his arrival at Stanford in the fall of 2001, showed his potential with a victory in his collegiate cross country debut at the Murray Keatinge Invitational last year. Hall was one of the most successful prep runners in California history. As a senior, Hall ran a 3:42.70 in the 1500 meters at the Peregrine Systems U.S. Open.
The Cardinal squad will look to gain strength from three additional NCAA Track & Field All-Americans this fall. NCAA Indoor Track & Field All-American Chris Emme is expected to have a breakthrough season for the Cardinal. After an impressive 15th place finish at the West Regional Championships in the fall of 2001, Emme represented the Cardinal in both the 5000 meters and 3000 meters at the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships. His time of 7:58.15 for 3000 meters is fifth fastest all-time at Stanford and led to his first NCAA Indoor All-America honor.
All-Americans Adam Tenforde and Jesse Thomas each have previous cross country experience for Stanford and will return to the squad after redshirting last year. Tenforde clocked an impressive 28:57.65 for 10,000 meters at the 2002 Cardinal Invitational, before going on to finish seventh at the NCAA Championships, earning his first All-America certificate. Thomas is the school record holder in the 3000 meter steeplechase (8:35.83). He finished 8th at the NCAA Championships and 12th at the USA Outdoor Championships held at Stanford. Both of these athletes will be looking to turn their impressive track performances into important points for the Cardinal team this fall.
Middle distance specialist Andrew Powell will be called upon to transfer his talents to the cross country course. Powell contributed to the Cardinal's fourth place finish at the 2000 NCAA Cross Country Championships. He redshirted the 2001 cross country season.
Additional veterans returning from the 2001 roster include sophomores Evan Fox, Seton McAndrews, Justin Romaniuk, and David Vidal; and juniors Isaac Hawkins, Andrew Hill, Sean Knapp, Steve Loughlin, David Stillman and Philip West.
The Cardinal also has a large group of new runners including nine true freshmen and Duke transfer Robert Smitson. Smitson joins the Cardinal squad after earning high school All-America honors at Brebeuf Jesuit in Indianapolis, Indiana. He was selected the Atlantic Coast Conference Freshman of the Year for the 2001 cross country season.
The incoming freshmen are Carl Dambkowski (Livermore, CA), Steve DeWitt (Ellsworth, ME), Sean Drake (San Francisco, CA), Scott Fuqua (Birmingham, AL), Jacob Gomez (Klamath Falls, OR), Brett Gotcher (Watsonville, CA), Peter Meindl (Orchard Park, NY), Jonathan Pierce (Ogdensburg, NY) and Rolf Steier (Temple Terrace, FL).
Dambkowski, Fuqua, Gomez, Gotcher, Meindl, and Pierce all have competed at the Footlocker National High School Cross Country Championships, while DeWitt (Maine), Fuqua (Alabama), Meindl (New York) and Steier (Florida) all won state cross country titles during their senior seasons.
'We may have the best freshman class of men's distance runners that we've ever had,' says Lananna. 'They all have achieved great success in cross country at the national level. We'll have to see how they handle the transition to the 10,000 meter distance before we decide how we will use them this year. They all graduated from excellent high school programs, so I am optimistic about their ability to handle the transition.'
The rest of the cross country world will be waiting to see as well if this talented group of Cardinal runners can extend its string of Top Five national finishes to eight and win its third NCAA title overall.
Women's Cross Country Outlook
The 2002 Stanford women's cross country team will be an experienced group behind the leadership of senior All-Americans Lauren Fleshman and Erin Sullivan. Additionally, three members from last year's fifth place NCAA Championship team return for the Cardinal as it vies for its seventh consecutive Top Five finish at the NCAA meet. The Cardinal will rely on four additional returnees from last year's team that won its sixth consecutive Pac-10 Championship title.
'We do have great big meet experience on the women's side,' says Lananna. 'But, we have had to rebuild. Staying healthy will be a key for our team with our limited depth.'
What the Cardinal may lack in depth, it should make up for in quality.
Fleshman is a legitimate contender for the national individual title. Last year, she finished third at the NCAA Championships, her second Top 5 national finish in three years and third straight All-American performance. Fleshman has realized her championship potential on the track by etching her name into several record books. In 2002, she earned NCAA titles at 3000 meters indoors and 5000 meters outdoors. She is only the second Cardinal woman to win two NCAA track and field titles in the same year. Fleshman's name also appears in the Pac-10 record books as the second-fastest performer ever at 5000 meters and only the second woman in conference history to win consecutive NCAA titles at 5000 meters (2001 and 2002).
'Lauren Fleshman will be a great front runner for this team,' explains Lananna. 'She's made big improvements but there are still quantum leaps ahead for her. She is poised to take a crack at the NCAA individual cross country title. There are a lot of good athletes out there, but she is certainly among the nation's elite.'
Seniors Erin Sullivan, Malindi Elmore and Mariel Ettinger also expect to be factors in their final collegiate season. In 2001, Sullivan was the team's third runner at the NCAA Championships and finished 11th at the Pac-10 Championships. Sullivan is a two-time cross country All-American and the first woman in Stanford history to win the Pac-10 cross country crown. Sullivan had a productive 2002 track and field campaign, winning the Pac-10 10,000 meter title and finishing tenth at the NCAA Championships. Sullivan's successful performances at championship meets will be a tremendous asset to the Cardinal squad.
Elmore studied abroad in the fall of 2001 but returns to the squad after another outstanding track and field season. She captured fourth place in the mile at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships. Elmore has represented Team Canada at the World University Games and the World Junior Cross Country Championships. She holds the fourth fastest time in Stanford history for 1500 meters at 4:14.66.
Ettinger picked up three Top 10 finishes in 2001, including an eighth place showing at the Pac-10 Championships and a victory in the season-opening Jammin' Invitational.
The Cardinal women will be bolstered by a strong group of sophomores, led by All-American Alicia Craig, the team's second runner at last year's NCAA Championships. Craig had an excellent freshman season, finishing in the Top Five in four of her five races. Craig won her collegiate debut in the Stanford Invitational 4000 meter race. She also finished third at the Pre-NCAA Silver Race, fifth at the Pac-10 Championships and fourth at the NCAA West Regional. Craig redshirted the 2002 track & field campaign.
Sara Bei had an outstanding rookie season last year after finishing runner-up at the Pac-10 Championships and seventh at the NCAA West Regionals. Bei was named the 2001 Pac-10 Newcomer of the Year for her efforts. Bei continued her success onto the track in the spring of 2002, winning the U.S. Junior National title in the 3000 meters and finishing the indoor season as the nation's top-ranked freshman in the event. Bei gained extensive international experience in her first year at Stanford, twice earning berths on Team USA. She competed in the IAAF World Junior Cross Country Championships in Dublin, Ireland and the IAAF World Junior Track and Field Championships in Kingston, Jamaica.
Goff set a Stanford freshman record in the 3000 meter steeplechase during the 2002 track & field campaign with a time of 10:22.64, and finished runner-up in the event at the Pac-10 Track & Field Championships in Pullman, Washington.
'This is a really nice sophomore class,' says Lananna. 'Along with Lauren (Fleshman), they are going to provide some good upfront power.'
Stanford's incoming freshman class will be led by the additions of Julie Allen (Corona Del Mar, CA), Yfa Kretzschmar (San Francisco, CA) and Rachel Urbina (Albuquerque, NM), Kristin Cohoon (Rolling Hills Estates, CA) and Christine Concho (Barstow, CA).
'We have a small but talented incoming group,' confirms Lananna. 'The key for the women's team this year is to stay healthy. If we can do that, we should have a solid season.'