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Aisling Cuffe and Jessica Tonn. Photo by Richard C. Ersted/ISIphotos.com.
Q&A: With Chris Miltenberg
Courtesy: David Kiefer  
Release: 10/18/2013

Stanford meet preview | Pre-Nationals Meet Info

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. – On Saturday, the Stanford cross-country teams will compete at the Indiana State Pre-National Invitational on the LaVern Gibson course, which is the same course that will be used for the NCAA Championships on Nov. 23.

This will be the first high-level meet of the season for Stanford, which swept to men’s and women’s victories at the USF and Stanford invitationals in previous action.

Head coach Chris Miltenberg, Stanford’s Franklin P. Johnson Director of Track and Field, talked about the meet and where the teams stand.

Q: What are you looking for at this point of the year?
A: It’s already been a journey to get to where we are right now. Joe Rosa is still on the comeback right now, and Thomas Graham is on the comeback from mono. The team’s already been dealt some adversity this season and done a great job of responding to the challenge. Right now, this weekend is really the first time we’re going to run against substantial competition. This will be the first test of, How do we execute our race plan?

We know our fitness is in a great spot and we’re really starting to move in the right direction. Now, we’re going to a place with a lot of great teams and a lot happening all around us. Are we able to keep our composure, keep our discipline and execute our race plan? That really has to be the key to this whole thing throughout the season. That’s what we’re excited about. It’s a great chance to see how much progress we’ve made since the Stanford Invite.

Our region is now stacked, so going out and competing against the best teams in the country now gives us experience and garner some potential at-large points to fall back on. But, really, we’re focused on, How are we going to run our race this weekend and execute our plan? Plus, we’re getting Sean McGorty some great experience racing over 8K.

Q: What have you seen from Sean, competing in his first official meet for Stanford. so far?

A: For me, when we bring in any freshman, we always look at redshirting as what’s going to be the best thing for their long-term development and the best thing for the program right now. With Sean, he’s a unique case where he’s in a place where he’s really ready to benefit from racing. Some guys are freshmen and the best thing you can do is redshirt and just train.

For Sean, the best thing for his growth and development is for him to race and get that experience at a high level. I think that is going to help him more in the future than anything right now.

Obviously, he ran great at the Stanford Invite (placing fifth overall while running unattached, and would have been No. 3 for Stanford). The Stanford Invite showed his ability and fitness level, but also a lot of room for growth in the way he executes his race plans, to run with a little more patience and a little more composure, which is always the hardest part for freshmen. I thought he learned a lot there. No surprises coming in. Sean has got some great potential and great tools, and we’ve seen some exciting things from him the past few weeks in training. But I think this will be a chance to take all the things he learned and put them to use this weekend.

Q: Freshman Sophie Chase will be running this weekend too, making her Stanford debut?

A: She’s doing awesome. On the women’s side, Sophie and (fifth-year senior) Justine Fedronic didn’t run at Stanford Invite. That was our plan all along. For Sophie Chase, she had been injured during her senior year in high school. I brought her along really slowly throughout the summer and even in the beginning of the fall season when she first got here. Sometimes, she was getting hungry and antsy to do more, which is exactly where we wanted to be coming back from injury.

Sophie’s in that same boat that Sean is, where the best thing for their growth is to be racing at a high level and be part of a great team. And Justine raced so late in the summer, racing in Europe (in the 800 meters), that she is on a unique trajectory to help her back in. That’s why we held her out of the Stanford Invite. Both are doing absolutely phenomenal in training.

Q: What’s the key for the women’s team this weekend? To race as a group?

A: That’s the thing we really need to work on this weekend, them running really well together and getting some really good experience on this course, to focus on what you’re doing while there are a million things going on around you. When there’s a firestorm happening around you, how can you keep composure? This weekend will be a big step because out of the nine women we’re taking, only two have ever been to this course before.

Even though we have some upperclassmen, we’re still low on experience. That’s why this weekend will be great, gaining experience in a place with a lot of other people all around you.

Q: How are you basing this meet and Pac-12’s on what lineup you’re going to run at regionals?

A: This will be a starting point. I think we’ve already got a sense of who that will be. What makes a great team when you line up seven, is having nine or 10 people in the mix. On both sides, we’ve got that happening right now. Especially on the women’s side, we’ve got nine to 11 who can line up for us any day. I think that’s why we’re pretty good.

The men’s side, we don’t quite have the same depth because we’re going to redshirt the rest of the freshmen most likely, but we really have a lot of guys who are starting to come around well. We’ll take seven men and nine women. The men are starting to hone in a little bit more.

Q: As for Joe Rosa and Thomas Graham, do you anticipate them running in the top seven by the end of the season?

A: They’re going to run a week before regionals, at UC Davis, and run unattached. They’re both making phenomenal progress and are so much better now than they were two weeks ago. I’m super excited about where they’re at. I think in a few more weeks, they can be a lot better than they are right now. That’s our general plan. We’ll use that race as a gauge on where they’re at. But I’m certainly optimistic they can come back. For sure.


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