Feb. 23, 2013
SEATTLE - Stanford junior Michael Atchoo ran the mile in 3:57.14 to break school and meet records at the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation indoor track and field championships Saturday.
Atchoo not only broke Olympian Michael Stember's Stanford indoor mark of 3:58.40 from 2000, but pulled teammate Tyler Stutzman to a 3:58.85, the No. 7 indoor time in school history, in a 1-2 Cardinal finish.
Atchoo's time was the fastest by any Stanford runner in 27 years, indoors or outdoors. Olympian Jeff Atkinson's outdoor 3:55.16 in 1986 is the only faster mile in school history.
Stember, who ran in the 2000 Sydney Games, wasn't the only Olympian to succumb to Atchoo. The 2010 MPSF meet record of 3:58.20 by Oregon's two-time Olympian Andrew Wheating went down too.
"Michael is running with the assertiveness of one of the best guys in the country," said Chris Miltenberg, Stanford's Franklin P. Johnson Director of Track and Field. "We're preparing him to peak in the outdoor season, so we haven't done a lot of speed work. Michael is doing all this stuff off strength."
The times were among seven additions to the all-time Stanford indoor Top-10 lists on Saturday, the meet's final day, though Stanford had no other individual winners.
The Cardinal women were fourth with 82 points, with Oregon winning with 112. And the men were fifth with 66, with Arizona State winning with 125.5.
Atchoo wasn't aware of his school record until Miltenberg informed him later. Atchoo said the goal was not to focus on running fast at this time of year, but said doing so is a "bonus."
"The end goal is May and June," Atchoo said. "Right now, I'm just putting in the work and training through these meets. Every time we hit the track, it's another opportunity to race and compete. It's nice to run fast times, but it's about training right now."
This is the second sub-4 mile for Atchoo, who ran a 3:59.92 on the same 307-meter flat Dempsey Indoor track at University of Washington last year. Three weeks ago, he and Stutzman were 1-2 at the Armory Collegiate Invitational in New York City, both in the 4:02 range, with Atchoo selected as the Outstanding Performer of the Meet.
"He's a big meet competitor, who runs with a lot of maturity, a lot of composure, and a lot of toughness," Miltenberg said.
Stutzman had struggled with balky knees since Christmas break and has had few good days of training since. As recently as a week ago, he wasn't sure he would be able to race. Stutzman was in last place for first part of the race while Atchoo settled into fifth.
"The plan was to get out toward the front, but not in the front," Atchoo said. "It was a crazy (fast) start, so it took a while to get a good spot."
At the half, both began to move up. Atchoo was in third when he made a decisive move with 350 meters left, going outside to pass Oregon's Mac Fleet and Arizona State's Nick Happe, and continued his closing drive all the way to the finish. His final quarter was 57 seconds.
"I thought I would take the race over when I knew I could win from there," said Atchoo about the timing of his kick. "I knew I had the gear to finish.
"I'm feeling really fit and really strong. But I'm still working on my finishing speed."
Meanwhile, Stutzman rolled up competitors with an equally impressive kick.
"The guy is extremely tough and competitive," Miltenberg said of Stutzman. "Even though he was in the back, he kept his head in the race."
Atchoo and Stutzman are among 13 Stanford runners - indoors and outdoors - to have broken four minutes in the mile. The select list includes four Olympians: Atkinson, Stember, Gabe Jennings, and Duncan MacDonald.
Among the Stanford highlights were three runner-up finishes by the Cardinal women: Katie Nelms in the 60-meter hurdles (8.27, No. 2 all-time), Jordan Merback in the triple jump (40-7½), and freshman Amy Weissenbach in the 800 (2:06.14).
Kristyn Williams was part of two Top-10 list additions, anchoring the 4x400 to third in 3:38.16 (No. 4 all-time) and running 54.71 in the 400 (ninth place, No. 7 all-time). Alyssa Wisdom put the shot 55-8¼ (fourth, No. 3 all-time), and Elaine Patten cleared 5-7¼ in the high jump (fourth, tied for No. 9 all-time). Also, Emilie Amaro ran a Stanford season best in the mile while placing fifth in 4:48.47.
Highlights for the men included Jules Sharpe's third-place in the high jump (7-3), Geoffrey Tabor's third in the shot put (58-0¼), and freshman Justin Brinkley's fifth in the 800 in a team season best of 1:51.22.
Sharpe, who jumped a personal record 7-3¼ in his most recent competition, two weeks ago at the Don Kirby Invitational in Albuquerque, N.M., "showed that he is for real," Miltenberg said.
The senior has a three title-less top-three finishes at the MPSF meet, but came closest on Saturday. He was among four jumpers who topped out at 7-3, but placed behind two others based on more misses.
Sharpe opened at 6-11 and cleared it on his first try before passing at 7-1. However, it took him three tries to make 7-3 while winner Edgar Rivera-Morales of Arizona was perfect through that height and Arizona State's Bryan McBride had one miss.
All-America long jumper Karynn Dunn was a late scratch because of hamstring concerns. However, she is expected to jump at the UW Final Qualifier on March 1 at the same venue in an effort to gain one of the top 16 marks in the nation and secure a berth in the NCAA Championships on March 8-9 in Fayetteville, Ark.