April 6, 2010
Stanford, Calif. - Stanford track and field competes in the most unique event of the year this weekend when it takes on California for the 116th Big Meet in Berkeley. For the only time all season, the Cardinal will compete in a dual meet where team scores matter more than individual marks.
The Cardinal men have won the last three Big Meets, including last season when the meet came down to the wire with Stanford winning 83-80. On the women's sides, the two schools will be competing for the 31st time with Stanford winning the last 10 occasions.
The Big Meet is an unusual event in today's track and field that is usually geared towards large fields aimed to run fast times. Saturday, the meet is all about competition with Stanford and Cal looking for Bay Area bragging rights.
"I think the Big Meet is a chance to really test the athletes ability to compete," said Franklin P. Johnson Director of Track and Field Edrick Floreal. "Even if they were just competing for marbles, at the Big Meet, they are going to want the most marbles."
This year's version of the Big Meet will take place at Edwards Stadium on the campus of California. The field events begin Saturday morning with the women's hammer at 10:30 a.m. The track events will not get underway until the afternoon with the national anthem at 1:00 p.m. Immediately following will be the first running event, the women's 3,000-meter steeplechase.
The competition in the Big Meet also causes athletes to compete in several events to score as many team points as possible. All-America distance runner Elliott Heath expects to run both the 1,500 and 3,000 meters, while All-America pentathlete and triple jumper Whitney Liehr is capable of so many events that she does not know where she will compete.
"I love the Big Meet because you throw times completely out the window," said Heath. "It's just about competing."
"I'll be ready for wherever (the coaches) decide they want me," said Liehr.
The tradition of the Big Meet tracks back over a century with many legendary athletes for both sides. One of them is current Stanford assistant coach Toby Stevenson. He participated in the meet as an athlete for the Cardinal before going onto a successful professional career that included an Olympic silver medal in the pole vault.
"I hate Cal, I hate blue and gold and I even hate bears," joked Stevenson. "Really, it isn't that I hate them, it is just that I hate losing to them."
With so much at stake, it should make for an interesting meet this Saturday. Both teams have a lot of talent and plenty of reason to put it all on display.
"There are going to be All-Americans who don't score points in a dual meet," said assistant coach Jason Dunn. "That is how competitive this meet will be."