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Card Teams in Top 5

Sep 1, 2021

STANFORD, Calif. -- Five months since the end of a pandemic-delayed season, a new cross-country campaign begins Saturday for Stanford's top-five teams under J.J. Clark and Ricardo Santos. 

The Cardinal enters 2021, Part II, with its women ranked No. 3 by the USTFCCCA and its men No. 5. In the West Region rankings, the Cardinal women are No. 1 and the men No. 2. For each team, Stanford returns six of the seven runners from their NCAA lineups. 

The Stanford women are two-time defending Pac-12 champions and placed third at the NCAA Championships in Stillwater, Oklahoma, on March 15. No. 1 runner Ella Donaghu, 10th at NCAA's and the two-time Pac-12 runner-up, is the only loss from that team.

Stanford returns three cross-country All-Americans, including Julia Heymach, who was 13th last season, and Jessica Lawson and Christina Aragon. Since that race, Heymach was even more impressive, winning the Pac-12 track title in the 5,000 meters and placing sixth in the 1,500 at the Olympic Trials, shattering the school record by four seconds, in 4:04.84. 

Another encouraging aspect, the return of Zofia Dudek. As a true freshman, the 2019 FootLocker national high school champion, ran nearly stride for stride with Donaghu in cross country – placing third in the Pac-12 -- before suffering a foot injury at the NCAA Championships. 

Audrey DaDamio, a 10:02.88 two-miler, is an impressive freshman out of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. But the Cardinal also brings back three potential difference-makers – graduate student Aubrey Roberts, a 2018 cross country All-American for Northwestern, and junior Abi Archer, a scorer on Stanford's 2019 NCAA team. Each was limited last season by injury. The addition of graduate transfer Melissa Tanaka, from Penn, also is intriguing. 
The Stanford men also attempt to defend a Pac-12 championship, with Charles Hicks taking second in the last season's race. The Cardinal went on to finish fifth in Stillwater and returns its top four from that lineup. Only two-time cross country All-American Alek Parsons, who ran No. 5 at NCAA's last season, does not return. 

Stanford was the only program in the country to have both teams place in the top five at the NCAA Championships. 

Amazingly, each of the top three – All-Americans Hicks, Cole Sprout, and Ky Robinson – has four years of cross-country eligibility remaining. Three women from the NCAA lineup also remain freshmen in eligibility – Dudek, Lucy Jenks, and Grace Connolly. 

Hicks and Sprout placed 14th and 15th at NCAA's. Robinson was the team's No. 3 runner and went on to break the school and the Australian under-20 records in the steeplechase, while placing sixth in Eugene at the NCAA Championships. Also, the English-born Hicks broke the United Kingdom U20 record in the 10,000 meters, winning the Pac-12 title in that event. 

They were among 10 Cardinal to break 14 minutes in the 5,000 on the track last spring. Stanford, in fact, has 12 on this season's cross country squad to have run sub-14. 

The runners arrived this week and race at the USF Invitational at Golden Gate Park on Saturday at 10 a.m. before leaving for camp in Bend, Oregon. 

The major invitational this season is the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational on Oct. 15. The Pac-12 meet is in Salt Lake City on Oct. 29 and the NCAA Championships are in Tallahassee, Florida, on Nov. 20.