San Diego, Ca. – National power Stanford headlined the 2nd USD Cross Country Invitational today at Mission Bay Park, convincingly winning both the men’s 8k and women’s 6k. University of California San Diego secured runner up in both races with junior Aren Johnson taking the men’s victory in 25:20 over the pack running Cardinal squad. The host USD Toreros finished third in both races with their women just one point behind local rivals UCSD, 47-48. (pictures below story)

“It was a very competitive meet,” said USD head coach Will Guarino, “great weather, great environment, and a real stepping stone to build on.

“Our men were very aggressive. The women’s volleyball team showed up, and that motivated a couple of the guys to run harder. On the women’s side, their youth showed, but their growth and development, too. They attacked the last lap after being a little shaken up racing (nationally ranked) Stanford.”

The Stanford men’s and women’s teams had spent the last few pre-seasons training at altitude in Mammoth Lakes (Ca.). But this year coaches Chris Miltenberg (men) and Elizabeth Debole (women) brought their Cardinal charges to America’s Finest City instead.

“This meet is the end of our training camp,” explained Coach Debole, now entering her fourth year in Palo Alto. “We loved being in San Diego. We never had enough time in Mammoth Lakes for the altitude to make a difference. In fact, it felt detrimental; we never got a good workout in.

“But this past Tuesday we had a great workout at UCSD, and everyone here ran awesome. We will go home and do our pluses and minuses, but we loved it here.”

The USD Invitational adds another layer of top competition onto the rolling 2k loop alongside Mission Bay originally designed by Thom Hunt for the 2008 and 2011 USATF National Cross Country Championships. Hunt won the IAAF World Jr. Cross Country Championships in 1977, and once held American road 10k record.

USD seniors Max Pedrotti and Liam Burke led the men’s race through the first two laps before the steamrolling Cardinal squad took control. But they couldn’t get rid of UCSD junior Aren Johnson who pulled free in the fourth lap to secure a 16-second win over the five threshold running Cardinal men. Stanford scored 20 points for the win led by freshman Isaac Cortez. Johnson paced the UCSD Tritons to second place (39 pts) with Pedrotti and Burke running in 9th and 10th to bring the Toreros home in third with 66.

UCSD junior Karina Carstens led the women out for their first of three laps on the Mission Bay Park set up. Alongside ran seniors Ella Verhees and Kristin Semancsin. Stanford’s women, like their men, kept their powder dry through the early going, but in lap two the Cardinal began to let their wings out.

Super sophs Fiona O’Keefe and Ella Donaghu were joined by seniors Vanessa Fraser and Abbie McNulty in the attack. Davis, California native O’Keefe led Stanford to a 5th place finish at last year’s NCAA XC Champs as a freshman, then won the U.S. Junior title in the 5000m in June.

Donaghu earned three Oregon 6A XC titles while at Grant High School in Portland, and 10 state crowns altogether in track and XC. Vanessa Fraser is already a six-time All-American, and finished 7th at the USATF Nationals over 5000 last summer. Cumberland, Rhode Islands’ Abbie McNulty scrubbed 27-sec off her 10,000 PR as a junior.

The Stanford men have been on the podium three straight years at the NCAA Cross Country Championships, 2nd, 3rd, and 2nd again in 2016. Their women are expected to compete for their first NCAA XC title since 2007. Several of the top Stanford runners didn’t compete, but if  one or both squads secure a win in Louisville, Kentucky November 18th st the NCAA Championships, they can point back to their week in San Diego in September as having been a major stepping stone.

Tonight the Stanford teams will head to Qualcomm Stadium in Mission Valley to root for their 19th ranked Cardinal football team as it goes against the Aztecs of San Diego State.



1. Aren Johnson – UCSD    25:20
2. Isaac Cortez – Stanford 25:36
3. Tai Dinger – Stanf.          25:36
4. Alek Parsons – Stanf.      25:36
5. Alex Ostberg – Stanf.      25:36
6. Blair Hurlock – Stanf.     25:37
7. Garrett Boulais – UCSD   25:44
8. Garrett Lepine- UCSD     25:47
9. Max Pedrotti – USD         25:48
10. Liam Burke – USD          25:54


1. Stanford – 2,3,4,5,6 – 20
2. UCSD – 1,7,8,11,12 –   39
3. USD – 9,10,14,16,17 – 66



1. Fiona O’Keefe – Stanford   21:35
2. Vanessa Fraser – Stanf.      21:35
3. Abbie McNulty – Stanf.      21:35
4. Ella Donaghu – Stanf.         21:35
5. Ella Verhees – UCSD           22:25
6. Hannah Rasmussen USD  22:33
7. Madison Lambros – USD  22:36
8. Laura Moran – UCSD         22:39
9. Merin Arft – UCSD             22:41
10. Hope McClaughlin – USD 22:52


1. Stanford – 1,2,3,4,19 – 29
2. UCSD – 5,8,9,12,13 –     47
3. USD – 6,7,19,11,14 –     48

USD Seniors Liam Burke and Max Pedrotti lead the men out over the first 4K
USD junior Mitch Manis and senior Zack Hinz (headband) control chase pack in lap one of four
Stanford Cardinal run in stride start to finish
Eventual champion Aren Johnson of UCSD hangs with Stanford pack as early leaders get swallowed up in lap three
309 Tai Dinger, 312 Alex Ostberg, and 308 Isaac Cortez surround UCSD’s Aren Johnson
6th place finisher Blair Hurlock (blond) leads Stanford pack beginning lap 4
Champion Aren Johnson breaks free
Johnson kicks home
UCSD’s Karina Carsten’s (270), Ella Verhees (284), and Kristin Senancsin (283) in charge early
Lap two Stanford quartet pulls away along Mission Bay





Senior Vanessa leads super sophs Ella Donaghu and Fiona O’Keefe, with fellow senior Abbie McNulty in tow
USD head coach Will Guarino addresses the Toreros after their third place finishes



  1. Hey Toni, wanted to remind you that Thom Hunt actually won the IAAF World Jr Cross Country Championship in 1977 in Düsseldorf. Hope to see you and Toya sometime soon, my friend!

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