Jan. 9, 2013
STANFORD, Calif. - With six conference titles in the past decade, the Stanford women could accurately pronounce themselves as the West Coast power for indoor track and field.
The Stanford men, coming off a runner-up finish in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, command a certain respect on the boards as well. Both are ranked among the top 15 -- the women No. 13 and the men No. 15 -- as the Cardinal's indoor season begins Saturday, at the UW Indoor Preview in Seattle.
The meet marks the track program's debut under Chris Miltenberg, Stanford's Franklin P. Johnson Director of Track and Field, and his new staff. They lead Stanford on a schedule that includes seven main events, concluding with the MPSF Championships on Feb. 22-23 in Seattle and the NCAA Championships on March 8-9 in Fayetteville, Ark.
"We'll definitely race a lot," Miltenberg said. "In our framework we want to make sure that everything we do is geared toward running our very best at outdoor track championship time. We'll certainly use indoors as a means for getting there."
Miltenberg's philosophy is to build strength for the outdoor season by competing strong indoors, rather than holding back.
"Our whole coaching staff is in agreement that we can run really well indoors if we're training properly with the big picture in mind," Miltenberg said.
Despite being ranked behind fellow MPSF teams Oregon (No. 3), California (No. 9), Washington (No. 10), and Arizona (No. 12), Stanford is in prime position to repeat as the conference women's champion.
Stanford returns 15 who have scored in individual events at the MPSF championships over the past three years, and that's among 13 different events. In addition, Stanford returns 76 of last year's 125 points and that figure does not include relays or freshmen such as standout distance runners Cami Chapus, Cayla Hatton, and Amy Weissenbach.
This year's Cardinal women's team has 16 individuals who have cracked the Stanford indoor all-time Top 10, including record-holders Kori Carter (60-meter hurdles, 8.22) and Justine Fedronic (800, 2:05.68), and 60 hurdles No. 2 Katie Nelms (8.33). Carter is the defending MPSF champion.
"We've got two of the best hurdlers in the country," Miltenberg said. "And I think we can have a great women's 4x4, which (sprints coach) Jody Stewart and I are really excited about. I think we can surprise a lot of the perennial powers and be ready to run with anybody at the NCAA meet."
The jumps are strong as well. Last year, Stanford swept the top three places in the triple jump to seize the MPSF meet lead. Though double horizontal jump champ Arantxa King has graduated, Karynn Dunn has placed among the top three in both events too, and Jordan Merback was third in the triple.
Dunn also can perform under pressure. At the 2012 NCAA indoors, she soared 21-0½ on her final long-jump of the preliminary round after two fouls. It stood as her only fair jump of the competition and placed her fourth at nationals and No. 4 on the all-time indoor list.
Dunn is among six Stanford athletes with NCAA indoor championship experience, along with All-America distance runner Kathy Kroeger (sixth in the NCAA 3,000 last year). The others are Fedronic, Aisling Cuffe (3,000, distance medley relay), Joy O'Hare (DMR), and Carissa Levingston (60, 200).
The men return 37 points from last season's MPSF meet and have scorers back in eight events, including the mile where Tyler Stutzman and Michael Atchoo were third and fourth last season, and Andrew Berberick and Dylan Ferris were second and fourth in 2011.
Ferris is the team's lone returning indoor All-American, having placed eighth at the 2010 NCAA meet. He and Atchoo have broken the 4-minute barrier indoors. Ferris is No. 6 on Stanford's all-time indoor mile list at 3:58.90 and Atchoo is No. 11 at 3:59.92.
With Sharpe and Dartis Willis II, high jump is an area of strength. Sharpe has finished among the MPSF top six in each of his three seasons, including runner-up last year and is No. 2 in Stanford indoor annals at 7-3, with Willis tied for No. 5 at 6-11½.
The anticipated collegiate debut of freshman Steven Solomon, a 2012 Olympic finalist in the 400, is expected to occur at the New Balance Collegiate Invitational in New York on Feb. 1-2. Solomon is a two-time Australian champion with a best of 44.97, which he ran in the Olympic semifinals. The Stanford outdoor record, held since 1994 by Rene Rodriguez, is 45.85.
"We're excited about him," Miltenberg said. "We'll see what he can do on the national level. With Steven, we're using him indoors to get him ready to run really well outdoors, and into the summer at the World Championships as well."
Six months of indoor and outdoor track and field competition opens Saturday, and with it comes a new era in Cardinal history -- the Miltenberg Era.
-- David Kiefer, Stanford Athletics