Practically A Sure Thing

Stanford, Kipyego Should Roll To Titles

Nov. 16, 2007

By Brett Hess

Special to CSTV.com

 



Brett Hess

Brett Hess covers Cross Country for CSTV.com
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There are no sure things in collegiate sports; but if there were, it would happen Monday on the LaVern Gibson Championship Course in Terre Haute, Ind.

 

There, the Stanford women expect - along with everyone else in the sport - to win their third straight NCAA Division I cross country championship. The Cardinal's strong pack will likely be following Texas Tech's Sally Kipyego as she successfully defends her individual title.

 

Not only are both Stanford and Kipyego undefeated this season, but both have been dominant in doing so. Consider that Stanford won last week's NCAA West Regional with a ridiculously low score of 33 points. Then factor in that the field consisted of three other teams ranked in the nation's top seven. No. 2 Oregon was second with 72, No. 5 Arizona State was next with 106 and No. 7 Washington fourth with 118.


 

 

 

"Our team came in with an awesome ability to focus on what we needed to do to get to nationals, and not be distracted," said Stanford's Teresa McWalters. "The crowds at Oregon are always so great and supportive - we just wished they were cheering for us, so we kind of pretend they are."

 

McWalters won the meet, leading a parade of Cardinal teammates across the finish line. Placing third was Alex Gits, fifth was Arianna Lambie and 10th was Lauren Centrowitz. Katie Harrington (14th) was Stanford's No. 5 runner.

 

Only a week before, Stanford had whipped Oregon on its home course for its 12th straight Pac-10 title. Lambie won her third straight conference title and McWalters was runner-up.

 

Okay, you say, Stanford certainly has Oregon's number (and the rest of the Pac-10). But what about the rest of the field?

 

Let's see: there's No. 3 Florida State.

 

Nope. Stanford whipped the Seminoles, 102-123, to win the Blue race at Pre-Nationals in October on the Terre Haute course.

 

Anybody else?

 

No. It was at Pre-Nationals that Stanford also beat the best the Big Ten has to offer. No. 6 Minnesota and No. 8 Michigan State were fourth and third, respectively, in the race.

 

Even with such a strong regular season, there is a chance a team could slip up. But not likely with this Stanford crew: McWalters, Lambie and Centrowitz are all seniors, so rookie jitters shouldn't play a factor. In fact, running well in November is a tradition. It is a tradition that McWalters won't take credit for starting.

 

"Our class came in together, and even as freshmen we were pretty mature for our ages," McWalters said. "We were also lucky to have several upperclassmen here then that helped us to deal with the transition to college quickly. They had been close to winning [nationals] a couple years, and they taught us things that we've been able to benefit from right away."

 

McWalters is already a seven-time all-America and Lambie an 11-time selection. Lambie placed fourth last fall in the national meet, where she got a great view of Kipyego's splash onto the national scene.

 

It was the beginning of an incredible scholastic year for Kipyego, who went on to win two national titles at the NCAA Indoors (3,000 and 5,000) and then one more at the NCAA Outdoors (10,000). Only a second-place finish in the 5,000 kept her from a record-breaking fifth distance title in one scholastic year.

 

Chasing Kipyego on Monday, along with McWalters and Lambie, figure to be Florida State's Susan Kuijken, Iowa's Diane Nukuri and Colorado's Jenny Barringer.

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