STANFORD, Calif. – Next year, running will be part of Sophie Chase's athletic experience, but not all of it. The Stanford senior will bypass a possible fifth year of eligibility to become a full-time triathlete.
The understanding that this is her final year strictly as a runner has helped fill Chase with a sense of freedom. The self-imposed pressure seems to be gone. Now, she's simply enjoying every moment.
That certainly was the case Friday at the Cardinal Classic when Chase won her section of the 5,000 meters while crushing her personal record by 14 seconds. Chase ran 16:19.77 at Cobb Track and Angell Field to contribute to Stanford victories in three of the four races at that distance.
Freshman Fiona O'Keeffe and sophomore Grant Fisher captured the headlining invitational sections in outstanding times. O'Keeffe ran a personal record 15:56.03 – the fourth-fastest ever by a Stanford freshman – and Fisher ran the third-fastest collegiate outdoor time this year, of 13:37.77.
Chase has taken a different approach to running this season that seems to have made a difference.
"I feel such a peace with running now," Chase said. "I love just being out here. For a long time mentally, I would build these races up to something that it just became almost a mental block for me. I needed to have fun."
Chase has conditioned herself to think positively during a race. Rather than be filled with dread, she now puts herself in the moment and puts her faith in her coaches and training.
"I've really been working on positive talk too," Chase said. "It's something I've challenged myself with -- saying words like 'courage,' 'strength' and 'confident.' For a long time, I'd get in races like this and doubt myself, and have that negative self-talk. It makes such a difference in how you carry yourself."
The time should be enough to carry Chase to the NCAA West Prelims for the first time and, perhaps, to her first Pac-12 Championships. She never has competed at an outdoor postseason meet, though she has two NCAA All-West Region selections to her credit in cross country and showed a new aggressiveness in placing fifth at the MPSF Indoor Championships this year in the 3,000.
"I've really turned a corner," Chase said.
Following Danielle Katz, who acting as the rabbit, Chase tucked behind her teammate and continued to grind after Katz stepped off the track at 3,000.
Next year, Chase will join USA Triathlon's Collegiate Resident Program, giving her a fully-funded year, with coaching, in Scottsdale, Arizona. Chase caught their eye through the combination of a strong swimming and running background. She was a competitive swimmer for 12 years before she became a runner and often competed in swimming and track competitions on the same day while at Lake Braddock Secondary School in her native Burke, Virginia.
Though she's giving up one more Stanford season, Chase will graduate with a degree in history this spring, and then begin life as a triathlete.
She's adjusted by substituting swimming for double-day runs over the past three years. She discovered the extra runs were tough on her body and the pool offered a similar training benefit without the impact.
"I've been dreaming about doing triathlons for quite a while," she said. "This is the right time. It's exciting to be out here. Once you let go of control, it's crazy. I'm trusting God. He's given me the talent and opportunity. There's nothing else to do but go and do it. but I'm ready to close this chapter and start a new adventure."
In her first collegiate 5,000 race, O'Keeffe won the women's invitational in a personal-best time. O'Keeffe ran the second-fastest time by a freshman this year, to pull away from Kansas' Sharon Lokedi, the fifth-place finisher at the NCAA Cross Country Championships, and win by four seconds.
Coaches Elizabeth DeBole and Chris Miltenberg, Stanford's Franklin P. Johnson Director of Track and Field, instructed O'Keeffe "to go with the pack for the first mile or two and then see what was happening, and keep it rolling for the last mile," O'Keeffe said.
The time, which bettered her U.S. Junior Championships record of 15:56.84 in her most recent 5,000, was especially encouraging considering that Stanford is locked into a hard training cycle. This would seem to indicate that there is even more on the horizon.
"Competing is the primary thing," O'Keeffe said. "At this point of the season, it's about getting in the races and learning from it. I'm pleasantly surprised. I didn't have a time in mind and I knew it was a strong field. I was fortunate to have the race I did."
"She crushed it," Fisher said.
As did Fisher. In the men's marquee race, Fisher patiently weaved his way up the field before unleashing a final-lap kick. He ran the third-fastest outdoor collegiate time this year and the fastest by an underclassman.
Fisher drew up to Colorado's Joe Klecker and Oklahoma State's Hassan Abdi on the penultimate lap and passed them with 300 to go. On the final turn, Fisher powered forward, leaving his opponents behind, and ran his final strides with a smile across his face.
"I wanted to stay under the radar most of the race," Fisher said. "I tried to start pretty conservative and patient and tried to move up as the race went on. We tried to pack run our way through. We got to about two miles and tried to close as hard as we could. I found myself in a great spot and just trusted myself at the end."
With Fisher, who ran a sub-4 mile in high school and placed sixth in the 5,000 at NCAA Outdoors as a freshman, there is some uncertainty into which event he will concentrate on in the postseason.
"Right now, I'd say I'm in better 5K shape than 1,500 shape," Fisher said. "But as the season progresses, Coach wants us to be ready in both. It's possible I'll be in better 15 shape by the time regionals come around. You never know. I'm open for both and Coach trains us for both."
Stanford junior Olivia Baker ran a strong outdoor 800 opener. The 2016 NCAA outdoor runner-up followed the rabbit for 600 meters, before finishing strong to outpoint Canadian Olympian Alisha Brown in 2:03.45, the sixth-fastest collegiate time in the country.
Stanford earned two victories in the throwing events. Sophomore Mackenzie Little continued her streak of never losing a home meet, improving to 6-0 in the javelin, with a winning toss of 165-10 (50.56 meters). And Michael Painter, a graduate student in computer science, won the hammer at 210-10 (64.26m), with teammate Tristen Newman in third in 199-0 (60.65m).
Mr. Versatility was Stanford's Jaak Uudmae. The native of Estonia was fourth in the long jump with a personal best 24-7 (7.49m) and doubled with his first 200, running 22.17 for 18th.
The meet continues Saturday. Among the featured events will be the women's discus, featuring U.S. leader and Stanford redshirt Valarie Allman against Florida State's Kellion Knibb in a matchup of two of the top three finishers at last season's NCAA Championships. Allman's roommate, 2016 NCAA 1,500 runner-up Elise Cranny, races in her specialty alongside teammate and fellow U.S. Olympic Trials semifinalist Christina Aragon.
At Cobb Track and Angell Field
Winners and Stanford competitors
200 – 1, Duane McClurkin (Colorado) 21.08; 4, Jackson Shumway (unattached) 21.39; 7, Harrison Williams (unattached) 21.61; 18, Jaak Uudmae (Stanford) 22.17, PB; 22, Amit Maity (Stanford) 22.47.
800 – Invitational: 1, Clay Lambourne (Utah State) 1:47.31. Sec. 2: 6, Brian Smith (Stanford) 2:16.58. Sec. 3: 7, Daniel Book (Stanford) 1:56.27. Sec. 4: 4, Nathaniel Kucera (Stanford) 1:56.65.
5,000 – Invitational: 1, Grant Fisher (Stanford) 13:37.77; 12, Jack Keelan (Stanford) 14:03.67; 14, Garrett Sweatt (Stanford) 14:08.28. Sec. 2: 10, Blair Hurlock (Stanford) 14:28.62; 12, Will Lauer (Stanford) 14:35.99.
400 hurdles – 1, James Rhoden (Florida State) 51.92; 5, Colin Dolese (Stanford) 52.80; 6, Julian Body (Stanford) 53.09; 10, Daniel Brady (Stanford) 53.21; 13, Lucas Ege (Stanford) 53.91, PB.
Pole vault – 1, Glen Harold (Minnesota) 16-5 ¼ (5.01m).
Long jump – 1, Keniel Grant (Florida State) 25-5 ¼ (7.75m); 4, Jaak Uudmae (Stanford) 24-7 (7.49m), PB; 5, Harrison Williams (unattached) 23-11 ½ (7.30m), PB.
Hammer – 1, Michael Painter (Stanford) 210-10 (64.26m); 3, Tristen Newman (Stanford) 199-0 (60.65m), PB; 11, Landon Ellingson (Stanford) 143-2 (43.64m).
Javelin – 1, Devin Wright (Utah State) 210-2 (64.05m); 2, Charles Kerr (Stanford) 203-5 (62.01m).
200 – 1, Shauna Helps (Florida State) 23.69; 4, Michaela Crunkleton Wilson (Stanford) 24.62.
800 – Invitational: 1, Olivia Baker (Stanford) 2:03.45; 4, Malika Waschmann (Stanford) 2:05.35. Sec. 2: 4, Sarah Walker (Stanford) 2:07.30; 7, Maddy Berkson (Stanford) 2:11.01.
5,000 – Invitational: 1, Fiona O'Keeffe (Stanford) 15:56.03, PB, No. 4 Stanford frosh AT. Sec. 2: 1, Sophie Chase (Stanford) 16:19.77, PB; 5, Abbie McNulty (Stanford) 16:48.24.
400 hurdles – 1, Jade Miller (Harvard) 57.43.
High jump – 1, Eleonora Omoregie (Florida State) 5-10 ¾ (1.80m); 2, Rachel Reichenbach (Stanford) 5-8 (1.73m).
Long jump – 1, Jogaile Petrokaite (Florida State) 20-8w (6.30m); 3, Daryth Gayles (Stanford) 20-2 1/4w (6.15m), 17-3 ½, (5.27m); 11, Marisa Kwiatkowski (Stanford) 18-10 ½ (5.75m).
Hammer – 1, Veronika Kanuchova (Florida State) 209-2 (63.76m); 3, Lena Giger (Stanford) 183-7 (55.95m).
Javelin – 1, Mackenzie Little (Stanford) 165-10 (50.56m); 3, Victoria Smith (Stanford) 136-10 (41.70m).
PB = personal best
AT = all-time
Saturday schedule of Stanford athletes
2 p.m.: Men's high jump (Trevor Rex).
2 p.m.: Women's discus (Valarie Allman*, Jaimi Salone).
2 p.m.: Men's shot put (Tristen Newman, Harrison Williams*).
2 p.m.: Women's triple jump (Marisa Kwiatkowski).
4 p.m.: Men's triple jump (Fisayo Omilana).
4 p.m.: Women's pole vault (Taylore Jaques*, Erika Malaspina, Nicole Summersett).
4:44 p.m.: Women's steeplechase (Danielle Katz).
5 p.m.: Men's discus (Landon Ellingson).
5 p.m.: Women's shot put (Lena Giger, Jaimi Salone).
5:14 p.m.: Women's 100 hurdles (Sec. 1: Hannah Labrie-Smith).
5:25 p.m.: Men's 110 hurdles (Harrison Williams*).
5:36 p.m.: Women's 400 (Sec. 1: Missy Mongiovi; Sec. 2: Amber Lewis).
5:44 p.m.: Men's 400 (Sec. 3: Frank Kurtz, Jackson Shumway*).
5:58 p.m.: Women's 100 (Sec. 2: Daryth Gayles).
6:09 p.m.: Men's 100 (Sec. 1: Terrance Alexander; Sec. 2: Isaiah Brandt-Sims).
6:23 p.m.: Women's 1,500 (Sec. 4: Claire Smith).
6:36 p.m.: Women's 1,500 (Sec. 3: Catherine Pagano).
6:43 p.m.: Men's 1,500 (Sec. 3: Scott Buttinger, Ryan Silva).
6:49 p.m.: Women's 1,500 (Sec. 2: Maddy Berkson, Vanessa Fraser*, Rebecca Mehra).
6:56 p.m.: Men's 1,500 (Sec. 2: Tai Dinger, Collin Leibold*, Patrick Perrier).
7:02 p.m.: Women's 1,500 (Sec. 1/Invitational: Christina Aragon, Elise Cranny, Malika Waschmann).
7:15 p.m.: Women's 4x400 (Stanford).
7:21 p.m.: Men's 4x400 (Sec. 1: Stanford 'B'; Sec. 2: Stanford 'A').
* Stanford alum or redshirt