World Championships Review
EUGENE, Ore. – The first World outdoor track and field championships on American soil concluded Sunday with a sense of promise and regret for Grant Fisher '19, one of 10 athletes with Stanford ties – including two current Cardinal -- who competed in the meet.
Fisher, 25, was in position to earn his first global medal when, while coming off the final turn of the men's 5,000 meters, but appeared to step on the rail while trying to establish inside position for his final push and thinking of victory. He lost his balance and momentum and finished sixth.
American distance running has struggled to keep up with the great East African runners in the past few decades, but Fisher is closing the gap. He was fifth in the 10,000 at the Tokyo Olympics last year and ninth in the 5,000, and at Hayward Field, had already placed fourth in the 10,000 at these championships, missing bronze by only 0.17 and equaling the highest U.S. finish at Worlds in that event.
Determined to medal on the meet's final day, Fisher instead was left to ponder what-ifs. But the result did not detract from the notion that Fisher, the 2017 NCAA 5,000 outdoor champ, has an incredible future as he continues to gain experience at levels that few Americans ever have reached.
Following Tokyo, Eugene seemed to be the next step in Fisher's emergence among the world's elite. His performances were among a collection of top placings by Stanford alumni, with a bronze medal, a fourth place, three fifth-places, and a sixth.
Valarie Allman. Photo by Kirby Lee/Image of Sport.
Tokyo women's discus gold medalist Valarie Allman '17 had hopes to stay on top of the world. The year's world leader in the event, Allman fouled twice in qualifying and was in danger of being eliminated on the first day before unleashing a throw of 224-1 (68.30m) on her final attempt to advance as the top qualifier.
Her third-round throw of 224-1 (68.30m) was her best, but it wasn't able to improve her position from third where she remained entrenched from the second rounds through the sixth.
Allman became the sixth Stanford alumnae to medal at Worlds, following Jillian Camarena '04 (shot put; 2011), Kori Carter '14 (400 hurdles; 2017), Chryste Gaines '92 (4x100 relay; 1995, 1997, 2003), Regina Jacobs '85 (1,500; 1997, 1999) and Katerina Stefanidi '12 (pole vault; 2017). No Stanford male has medaled in the biennial meet, which began in 1983.
Udodi Onwuzurike. Photo by Chuck Aragon.
Making their first global appearances at the senior level were rising sophomore Udodi Onwuzurike and rising junior Ky Robinson. Onwuzurike, competing for Nigeria, reached the semifinal in the men's 200 and also competed in the 100 and 4x100 relay.
In his first-round heat of the 200, Onwuzurike took in 20.34 to advance as an auto qualifier, edging Jamaican legend Yohan Blake by 0.01. In his semifinal heat, Onwuzurike was sixth in 20.39 and placed 14th overall.
In his 5,000 heat, Robinson, competing for Australia, was in the lead pack that included Fisher well into the final lap, even making a push on the backstretch. Robinson finished eighth in 13:27.03, three spots out of an automatic spot and was 19th overall.
Onwuzurike, 19, and Robinson, 20, each will compete at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, on July 28-August 8. In addition to the events they raced in Eugene, Robinson also will run the 10,000.
Making a breakout performance was Mackenzie Little '19, the two-time NCAA women's javelin champ who competes for Australia. Little, who placed eighth in the Olympics last year, took 12th in qualifying to advance in the final spot.
With the first throw of the final, Little popped a personal best of 207-5 (63.22m) to grab the lead and held it into the third round. Little finished fifth, her best in a senior global competition.
Sara Hall. Photo by Kirby Lee/Image of Sport.
Sara (Bei) Hall '05, 39 years old and mother of four adopted children, took fifth in the marathon, running 2:22:10. Hall has competed in the World Indoor Championships (eighth in the 3,000, 2012) and World Cross Country Championships (20th in 2015), but this was her first appearance at World Outdoors in her incredible career.
Hall remained patient, staying back as the leaders went out in a scintillating pace. Her patience paid off as she stayed consistent while smiling and pumping her arms to rally the home fans and picking off those who faltered.
Stefanidi, competing for Greece, is a two-time global champion in the pole vault, winning gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics and the 2017 World Championships. Stefanidi placed fifth at 15-5 (4.70m).
Stefanidi opened at 14-7 ¼ (4.45m) and was perfect on her first two jumps, including 15-1 (4.60m). She was among five to clear 4.70, but needed three tries to do so, putting her medal hopes in jeopardy because she trained four others who were perfect or had one miss at that height.
After one miss at 15-9 (4.80m), Stefanidi passed to 15-11 (4.85m). A clearance there would have ensured a medal, but two misses ended her competition.
Katerina Stefanidi. Photo by Kirby Lee/Image of Sport.
Making their first global outdoor appearances were Elise Cranny '18 and Sean McGorty '17. Cranny, the U.S. women's champion in the 5,000, advanced to the final and placed ninth in 14:59.99. McGorty, the 2018 NCAA men's 5,000 champ, was 12th in the 10,000 in 27:46.30.
Steven Solomon '16, a veteran of six Australian national teams at the Olympics or World Championships, competed in the 400, but was unable to advance out of the first round.
Stanford's 10 athletes is believed to be the most in school history.
Among other Stanford alums who played a role at Worlds were Dena (Dey) Evans '96, the U.S. men's distance running coach; Olympian Ian Dobson '05, who helped design the marathon route, and Olympian Michael Stember '00, a New York City chef who served luxury seafood at a temporary restaurant in Eugene for the meet.
* * *
Elise Cranny. Photo by Kirby Lee/Image of Sport.
World Athletics Championships
At Hayward Field
Results of athletes with Stanford ties
100 – Prelims: 40, Udodi Onwuzurike (Nigeria) 10.26.
200 – Semifinals: 14, Udodi Onwuzurike (Nigeria) 20.39; Prelims: 16, Udodi Onwuzurike (Nigeria) 20.34.
400 – Prelims: 36, Steven Solomon (Australia) 46.87.
5,000 – Final: 6, Grant Fisher (USA) 13:11.65; Prelims: 10, Grant Fisher (USA) 13:24.44; 19, Ky Robinson (Australia) 13:27.03.
10,000 – Final: 4, Grant Fisher (USA) 27:28.14; 12, Sean McGorty (USA) 27:46.30.
4x100 relay – Prelims: Nigeria (Udodi Onwuzurike) DQ.
5,000 – Final: 9, Elise Cranny (USA) 14:59.99. Prelims: 7, Elise Cranny (USA) 14:53.20.
Marathon – 5, Sara Hall (USA) 2:22:10.
Pole vault – Final: 5, Katerina Stefanidi (Greece) 15-5 (4.70m). Qualifying: 1, Katerina Stefanidi (Greece) 14-9 (4.50m).
Discus – Final: 3, Valarie Allman (USA) 224-1 (68.30m). Qualifying: 1, Valarie Allman (USA) 224-3 (68.36m).
Javelin – Final: 5, Mackenzie Little (Australia) 207-5 (63.22m); Qualifying: 12, Mackenzie Little (Australia) 193-9 (59.06m).
* * *
Here is the list of competitors with Stanford ties:
Grant Fisher '19 (U.S.): 5,000, 10,000.
Sean McGorty '17 (U.S.): 10,000.
Udodi Onwuzurike '25 (Nigeria): 100, 200, 4x100.
Ky Robinson '24 (Australia): 5,000.
Steven Solomon '16 (Australia): 400.
Valarie Allman '17 (U.S.): Discus.
Sara Bei Hall '05 (U.S.): Marathon.
Elise Cranny '18 (U.S.): 5,000.
Mackenzie Little '19 (Australia): Javelin.
Katerina Stefanidi '12 (Greece): Pole vault.