Stanford’s track and field athletes have one of their best opportunities to qualify for the NCAA Indoor Championships this weekend when they participate in the Penn State National in University Park, Pennsylvania.
The men’s and women’s track teams are both ranked 13th nationally and recent impressive results suggest that the Cardinal may be in for a breakthrough season. It is feasible that both Stanford’s men and women could finish the season ranked in the top 10 nationally for the first time since 2008. The Cardinal’s success will depend on a well-rounded squad, with key factors including consistency from the historically outstanding distance program and an anticipated breakthrough in field events.
The Penn State National is one of the biggest indoor meets in the nation. As Stanford’s athletes seek NCAA-qualifying results, the team will look to benefit from the adrenaline offered by the Penn State National’s highly competitive environment.
Assistant coach Michael Eskind has greatly expanded the strength and depth of Stanford’s jumps squad since joining the coaching staff in 2013. The team’s outstanding results at the team’s season opener two weeks ago suggests that, in the coming weeks, Eskind will see the benefits of his work.
Two years ago, Eskind sent only three Stanford athletes to compete in jumping and multi-events at UW Indoor Preview. This year, Eskind sent 14 athletes to the same meet, and his squad’s performances marked the highlight of Stanford’s showing.
“My biggest takeaway is that the group is really coming together,” Eskind wrote in an email to The Daily. “This is a talented group of men and women. The men are just a little more experienced and battle tested than the women at this point.”
In Washington, fifth-year senior Darian Brooks notched the longest triple jump in the history of Stanford’s indoor and outdoor track and field programs at 52 feet and 9 ¼ inches. In men’s pole vault, Stanford had three vaulters eclipse 17 feet for the first time in a single season — let alone the same meet. The Cardinal went 1-2-3 in men’s pole vault, with respective finishes by junior Dylan Duvio, senior Garrett Starkey and sophomore Harrison Williams. Fifth-year senior Dartis Willis was the top collegiate athlete in the high jump, clearing 7 feet for the first time since 2012.
Some of Stanford’s distance runners will kick off their indoor track season at the Penn State National this weekend, although the Iowa State Classic on Feb. 12-13 is more notable for distance competition. The Cardinal’s signature indoor track event is the distance medley relay, in which it has collected five NCAA titles: four men’s and one women’s.
Stanford’s current distance squad will look to benefit from experience. Fifth-year senior Aisling Cuffe, seniors Claudia Saunders and Kristyn Williams and sophomores Olivia Baker and Elise Cranny have run in the distance medley relay (DMR) at the NCAAs previously.
Coming off an impressive cross country season, junior Sean McGorty is expected to run the 1,600 meter-leg as the anchor for the men’s DMR. Fifth-year seniors Jim and Joe Rosa and graduate transfer Collin Leibold, who ran a personal-best 4:02.65 mile at the UW Indoor Preview, will also be key contributors.
Eskind said his athletes relish their chance to raise Stanford’s profile in field events — and contribute to the team’s success on a national stage.
“The men’s jumps group in particular has talked for the past two years about making this the best jumps group in Stanford history and putting ourselves on the map nationally, as a place where jumpers can come and thrive,” Eskind said. “They know that the Pac-12 is one of the toughest conferences in the country for the jumps, but that we need to make our name at the NCAA meets both indoors and outdoors.