Stanford cross country getting nutty this time of the year

Stanford men will challenge themselves at Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational on Saturday. Photo by Aaron Shepley/

Grant Fisher makes his cross country season debut as Stanford competes in its biggest race before the postseason, at the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational on Friday.

Fisher, the reigning NCAA outdoor track and field 5,000-meter champion, leads the strongest Stanford men's lineup of the season.

Sam Wharton
All-Americans Vanessa Fraser and Fiona O'Keeffe lead a Cardinal women's team that largely mirrors the squad that placed second at the Bill Dellinger Invitational in Oregon two weeks ago.

This meet has grown in stature because it offers the best chance to beat top teams head-to-head. Twenty of the top 30 men's teams in the USTFCCCA rankings are scheduled to compete, including three of the top four: No. 1 and defending NCAA champ Northern Arizona, No. 3 Syracuse, and No. 4 Stanford.

The individual race features Syracuse junior Justyn Knight, a Canadian who was ninth in the 5,000 at the World Championships in London this summer. At the 2016 NCAA cross country championships, Knight was second and Fisher fifth, and Wisconsin's Morgan McDonald, an Australian who also raced at worlds and competes Friday, was seventh.

Fifth-year senior Sam Wharton, one of the team's two returning cross country All-Americans, makes his season debut, as does Will Lauer, a sophomore in eligibility. Stanford will race three true freshmen: Callum Bolger, Connor Lane, and Michael Vernau, along with redshirt freshmen Isaac Cortes and Alek Parsons among its 12-member squad.

On the women's side, Sixteen of the nation's top 30 are in the field. Among the individuals, Boise State's Allie Ostrander (steeplechase) and San Francisco's Charlotte Taylor (10,000) are reigning NCAA outdoor track champs.

This will be a great opportunity for Stanford's Fraser, the seventh-place finisher in the 2017 U.S. Championships 5,000, to see where she fits on the national stage.

Stanford has yet to run at full strength and won't do so here, but the race will further test a young team.

Five of Stanford's nine runners are underclassmen in eligibility, with sophomore All-America Fiona O'Keeffe the best among them. Of this lineup, Abbie McNulty is the only Stanford runner who has raced here, competing on the 2014 team that placed seventh.

— Palo Alto Online Sports/Stanford Athletics

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