Sports

Fisher, Stanford men race to Pac-12 cross country title

 
Grant Fisher (left), Steven Fahy, and Alex Ostberg celebrate after each finished in the top four. Photo by Spencer Allen/SportsImageWire.com.

Junior Grant Fisher used a burst of speed over the final 300 meters to win the individual title and lead the Stanford men to their first team crown in seven years, at the Pac-12 Cross Country Championships on Friday.

With Steven Fahy in third and Alex Ostberg fourth, Stanford placed three runners in the top four on the way to dethroning six-time defending champion Colorado, 41-47, at Springfield Golf Club in Springfield, Ore.


Fiona O'Keeffe

Vanessa Fraser
The Cardinal women also had a superb day. Despite coming into the meet as the fourth-highest ranked team in the field, Stanford was edged by defending NCAA champion Oregon on a tiebreaker to finish third.

Vanessa Fraser in fourth and Fiona O'Keeffe in seventh led Stanford, which scored 71 points to match Oregon, with both behind Colorado's 53.

The tiebreaker was decided by matching the top five runners of each team. Oregon had the advantage in three of the five head-to-head.

Fisher is Stanford's first men's individual champ since Elliott Heath in 2010 and his triumph marked the program's eighth individual conference victory.

The team title was Stanford 13th overall and first under Chris Miltenberg, Stanford's Director of Track and Field. It may not have happened if not for a monster race from Fahy, who only two weeks ago was 65th at the Wisconsin Invitational and last year was 16th in the Pac-12. Ostberg also emerged this year, improving from 34th at this meet in 2016.

Fisher, a junior who was runner-up last year to four-time champ Edward Cheserek of Oregon, was patient throughout the race, as was the entire Stanford team. After the first two kilometers of the 8K (4.97-mile) race, Stanford was sixth, and never led at any split.

"We have a really young team and they competed so well today," Fisher said on the Pac-12 Network. "There's a lot of good energy on this team. I'm so proud of them."

Fisher and Ostberg skirted on the fringes of the top 10 through most of the race, but it wasn't until the front pack winnowed to six with a little more than a kilometer to go that the real racing began.

UCLA's Robert Brandt, Colorado's Joe Klecker, and Washington's Mahmoud Moussa led the way three abreast before Moussa forged to the front. Fisher moved a step behind and followed Klecker as the Colorado runner took the lead.

It was a rematch of the 5,000-meter race at Stanford's Cardinal Classic track meet last spring, with the same result. On the final turn, with about 200 meters to go, Fisher kicked past Klecker from the inside and increased his lead to the finish. Fisher crossed the finish line with a smile on his face.

"My race plan was to try to be the most relaxed guy in the field until 2K to go and then just watch for moves," Fisher said. "There was a big one just around that corner. I tried my best to cover it and stay composed. I trusted that I had another gear at the end.

"It takes a long time to develop that confidence. I'm happy to have that now."

Altogether, Stanford placed seven in the top 21. Tai Dinger in 15th, freshman Callum Bolger in 18th, Blair Hurlock in 20th, and Alek Parsons in 21st all finished within 6.2 seconds of each other as Nos. 4-7.

"Today, we just had really good team chemistry," Ostberg said to Pac-12 Network. "We keyed off each other really well and we stayed really tough over the last 4K, which was the race plan.

"You feel the presence of a teammate with you. When someone comes up to you on your team, you're comforted by the fact that you know who's right next to you. We can push each other that way because we feel so comfortable with one another."

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