Smith registers NCAA 10th-best 5k at Mt. Sac

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On a warm and windy Saturday afternoon, the members of the Occidental track and field teams proved that their historic SCIAC Multi Dual 2 meet three weeks ago was no fluke. Once again, the squads posted multiple personal and national bests in the third-and-final SCIAC Multi Dual meet of the season.

Kimberly Orpinela (junior) was the top performer on the women’s side, securing first place in the hammer throw competition and the third-best throw in Occidental history with a distance of 145-06 feet.

Orpinela said that she was in a good mental space for all six of her throws.

“I’ve been telling my coach that I want to improve on my throws, and my seasonal goal would be to reach 140, which was not in my grasp in the beginning of the season,” Orpinela said. “But what really clicked today was that I wasn’t really thinking about anything.”

The women went 2-2 in the meet, defeating Whittier and Chapman and falling to Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (CMS) and Redlands.

The women’s short distance runners lit up the track as Onyekachi Nwabueze (first-year) and Jenny Quilty (junior) finished second and third in the 200-meter with times of 25.84 seconds and 25.93 seconds, respectively. Nwabueze’s time was a lifetime-best, and Quilty’s was a season-best.

Sophomore Rachael Hinkel picked up a second-place finish and a personal-best time of 15.33 seconds in the 100-meter hurdles.

“Despite the importance of the meet, I was able to step back and remind myself why I love to run and that I have the support of my team behind me 100 percent of the time,” Hinkel said.

A movie moment came to life in the 4×400 meter, when the relay team composed of Nwabueze, Quilty, Hinkel and Ayana Foster (senior) finished second with a time of 4:04.16 minutes.

“Literally, around the entire track, our team was spread out — coaches included — to cheer us on,” Nwabueze said.

Seniors Lila Singer-Berk and Marnie Kinnaird both overcame the hot and windy weather conditions that can especially hinder long distance runners.

Singer-Berk’s fourth-place finish in the 5,000-meter in a time of 19:05.07 minutes marked her career-best result in a conference-scoring race. Kinnaird, who was competing in her first meet since suffering a quad injury a month ago, finished fourth in the 1,500-meter with a personal best time of 4:53.25 minutes.

“I was really proud of [Kinnaird] because I think when you have an injury like that or are overcoming adversity then the first thing that is going to be affected is your confidence,” Tiger head coach Rob Bartlett said.

The top performance on the men’s side also came from the field events, as Kevin Cox (senior) leapt over 23-05.5 feet of sand to win the long jump and notch the ninth-best Division-III distance in the country so far this season.

“I’m really excited to go farther and see what I can do,” Cox said.

The men defeated Whittier but fell to CMS and Redlands.

The unit competed without distance specialists Colin Smith (junior) and John Guzman (junior), who both raced with some of the top runners in the country at the Mt. Sac Relays on Friday night.

Smith secured the second-best time in Occidental history, the 10th-fastest Division-III time in the country and a lifetime-best in the 5,000-meter at 14:25.21 minutes. This time was good enough for a ninth-place finish in the event.

Despite the absence of these key runners at SCIAC Multi Dual 3, the men’s side produced standout races like those of Kyle Dalton (first-year), who cranked out personal-best times in the 100-meter and 200-meter at of 11.00 seconds and 22.11 seconds, respectively.

Cox and Dalton were impressed by Jeh Johnson’s (first-year) season-best 48.5 second third leg of the 4×400 relay, as they both referred to his performance as the most memorable of the day.

“At this time of the year, you hope everyone is going to start peaking, and I think the team showed today that they are ready to do that,” Bartlett said.

The teams will compete next at the SCIAC Championships on May 2–3, running on their own Bill Henry Track.