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Christina Aragon paces Stanford to record-setting relay, national runner-up finish

Posted at 3:03 PM, Mar 10, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-05 16:37:18-04

(Editor’s note: Stanford athletics release)

COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Redshirt freshman Christina Aragon nearly caught Oregon in the final steps of the women’s distance medley relay at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships Friday, but fell 0.03 of a second short in school record time.

The Cardinal team of Vanessa Fraser (1,200 meters), Missy Mongiovi (400), Elise Cranny (800), and Aragon (1,600) ran 10:52.02, the fifth-fastest time in collegiate history and the fastest second-place time in NCAA championship history.

The Stanford men’s DMR team of Sean McGorty, Julian Body, Brandon McGorty, and Grant Fisher placed fourth in 9:31.95. Redshirt junior Lena Giger earned her first first-team All-America honor by placing sixth in the shot put (56-2 ¾, 17.14m), and Steven Fahy was ninth in the men’s 5,000 (14:17.51).

Stanford delivered its fourth runner-up women’s DMR finish in five years. The other result in that span was third. In the past two years, Stanford has finished second by a combined 0.05, after being edged by Colorado by 0.02 in 2017. Over the past five years, Stanford has finished behind the winners by a combined 6.00 seconds.

“You always want to be first, but we fought and did everything we could,” said Cranny, who anchored two previous second-place teams. “I’m so proud of Christina. Being on the anchor, there’s always some added pressure. For her to run so calm and composed the whole time … she was just amazing.”

The previous Stanford record was 10:53.66, by Jessica Tonn, Olivia Baker, Claudia Saunders, and Cranny, in finishing second at the 2015 NCAA Championships.

In her first time running anchor, Aragon ran 4:33.35, the fastest split in the field of 12. Four teams took the final exchange in close proximity – Virginia Tech, Oregon, Stanford, and Indiana. Aragon tucked smoothly behind Oregon’s Lilli Burdon with three laps remaining around the 200-meter banked track at the Gilliam Indoor Track Stadium.

On the backstretch of the final lap, Aragon closed tightly and tried to make her move as they came off the final turn. Though Aragon continued to close inch by inch, Burdon did just enough to hold her off, running a 4:33.67 split as Oregon won in 10:51.99.

Mindful of the team’s workload, several of the spots were altered. Olivia Baker would have run the 800 leg, but she ran a qualifying heat at that distance only 90 minutes before, making the 800 final for the third consecutive year, in a Stanford meet record of 2:03.60.

Cranny ran her semifinal heat of the mile three hours before the DMR, and qualified for Saturday’s final, placing second in her race in a Stanford meet record time of 4:37.97. She would have been the logical choice to run anchor, as she has in two previous NCAA meets. In an effort to conserve some of her energy for Saturday, the coaches chose to run her at a shorter distance, subbing her in for the 800 leg.

Aragon had run the opening 1,200 earlier this season, but as Stanford’s second-best miler, was the next woman up. That left Fraser, who will run the 3,000 on Saturday, to run leadoff for the first time this season on the mix-and-match lineup.

With two more NCAA top-five DMR finishes, Stanford’s men and women have combined for 24, all since 1996.

“Thinking about your teammates and picturing them in your mind as you’re running is always so helpful,” Cranny said. “No matter how hard you try to run for your teammates in an individual race, it’s so much different than when you have a baton in your hand.”

For Giger, her finish certainly was impressive, especially considering she placed 17th outdoors last year in her first NCAA meet. But another 9 ½ inches would have vaulted Giger all the way to second. Those distances seemed attainable on a better day.

“It was a good stepping stone from nationals last year,” Giger said. “But the goals were a little higher, especially because the distances above me weren’t way out there.”

Giger was in danger of not being among the top nine and reach the final, but got a good throw of 55-11 ¼ (17.05m) on her third while on “survival mode,” she said, to give her three more. She improved on her fourth to earn points for her team.

After the first of two days, Stanford is fourth in the women’s competition with 11 points. The Cardinal men are tied for 17th with five.