Saturday, May 06, 2017

Fraser Runs Fast

Payton Jordan Invite is in the books
Fraser Runs Fast
David Kiefer

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Vanessa Fraser celebrates with friends and teammates after running the second-fastest time by an American this year, in a huge personal record.

STANFORD, Calif.Vanessa Fraser, a Stanford senior, shattered her personal best in the 5,000 meters at the Payton Jordan Invitational in a time that would have the fastest by a collegian outdoors this season if she was not redshirting.

Fraser's 15:25.83 placed her ninth in the invitational section of a meet that has established itself as the prime destination for fast distance times. It was a lifetime best by 15 seconds and would have put her No. 5 all-time at Stanford, jumping ahead of such luminaries as PattiSue Plumer and Alicia Craig.

Fraser celebrated by receiving a high-five from former teammate Jessica Tonn, who was in the same race, and a big hug from coach Elizabeth DeBole. After an interview or two, Fraser jogged to the section of the grandstands that was packed with Stanford friends and teammates and was mobbed.

Sixteen of the world's 21 fastest outdoor times this year were recorded in the two women's 5,000 heats at Payton Jordan, including the top five American times. Fraser is No. 2 on the U.S. list – behind third place Lauren Paquette in 15:20.48, and No. 14 in the world.

Though a steady wind may have hampered the times, the meet produced two national records: by Luis Fernando Ostos Cruz of Peru, who ran the men's 10,000 in 27:53.58, and women's 10,000 winner Meraf Bahta of Sweden (31:13.06). There were four world-leading times, five U.S. leaders, and three collegiate leaders. And 26 runners broke qualifying standards for the IAAF World Championships in London this summer, including 13 in the women's 10,000.

Fraser, the one-time walk-on out of nearby Scotts Valley High has run a lifetime best each year at this meet. As a freshman, she set a 15-second personal best, to 16:22.64 while running in the third heat. As a sophomore in 2016, her 15:54.12 in the second heat was a seven-second best. Last year, as a junior, she dropped it to 15:41.64, also out of the second heat.

Fraser has dropped her best time by an average of 12.6 seconds each year at Payton Jordan. Though her time was barely outside the U.S. Championships automatic qualifying standard of 15:25.00, she should get in.

"It's really funny, because from year to year it doesn't feel like anything really changes, other than just getting another consistent year of training," said Fraser, a three-time All-American. "It's crazy, because my freshman year at this meet, I PR'd and ran 16:22. Now, it's almost a minute off of that.

"If you would have told me at that meet as a freshman that I was going to run 15:25 in three years, I would have laughed. It seems so huge, but it really only chips away, with consistent training."

The race developed perfectly. The pace went out slightly slower than anticipated, which played into Fraser's hands. It kept the pack close together and, with a bit of wind, that was fine. Fraser tucked into the lead pack was pulled to a quick pace without having to fully expend herself.

Another trick helped. Her personal playlist was broadcast over the public-address system as background during the race.

"Instead of focusing on the number of laps I had left, I'm just focusing on my vibe," Fraser said. "Because you get in a rhythm and you're not really thinking about where you are in the race."

Fraser, a symbolic systems major with a concentration on neuroscience, feels like this performance against a professional field will give her confidence when once again puts on a Stanford singlet, in cross country and outdoor track in 2017-18.

Fourteen women in her race broke 15:30. Running and competing with high-caliber professionals "really helps my confidence," she said.  "It will be a really great stepping stone going into cross country in the fall."

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