June 7, 2013
EUGENE, Ore. - Kori Carter had just the right word to describe her NCAA record -- "Hellacious!"
The Stanford junior won the women's 400-meter hurdle title at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships on Friday and did so in a time so fast she was left in disbelief as she glanced at the clock upon crossing the Hayward Field finish line.
Carter ran a world-leading 53.21 to break the meet and in-season collegiate record of 53.54 by UCLA's Sheena Johnson in 2004. She also became the No. 6 performer in U.S. history while capturing her first NCAA title.
"I was really shocked," Carter said. "If it was 53.9, I was going to be really happy. When I saw 53.21 ... it was hellacious!"
Carter's performance was the most spectacular of the day, but not the only highlight for Stanford. In the women's 800 final, senior Justine Fedronic and freshman Amy Weissenbach both shattered the Stanford record, with Fedronic third in 2:01.67 and Weissenbach sixth in 2:02.29. Fedronic broke her own previous school record of 2:03.53 by nearly two seconds.
By adding 19 points Friday, Stanford holds fourth place in the women's team competition with 25 -- matching its total of each of the past two years and almost ensuring a top-10 finish. With two competitors left - Carter in the 100 hurdles and Alyssa Wisdom in the shot put Saturday -- Stanford can finish with a maximum of 45. After three of the four days of competition, Kansas leads with 48, followed by Oregon (33) and Arizona State (26).
Carter is now No. 2 among collegians against all competition. Johnson still holds that mark, having run a 52.95 at the 2004 U.S. Olympic trials. But that's another record for Carter to shoot for, having improved upon her personal best by 3.49 seconds this year.
"She did a lot of speed work before," said first year Stanford sprints/hurdles coach Jody Stewart. "The thing we did when we first got here was tell her, `You've got to get stronger, on the track and in the weight room.'"
Carter's focus has shifted from the 100 hurdles - she is a repeat Pac-12 champion - to the 400 hurdles and her interval workouts have stretched to as long as 1,200 meters.
"I have a greater base this year," Carter said. "I definitely have a lot more gas in the tank."
There was concern that her workload would leave her fatigued. She had run prelims of both hurdles events in each the previous two days. But one look at her Friday morning dispelled those thoughts.
"Recovery was our major concern," Stewart said. "But when we did our `shakeout' at 10 a.m., she looked ready to go. I thought, `She's going to do something special today.'"
When Carter took the line, she had three things on her mind: "Be confident, focused, and execute," she said.
Though she had beaten Arizona's Georganne Moline, the 2012 Olympic fifth-place finisher, all four times they've raced this year, the duels have always been fast and close. And this would promise to be another.
Carter attacked the first 200 meters, but was a little too excited, leaving her steps a bit off as she crossed the first hurdle with her right leg - she prefers her left. But she stuck to the race plan: Keep the pace, relaxed around the turn, and "run the last 100 for my life," she said.
Carter led throughout, but not by much. Moline always surges off the curve and she did so once again. But Carter, as has been her trademark and evidence of her increased strength, pulled away over the final 50 meters.
"She put it all together, from start to finish," Stewart said. "It was one of the most beautiful races I've ever seen."
For the third time this season, Carter smashed her own school record, this time by a full second from her 54.21 from the Pac-12 Championships on May 12 at USC, and re-took this year's world lead, this time from the 53.70 of the Czech Republic's Zuzana Hejnova.
"The thing about Kori is she keeps working," Stewart said. "Honestly, she still has more room for improvement."
Carter celebrated with a massage and an ice bath rather than a party. After all, she must race again Saturday in the 100 hurdles final at 3:09 p.m.
"It's going to come down to my start," she said. "I know I'll be fine from hurdles six through 10, but if I can control one through five, I think I'll do really well."
Carter becomes Stanford's first women's champion in either hurdle race and first NCAA champ in a track event since Alicia Craig won the 10,000 in 2004. Carter also becomes the 14th Stanford woman to win an NCAA outdoor title.
"I just wanted to say `thank you' to Coach Miltenberg," said Stewart of Stanford's first-year Franklin P. Johnson Director of Track and Field Chris Miltenberg. "For having faith in me, and giving this young guy a shot."
In the 800, Fedronic earned the highest finish ever for a Stanford woman in the 800, improving upon the fourth place of eventual three-time Olympian Regina Jacobs in 1982.
The Stanford runners held fifth and sixth going into the final turn when Weissenbach made a push to the outside. As they gathered down the final stretch, Fedronic found room on the rail and battled stride for stride with LSU's Charlene Lipsey before outleaning the 2012 NCAA runner-up for third. LSU's Natoya Goule led wire to wire to win in 2:00.06.
Fedronic's performance was the crowning jewel of a special senior year (she does have one season of indoor eligibility remaining) and of a collegiate career that begin with a series of injuries that carried over from high school. She began to fulfill her potential a year ago when she missed on an NCAA finals berth by one place and has progressed ever since.
This year, the key has been "patience," Miltenberg said. "We really just wanted to keep her healthy and get her to the starting line each week, and just be patient with her progression."
On Weissenbach, who broke her own Stanford freshman record of 2:04.19 from the semifinals, Miltenberg said he has run beyond her experience.
"Coming around the backstretch, she made a pretty decision move to try to get into fourth place," Miltenberg said. "That showed me a lot for a freshman, to have the fearlessness, assertiveness, and confidence to make that move. The place almost doesn't matter compared with seeing her race with that kind of maturity."
Stanford's Day Three Results
800 final - 3, Justine Fedronic 2:01.67; 6, Amy Weissenbach 2:02.29.
5,000 final - 13, Aisling Cuffe 16:16.37; 17, Jessica Tonn 16:22.72.
400 hurdles final - 1, Kori Carter 53.21.
-- David Kiefer, Stanford Athletics