Stanford sophomores Juliette Whittaker and Roisin Willis finished 1-2 in the women’s 800 meters at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships at Hayward Field on Saturday.

Whittaker moved into the lead with 80 meters to go and extended her lead down the homestretch while Willis moved up five places on the final straightaway to take second at the wire.

Whittaker’s time of 1:59.61 was a Stanford outdoor record and Willis finished in 2:00.17 for her collegiate outdoor best and the No. 3 time in Stanford outdoor history. Both train under J.J. Clark, Stanford’s Franklin P. Johnson Director of Track and Field and Cross Country, who is the direct coach of the women’s distance team.

With 18 points from the 800, combined with six from sophomore long jumper Alyssa Jones on Thursday, Stanford finished with 24 points and a 13th-place team finish. 

In the 5,000 final, Sophia Kennedy placed 11th in a Stanford outdoor freshmen record of 15:33.29, and another freshman, Amy Bunnage, capped off a strong overall collegiate year by placing 17th in 16:00.04. Bunnage was the Pac-12 Cross Country champion and broke the Stanford indoor 5,000 record among her collegiate highlights. 

Whittaker became Stanford’s first NCAA outdoor 800 champion and the first to win both the NCAA indoor and outdoor 800 titles in the same year since Oregon’s Raevyn Rogers in 2017. And this was the first time since 1993 that teammates finished 1-2 in the NCAA outdoor women’s 800 since 1993 when Wisconsin’s Kim Sherman and Amy Wickus accomplished the feat. 

Her time breaks the Stanford record of 2:00.08 by Olivia Baker in 2018, and was able to break through where NCAA runners-up Baker (2016) and Claudia Saunders (2014, 2015) were so close to doing in the previous best Cardinal finishes in this event. 

“It’s one thing to work hard and succeed by yourself, but it’s another thing to turn around and see your teammate also succeed, and be able to celebrate in that,” Whittaker said. 

When Whittaker won the NCAA indoor title, she followed LSU’s Michaela Rose nearly the entire race and kicked to victory. Rose, the defending NCAA outdoor champion, likes to run from the front. However, in this race, Rose held back at the start and stayed in the pack through the first lap while Harvard freshman Sophia Gorriaran took the lead. 

Willis also likes to run from the front, but this time she and Whittaker settled into third and fourth after they came through the stagger. 

At the bell, Rose made a push and came out of the penultimate curve in the lead, with Whittaker going with her. As they approached the final turn, Whittaker was in good position at Rose’s shoulder, but Willis was boxed in. 

As they came off the final turn, Whittaker made her move as Rose began to falter. Meanwhile, Willis was in seventh and was forced to the outside to get around traffic. As Whittaker passed Rose, Willis turned on a ferocious kick. In the final meters, Willis caught Oklahoma State’s Gabija Galvydyte to capture second, while Rose faded to fourth.

“It was definitely different than what I was expecting,” Whittaker said. “I was expecting (Rose) to take it out like she did at indoor, and hang on as long as I could and then use my kick in the last 100.”

“Coming around the corner I felt good, but with 50 meters to go, I felt myself pulling away. I wasn’t really sure where everyone else was. But then I was able to turn and see that Roisin got second, which was amazing.”

Whittaker’s time made her the No. 8 performer with the No. 11 performance in collegiate outdoor history. It also was the third-fastest in the history of the Pac-12 Conference. Willis became the No. 13 performer in collegiate outdoor history.

“It’s been an incredible past two years,” Whittaker said of her partnership with Willis. “Obviously, training with her is amazing. But just being around her … she’s just given me a new perspective and hope in life that I feel has really been special.”

Whittaker took the starting line only 11 minutes after her sister Isabella of Penn placed fifth with a personal best of 50.17 in the 400 final.

Stanford’s final race of the meet was the 5,000. Before the NCAA West Prelims, Kennedy’s only first-place finish as a collegian came in the fourth section (out of seven) of the 1,500 at the Stanford Invitational in March. But Kennedy won her NCAA quarterfinal at the West Prelims and continued her improvement by setting a personal 5,000 record by nearly nine seconds on Saturday. 

For Bunnage, her 5,000 capped an academic year in which she won the Pac-12 cross country title, was the team’s No. 1 runner at the NCAA Cross Country Championships, and broke the school indoor record in the 5,000. 

As Bunnage crossed the finish line, it marked the end of more than a century of Stanford’s affiliation with the conference now known as the Pac-12, which is breaking apart after this academic year. This was the final Stanford team still active in 2023-24 and the race marked the end of an era under the Pac-12’s stewardship. The Cardinal joins the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2024-25.