Stanford Invite returns but nothing changed for Cranny

Alek Parson (2468) finished third in the men's race. Alex Ostberg (in front) was fifth. Photo by Malcolm Slaney.

The Stanford Invitational resumed after a year hiatus, but nothing really changed in the women's race, with Stanford's Elise Cranny repeating her victory from 2016.

Cranny covered the 6-kilometer race on the Stanford Golf Course in 20:32.5, using a big kick to pull away from Washington's Katie Rainsberger (20:39.7) and teammate Fiona O'Keeffe (20:41.2).

Her victory highlighted a strong day for Stanford, which won both the men's and women's team races.

The No. 3 Stanford women placed three in the top seven – with sophomore Jessica Lawson in seventh – and the Cardinal edged runner-up Adams State, No. 1 in NCAA Division II, by a 62-69 score. No. 16 Washington was third with 90.

The No. 4 Stanford men placed five in the top nine to score 26 points, with No. 23 UCLA second with 53 and Division II No. 1 Adams State third with 75. Robert Brandt, running unattached, earned the victory. He covered the 8K course in 23:46.4, with Stanford redshirt sophomore Alek Parsons, placing third as the top Division I finisher, in 23:58.0.

"This was a great starting point," said Chris Miltenberg, Stanford's men's coach and Franklin P. Johnson Director of Track and Field.

On the men's side, there were a couple of reasons, including the progress shown by Parsons. Last year, he ran No. 6 at the NCAA Championships, ran 13:58 for the 5,000 meters indoors, and was sixth in the Pac-12 10,000. Now, he looks to take on an even more prominent role.

"The training has been a natural progression over the past few years," Parsons said. "Sometimes, the results don't quite follow the progression of training. I'm starting to get into that spot where the results are starting to come. I'm realizing I'm one of those older guys now and there's more responsibility on me to run my best."

Parsons ran with Alex Ostberg and then pulled away from his teammate down the stretch. Ostberg, 16th at NCAA's last year, placed fifth and sophomore Callum Bolger, the only freshman in Stanford's NCAA lineup last year, was sixth.

The tough running of Bolger, sophomore DJ Principe (eighth) and fifth-year senior Tai Dinger (ninth) was impressive to Miltenberg.

"to see DJ and Callum get tough after being separated … they kept plugging and kept competing and that, to me, was probably the most valuable thing I took from the whole day," Miltenberg said.

Cranny has had a storied career at Stanford, with 11 All-America honors and eight first-team All-America honors in track. However, this cross country season marks the fifth-year senior's final opportunity to represent Stanford.

She has won both races this season and is primed for a strong sendoff to her collegiate career.

"I'm savoring it," she said. "Coach Milt has always talked about being in the present. That's something I've been working on – not thinking about the future. I'm just trying to be in the moment."

The plan was not for Cranny and O'Keeffe to be in the front, it was to stay relaxed and slowly ramp up the pace going into the final 2K, and then see what's in the tank.

Cranny and O'Keeffe indeed ran relaxed, but found themselves in front anyway.

"We were dictating the pace without pushing it," said Cranny, who unleashed a vicious kick down the second fairway to the finish.

Further back in the field came teammate Hannah Long, racing for the first time since the 2016 indoor season. A member of Stanford's 2015 NCAA cross country lineup as a freshman, Long was 68th on Saturday.

"Honestly, that was the best part of the day, watching her come across the finish line," Cranny said. "I'm amazed at her strength. She's inspired me all these years."

Freshman Rebecca Story made her collegiate debut, finishing 22nd as Stanford's No. 4 runner.

"All of our runners had different things to work on, and this was the perfect time to do it," women's coach Elizabeth DeBole said. "The meet wasn't too big, but there was enough competition and we got a good competitive effort out of it. It was just a really good start."

Stanford next competes Oct. 13 at the Pre-Nationals on the NCAA championship course in Madison, Wisconsin.

"Each race is a process," DeBole said. "You have to have that mindset. Each meet gears up in intensity. Two weeks from now, there's' going to be a lot more people, a lot more noise. But if they execute the same way, making a couple of tweaks, we can be really really good."

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