Chuck Aragon
Track & Field

Making Her Mark

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Lead photo of (l. to r.) Dalilah Muhammad, Ashlan Best, and Brianna Rollins-McNeal by Chuck Aragon.

STANFORD, Calif. – Stanford sophomore Aria Small continued her rapid development in the triple jump by eclipsing her personal record by nearly a foot during a clutch victory at the 44th Stanford Invitational track and field meet on Saturday.

In wild sequence in the fifth round, three jumpers owned the lead in a span of three jumps. The last of those was Small, who uncoiled a jump of 43-5 ¼ (13.24 meters) to snatch the lead from Tennessee's LaChyna Roe, who had just taken the lead at 43-4 ½ (13.22m) from teammate Alonie Sutton.

Small crushed her lifetime best by 11 ¾ inches in a single jump – her first legal mark over 13 meters. She followed with her second (13.08, 42-11) to close the competition and was not threatened in the final round.

Small overtook two Olympians on Stanford's all-time performers' list, to move from No. 5 to No. 3. Interestingly, both Arantxa King (now No. 5) and Jackie Edwards (No. 4) have Caribbean roots, as does Small. King was a two-time Olympian for Bermuda, and Edwards was a four-time Olympic long jumper for the Bahamas.

"My goal today was to be aggressive, be more aggressive than I was on the last jump," Small said. "Going and attacking it more and more each time, and going for the big ones.

Aria Small. Photo by Chuck Aragon.

While growing up in Bridgetown, Barbados, Small was a national-level gymnast and played other sports. She chose to leave her home country and her mom to give herself a better educational environment and that's how she came to Northfield Mount Hermon in western Massachusetts, the same school that produced Stanford basketball senior Josh Sharma.

She played volleyball for two years and competed in all the jumps, but really took to triple jumping as a junior.

During outdoor track seasons abbreviated by snow on the track until May, Small won five New England Prep School Track Association Division I championships and set NEPSTA Division I records in the long jump (19-0) and triple jump (40-10 ¼).

"I'm pretty hard on myself," Small said. "I feel like, track is a great sport for me because I can hone in, focus on me, on what I'm doing, and what I can control."

Even with her limited experience, Small pulled together a big enough jump as a senior to give her enough belief in her future to reach out to Stanford jumps coach Michael Eskind.

"She had one solid jump, but a lot of inconsistent marks," said Eskind, who also is Stanford's associate head coach and recruiting coordinator. "Being at a small boarding school in Massachusetts didn't help with the weather or conditions, so I knew what she was dealing with."

Small sent Eskind a video of her jumping, and the coach noticed "there was something there. But it's always hard to tell."

But it was enough to get a second look. And once Stanford got to know her, the rest took care of itself.

 "What stood out to me during the recruitment was her maturity," Eskind said.

"Honestly, I'm super grateful that he saw that untapped potential," Small said. "Because I knew I had it, but it may not have shown on paper."

As a freshman, Small benefited from being a teammate and training partner of Marisa Kwiatkowski, who graduated last spring.

"She had an awesome role model in Marisa," Eskind said. "Aria got to see what hard work and leadership looked like on a daily basis. Aria has stepped right into that role as a sophomore and I can't wait to see where we go from here."

Kwiatkowski was in attendance on Saturday and saw the breakthrough that Small made. From never having qualified for an NCAA championship meet, Small now is No. 8 in NCAA Division.

The indoor season was a great indication of what was too come. She won four of her five indoor competitions and has opened her outdoor season with two more victories in as many tries. This was her third lifetime best of the year.

"I guess I do like to win, but my focus is more on what I can control, and what I'm doing, and to keep getting better on each jump," Smalls said. "If I happen to win at the end, I'm happy with it."

Judging by her smile on Saturday, that's certainly true.
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Among the highlights of the Stanford Invitational was the sight of Stanford sophomore Ashlan Best dueling two Olympic champions in the 200. Coming down the stretch, Best was flanked on her right by Rio 400 hurdles champion Dalilah Muhammad and to her left by Rio 100 hurdles gold medalist Brianna Rollins-McNeal.

All three finished within 0.1 of each other, with Muhammad winning in 23.35 and Best second in 23.44, followed by Rollins-McNeal in 23.45. Best moved up one spot on Stanford's all-time performers' list, leapfrogging Shataya Hendricks (23.48, 2012) to No. 8. It was the fastest 200 by a Stanford runner in seven years and came a day after Best twice ran lifetime bests in the 100.
 * * * 

Stanford's Hari Sathyamurthy and Tai Dinger run the 800. Photo by David Kiefer.

Stanford Invitational
At Cobb Track and Angell Field
Saturday's collegiate/open results
Winners and Stanford competitors


200 – 1, Robert Ellis III (unat.) 20.56.
800 – 1, Yared Nuguse (Notre Dame) 1:48.29; 11, Hari Sathyamurthy (Stanford) 1:51.08; 27, Nathaniel Kucera (Stanford) 1:53.65; 40, Tai Dinger (Stanford) 1:55.24.
4x100 relay – 1, Washington 40.53.
4x400 relay – 1, Iowa State 3:09.99; 4, Stanford (Louis Stenmark, Miles Zoltak, Hari Sathyamurthy, Harrison Williams) 3:11.77.
Pole vault – Invite: 1, Chase Smith (Washington) 17-7 (5.36m).
Triple jump – Invite: 1, Jalen Tate (Tennessee) 52-9 ½ (16.09m); 6, Keyshawn King (Stanford) 49-0 ¾ (14.95m).
Shot put – Invite: 1, Jonah Wilson (Washington) 64-7 ¼ (19.69m). Collegiate: 7, Sal Spina (Stanford) 48-3 ½ (14.72m) (PB).
Hammer – Invite: Silviu Bocancea (California) 222-10 (67.93m).

– 1, Dalilah Muhammad (Nike/HurdleMechanic) 23.35; 2, Ashlan Best (Stanford) 23.44 (No. 8 Stanford AT); 3, Brianna Rollins-McNeal (Nike/HurdleMechanic) 23.45; 23, Sasha Wallace (Stanford) 24.79; 40, Hannah Labrie-Smith (Stanford) 25.43; 53, Mary Gillett (unat.) 26.62.
800 – 1, Lindsey Butterworth (New Balance) 2:03.39; 6, Carolyn Wilson (Stanford) 2:06.56 (PB); 28, Julia Heymach (Stanford) 2:10.57; 37, Ella Donaghu (Stanford) 2:11.10; 41, Jordan Oakes (Stanford) 2:12.00; 44, Sarah Walker (Stanford) 2:12.64.
4x100 relay – 1, California 45.45.
4x400 relay – 1, HurdleMechanic (Sasha Wallace, Gianna Woodruff, Brianna Rollins-McNeal, Tracey Ristananna) 3:36.48; 2, Stanford 'A' (Missy Mongiovi, Ashlan Best, Caitlin Collier, Carolyn Wilson) 3:38.63; 15, Stanford 'B' Hannah Labrie-Smith, Allie Jones, Kaitlin Ryan, Sarah Walker) 3:52.39.
Triple jump – Invite: 1, Aria Small (Stanford) 43-5 ¼ (13.24m) (PB, No. 3 Stanford AT).  
Discus – Invite: 1, Stamatia Scarvelis (Tennessee) 179-7 (54.74m); 4, Jaimi Salone (Stanford) 165-5 (50.42m) (PB).

Carolyn Wilson carries the baton in the 4x400 relay. Photo by John P. Lozano/ISIphotos.com.