Jan. 12, 2012
Men's Track and Field Outlook
The Stanford men are coming off another successful season with top-10 finishes at both the NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Championships. Despite the lofty national finishes, expectations are even higher for 2012, with a veteran squad full of top performers having the chance to contend for podium positions at both championships.
Franklin P. Johnson Director of Track and Field Edrick Floreal has built Stanford into a perennial contender that is strong in all event groups. The Cardinal is once again loaded in the distances and has a group of other specialists sprinkled throughout the events capable of scoring big points at nationals, with several capable of competing for national titles.
The sprints/hurdles group begins with Amaechi Morton who is the capable of NCAA individual titles and potentially a spot on the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team. Morton is versatile enough to score at several events, but his specialty is the 400-meter hurdles, where he is one of the best in the world. Morton finished as the NCAA runner-up last year in the event, but the graduation of Jeshua Anderson of Washington State leaves Morton as the favorite. During the indoor season, Morton will compete in the open 400 meters where he was an All-American last season among other events. Beyond Morton, the sprint group is fairly young, although Spencer Chase and Alfredo Corral give the Cardinal have a good group in the 400 meters. Chase made the NCAA meet last year and could step up this season to take the 400-meter spot on the distance medley relay to give Morton options to compete in more open events. In the short sprints, Colin Hepburn had a solid freshmen season, but it is a young group that will need development time.
"Amaechi can do just about anything from the 60 to the 800 meters, said Floreal. "However, he is a senior so we need some other people to start stepping up. Spencer Chase
going to the NCAAs last year was a big deal for that."
The distance crew is deep and talented and will be the backbone of the Cardinal again this year. The team will be particularly strong during the indoor season as a couple of fifth-year seniors, Elliott Heath and Jake Riley, only have indoor eligibility left. Heath was the NCAA champion indoors at 3,000 meters and is perhaps the most versatile distance runner in the nation. He will compete for an NCAA title again at 3K, but is also capable at the mile or 5,000 meters as well as anchoring the distance medley relay. Riley is a distance specialist and has been an All-American at 5,000 and 10,000 meters and will also compete at 3,000 meters. The other member of the big three for Stanford distance running, Chris Derrick, enters his senior track season looking for his first NCAA individual title. Derrick finished as the NCAA runner-up during cross country and will be a threat at 3,000 and 5,000 meters during the indoor season and especially 5,000 and 10,000 meters during the outdoor season. Derrick is already an 11-time All-American and could tie the school record of 15 All-America honors of Jonathon Riley this season. Outside of the big three, Stanford remains loaded. Andrew Berberick, Dylan Ferris and Michael Atchoo highlight a deep group of milers with several capable of running under four minutes. Ferris will also run the 800 alongside Tom Mallon who redshirted his freshmen season, but ran under 1:50 in high school. In the distances, Miles Unterreiner ran at both NCAA track championships last season, Brendan Gregg is back for his fifth year after a breakthrough cross-country season and Benjamin Johnson is a NCAA title contender in the steeplechase. Others looking for that breakthrough season that have shown flashes in the past are Tyler Stutzman and Riley Sullivan, while Jim Rosa and Joe Rosa are freshmen twin brothers that could contribute immediately.
"It should be business as usual for us in the distances. We are going to need to figure out how to replace Chris, Elliott and Jake when they are gone next year, but in the meantime we are as balanced and talented as we ever are going to be. It is just a matter of everyone being healthy at the same time."
The Cardinal jumpers will get a boost from a great freshman class. Stanford added Dartis Willis II and Will Findlay in the high jump where veteran Jules Sharpe has already been a second team All-American. The additions should give the Cardinal one of the best high jump groups in the nation as Willis is a prized recruit that will contend with the best high jumpers in the country right away. In the long and triple jumps, Darian Brooks comes to The Farm and could immediately be its best in both events. Kevin Cardey and others will complete the group that is deeper than it has been in previous seasons. In the pole vault, Corey Dysick is back for his senior season and should be an NCAA contender. Dysick has a cleared 17 feet in the past and should go even higher this season.
"We have a great group of freshmen, which is good and bad," said Floreal. "The best thing about a freshman is they become a sophomore. Dartis Willis II jumped 7-2 in high school so he should be a NCAA participant right away. Darian Brooks has a shot in the triple jump as well, but they make this a stronger group alongside Jules Sharpe and Corey Dysick."
Geoffrey Tabor is Stanford's top thrower and will be looking to win the first Pac-12 title in the discus after being the last Pac-10 champion in the event a year ago. Tabor made his NCAA debut a season ago and will look to get back to the meet this season and score points for the Cardinal. After Tabor, it is a young group, although Jeremy Hines is emerging as an immense talent. Hines could join Tabor at the NCAA meet this season as just a sophomore.
"Geoffrey Tabor should compete for a spot on the podium," said Floreal. "His first time at the NCAAs was a learning experience, but hopefully he can be better at handling the pressure this time around. Jeremy Hines has a lot of talent. Most throwers don't compete as a freshmen, but he was able to do that last year and he continues to get better."
The Cardinal will not have a true decathlete this season. Corey Dysick has competed in the grueling two-day competition in the past and may be counted on once again for points, but mostly will concentrate on the pole vault this season.
"Corey Dysick might compete in the multis because he is a good enough athlete to get us some points," said Floreal. "Otherwise we won't really have a multi-event athlete this year. Jacob Young is still a year or two away since he has not pole vaulted before."