The following was a piece I wrote for Flotrack on Chris Derrick’s career accomplishments and Stanford’s team hopes ahead of Monday’s NCAA cross country championships.
Chris Derrick will run his final NCAA cross country race on Monday, concluding a remarkable career of consistency.
Coming out of Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville, Ill., Derrick entered Stanford with high expectations after a legendary prep career that included a NTN title and 13:55 5k. Despite the pressure, Derrick has stepped up to the plate in championship races, walking away from Terre Haute with top ten finishes each time (seventh as a freshman in 2008, third in 2009 and fifth in 2010). It’s a remarkable feat given the immense pressure and difficulty of the NCAA championships, a meet many consider one of the most difficult in the sport.
Despite Derrick’s personal consistency, his Stanford team has been equally as erratic. After placing third in 2008, the Cardinal have finished tenth and fourth, respectively, in the last two seasons despite being touted pre-meet contenders for the national title.
The 2011 team again has potential to be a podium squad but has many question marks heading into nationals.
Number two man Jake Riley was step-in-step with Derrick for much of last year including finishing just a spot behind his teammate the NCAA’s. But he has been dropped by Derrick in each race this season and hasn’t looked quite like the Jake Riley of 2010. Finishing close behind Derrick isn’t all that bad but how far Riley might fall back is the issue.
Brendan Gregg fought back from a slow start to progress nicely over the course of the fall. The redshirt senior was 13th in his first race at Notre Dame but appears on the rise since then. In his last two races he was tenth at the ultra-competitive Pac-12 Championships and seventh at the West Regional.
A good finish by Gregg will be important for Stanford but the x-factors will be the performances of fourth and fifth men Erik Olson and Joe Rosa. The underclassmen have had up and down seasons but will need to bring their ‘A’ game for Stanford to have any shot at the podium. Olson ran well in 12th place at Pac-12’s but then fell back to 21st at regionals. Rosa has adjusted well to collegiate racing, improving from 113th at Wisconsin to 25th at conference and then 19th at the West Regional.
And then there’s Derrick. Will he race for his individual interest like in 2009? Or will he hang back and run for the benefit of the team as he did in 2010?
With all his collegiate successes which include ten All-American awards, he has yet to win an individual or team NCAA championship. The team title is likely out of the question for Stanford, so when Lawi Lalang and Lenny Korir take off midway through the race look for Derrick to put it all out there on the fields of Terre Haute.