How many years has it been since we have not been gazing upwards at the Division One cross country dynasty that is Oregon Cross Country? They were the Yankees of college running, truly. But now for the first time in a while, it is looking like the Ducks could be in jeopardy of not placing at the top five at the NCAA Championships.
Just in the west alone are Portland, Washington, Northern Arizona, Brigham Young, and Colorado to start. This combined with many strong teams in the Midwest and Northeast, and it seems like there are more good teams in the hunt this year than in any of the past ten years.
However, there is one fact that seems undeniable: Stanford is in a league of its own, and the real race at Nationals this year will be for second place.
Led by standout and NCAA favorite Chris Derrick, the Cardinal head their strongest team in school history. In the prestigious PAC-10 meet, Stanford placed four runners in the top ten, six in the top fifteen, and all in the top twenty, scoring a meager 28 points in a trounce of Oregon (28-45).
Just two weeks later, today, Stanford scored even fewer points (27), placing their top four in the top ten and beating second place Portland by a 50+ point margin (27-84) and Oregon by an even greater margin (27-109), the latter two of which are considered top five teams in the country.
But what may be the most exciting thing about this Stanford team, is that they return a full top seven in 2010, and it could be one of the most dominating teams in the history of NCAA Cross Country.
Just this year alone they look to have two runners in the top ten at Nationals (Derrick and Junior Elliott Heath), and between sophomore Jake Riley junior and Justin Marpole-Bird they could have four total runners finish as All-Americans.
It will certainly be exciting to watch in the next few weeks to see how dominant Stanford is over the rest of the field. It was only two years ago that Chris Derrick a high school senior, was leading an inexperienced Nequea Valley High School team to the state and Nike national championship titles.
The trifecta of Derrick, Fernandez, and Puskedra and now he looks to lead a bit more experienced Stanford team to its first championship since 2003 and only its fifth ever.