Track and Field opens 2012 season, hosts SCIAC meet

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Author: David Weightman

Jesse Wong (freshman) held a narrow lead over Cal Lutheran’s Erik Fruth (sophomore) down the stretch of the 400m hurdles when he lost his balance. On the last hurdle, Wong stumbled on the landing and Fruth dashed past him. Wong didn’t lose his composure and closed the gap in 10 short meters before finally pulling ahead to earn a narrow win by just .2 seconds. “It was a gutsy performance,” Coach Rob Bartlett said. Wong’s win came on a day when nothing came easily for the Tigers, who have been fighting injuries all season.

On Saturday, Occidental track and field hosted La Verne, Cal Lutheran and Cal Tech in a four-way meet that kicked off the SCIAC season. Though All-American sprinter Jonathan Padron (sophomore), distance star Eric Kleinsasser (senior) and promising sprinter Austin Cheadle (freshman) didn’t compete because of injuries, the men’s team showed it still has the talent to compete for the conference championship. “When everyone gets healthy, watch out,” Ryan Metzler (sophomore) said. 

For the men, Cole Williams (freshman) and Moseley (senior) strolled to a dominant win in the 800m. Moseley and Williams eased to a 1-2 sweep far ahead of any competition while saving their stamina for other events. In a bizarre scene, Williams had such a wide lead in his heat that he was able to slow down and look over his shoulder and still win by four seconds. Moseley and Williams teamed up with Alex Nieves (freshman) and Kevin Cox (sophomore) to win the 4x400m relay, beating second-place Cal Lutheran by four seconds and establishing itself as a conference contender.

While defending SCIAC 100m champion Padron has fought a prolonged groin injury for a few weeks, Cheadle’s sore hamstring came as a surprise. He warmed up on Saturday but was unable to compete. In his place, Edmond O’Suji (junior) ran the first leg of the 4x100m relay without any previous practice handing off to Cox, who ran the second leg. Aakash Raghubansh (freshman) sprinted past B.J. Scott (junior) of Cal Lutheran on the final leg to give Occidental the win. “For him to do that as a freshman is very exciting,” Bartlett said. The success of the relay showed the talent of the Tigers’ sprinters, and with the return of Padron and Cheadle, they expect to knock over a second and a half off of their time, putting them among the conference elite.

The men’s team also performed well in the distance events. Charlie Sauter (junior) won the 3000m steeplechase, and Colin Smith (freshman) took the 1500m and 5000m. Sauter and Smith both ran on the cross-country team that won the NCAA DIII West Region Championship in the fall. When Kleinsasser returns, the three of them will pose a formidable challenge to distance opponents throughout the season.

Several runners from the women’s team turned in strong performances as well, led by two-time SCIAC champion Claire Larson’s (senior) dominant win in the 800m.

Jenny Quilty (freshman) continued her strong start to the season with a third place finish in the 200m and contributed to a solid 4x400m performance. Lauren Johnson (junior) finished second in the 100m hurdles, and Julie Xu (sophomore) and Johnson took second and third respectively in the 400m hurdles. 

The women’s team excelled particularly in the long distance events. Sierra Walker (junior) won the 3000m steeplechase while running a personal best. Marnie Kinnaird (sophomore) cruised to an easy win in the 5000m and Deanna Depuy (junior) and Danielle Lyons (sophomore) finished second and third respectively in the 1500m with lifetime best times. 

The best performance from the women’s team came from Larson, who won the 800m in SCIAC in 2009 and 2010 but missed last season with a broken foot. 

“She’s as good as she was before. We’re very happy with where she’s at,” Bartlett said. Larson cruised to a clear victory in the 800m.

The women’s team also jumped especially well. Kristina Gustovich (sophomore) won the high jump at 1.57m, and pole vaulter Anna Kurnizki (junior) soared over the competition with a jump of 3.05m.

Though the men’s team was held back by injuries, they turned in a strong performance highlighted by the gritty wins of Raghubansh and Wong and the superiority of Moseley and Williams. The team believes it can make a run at a SCIAC title, especially when Padron, Kleinsasser and Cheadle return. The women’s team also showed their strength by running the table in the distance events. Both teams expect to improve as the season goes on and make a strong bid for the title this season. “It’s a long season, but we got done what we needed to get done,” Bartlett said.

The Tigers will co-host the Oxy-PP Dual Meet on Friday at 4 p.m.

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