Cranny, Ratcliffe Win Invite
STANFORD, Calif. -- Stanford junior Elise Cranny and freshman Thomas Ratcliffe, in the first cross country race of his life, captured victories at the 43rd Stanford Invitational on Saturday at Stanford Golf Course.
Cranny, competing in her first Stanford Invite, pulled away from three others, including teammate Vanessa Fraser, with about a half-mile to go and finished with a strong kick. Cranny covered the 5K course in 20:02.5 while leading Stanford to its 13th consecutive team victory, scoring 37 points. Cal Poly (46) and UC Santa Barbara (129) followed.
Ratcliffe kept alive a possible redshirt year by running unattached, and outkicked Tulane's Emmanuel Rotich for the victory, 23:17.0 to 23:19.9. Tai Dinger was the top runner in a Stanford uniform, finishing seventh in 23:45.8 over 8K, with the Cardinal finishing ninth as a team with 224 points. Stanford was resting its top seven for the Wisconsin Invitational on Oct. 14.
"It's a good surprise," Ratcliffe said. "I don't think it's something to be made a big deal about. But it's a good step in the right direction and a good start to the year. It just tells me I'm on a good path and it's a good reminder that the training's paying off."
Ratcliffe was a 4:01 miler at Concord-Carlisle High School in Concord, Massachusetts, but never ran cross country because he played soccer in the fall, winning the state Division II championship as a senior.
"I can't say I'm hugely surprised," said head men's coach Chris Miltenberg, Stanford's Franklin P. Johnson Director of Track and Field. "He loves to compete, whether it's 800 or 8K. He wasn't thinking it was his first cross country race, he was thinking of his race."
The plan for Ratcliffe was to relax over the first 5K and "crank it up the last 3K," he said. A group of Cal Poly runners paced the field for much of the race before Ratcliffe closed and passed them over the final mile.
"I was a bit nervous about it," he said. "Once I got in there and kind of relaxed after the first K or so, I felt good and relaxed and ready to roll."
Because he wasn't a year-round competitor, Miltenberg feels that Ratcliffe has a great deal of potential.
"There's enormous upside there. It's going to require patience and letting him come along gradually. Today is a big step forward, but we're not going to change what we're doing with him training-wise. We're thinking about his big-picture development.
"Thomas is a guy who's competitive and believes in himself. That's what makes the great ones great. That's how Grant Fisher is, how Sean McGorty is. We've seen that since the first day he got here."
While Miltenberg leans toward redshirting his freshmen – to gain strength for the jump in distance in training and races (5K in high school to 10K at regionals and NCAAs) – it's still possible that Ratcliffe could compete for Stanford in the postseason. He would have to an impact to make it worthwhile. To be a No. 5-7 runner probably wouldn't be worth it.
Last year, freshman Fisher was second at the Stanford Invite while running unattached, before joining the Stanford lineup at Pac-12s and NCAAs, where he placed 17th and earned All-America honors.
"We'll be thinking about that the next few weeks," Miltenberg said. "Similar to what we did with Grant last year, where had an idea from the beginning that we could go either way. We'll see how he recovers from this and see how the next few weeks go and make a decision from there. "
Ratcliffe wasn't the only Stanford freshman to run unattached. Alek Parsons and Isaac Cortes did as well, finishing ninth and 29th. If running for Stanford, the freshmen would have finished 1, 3, 4 for the team. And Stanford would have finished second with 66 points, to Cal Poly's 62.
For the Stanford women, Cranny and Fraser enjoyed the competition they got from Fresno State's Annemarie Schwanz, an NCAA 1,500-meter finalist last year, and Cal Poly's Peyton Bilo, the reigning Big West Conference 10,000 champ. Fraser said it was good training for the bigger competitive packs they will run in at the NCAA Championships.
"It felt like a race rather than Elise and I working out," Fraser said.
Cranny, who was rested in the Stanford Invite in 2014 and was out with an injury in 2015, said she was ready to push the pace down the stretch, bolting to the front with 400 left.
"It felt like it kept building, especially that last 1K," she said.
Cranny's performance was just the topper. Coach Elizabeth DeBole was thrilled with her team's running up and down the lineup. Indeed, there was much to be encouraged about.
"It was the first race of the season and they wanted to get a good competitive effort out of it," DeBole said. "They executed that 100 percent. All the girls went out controlled and within themselves the first half of the race. We wanted to work on every 1,000 meters after that, just building intensity, looking up, and keeping the forward momentum."
Besides Fraser's fourth place, No. 3 runner Danielle Katz made a valiant attempt to bridge the gap between second pack and the leaders and placed sixth. Abbie McNulty, a junior, was ninth in 20:52.2, a 25-second improvement over her best 6K cross-country time.
"That may be Abbie's best performance in a Stanford uniform," DeBole said.
Sophomore Catherine Pagano, limited to one race last year because of injury, ran her first competitive race since January and was 24th, and sixth for the team. Hannah DeBalsi, the first of the vaunted freshman class to make her collegiate debut, was 18th and No. 4 for the team. The common denominator among those runners and teammate Maddy Berkson (23rd), was they "had positive momentum at the end."
In other words, they had strong finishes. Even DeBalsi, who fell back during the race, maintained a level of toughness and fought back.
"A really positive day," DeBole said.
At Stanford Golf Course
Leaders and Stanford results
Team leaders: 1, Cal Poly 54; 2, Cal Poly Pomona 63; 3, UC Santa Barbara 114; 4, San Jose State 132; 5, Saint Mary's 143; 6, Tulane 217; 7, Stanford 224.
Individual leaders: 1, Thomas Ratcliffe (unattached-Stanford) 23:17.0; 2, Emmanuel Rotich (Tulane) 23:19.9; 3, Swarnjit Boyal (Cal Poly) 23:22.8. 7, Tai Dinger (Stanford) 23:45.8; 9, Alek Parsons (unattached-Stanford) 23:45.9; 29, Isaac Cortes (unattached-Stanford) 24:19.8; 31, Blair Hurlock (Stanford) 24:23.8; 33, Tom Coyle (Stanford) 24:25.2; 39, Colin Leibold (Strava) 24:29.9; 94, Kevin Bishop (unattached) 25:42.4; 100, Brian Smith (Stanford) 25:47.0; 144, Daniel Book (Stanford) 26:50.8.
Team leaders: 1, Stanford 37; 2, Cal Poly 46; 3, UC Santa Barbara 129; 4, San Jose State 164; 5, Simon Fraser 165; 6, Saint Mary's 184; 7, Tulane 217.
Individual leaders: 1, Elise Cranny (Stanford) 20:02.5; 2, Peyton Bilo (Cal Poly) 20:08.8; 3, Annemarie Schwanz (Fresno St.) 20:16.0; 4, Vanessa Fraser (Stanford) 20:19.0; 6, Danielle Katz (Stanford) 20:34.0; 9, Abbie McNulty (Stanford) 20:52.2; 18, Hannah DeBalsi (Stanford) 21:24.6; 23, Maddy Berkson (Stanford) 21:31.6; 24, Catherine Pagano (Stanford) 21:35.2; 48, Anna Laman (Stanford) 22:30.6.