Author: Noel Hemphill
Women finish third, men fourth at first SCIAC multi-dual meet
Pre-race strategy paid off enormously for the cross country team in its first SCIAC multi-dual meet. Both the men’s and women’s teams had success and found their footing on the trail, while steep competition from Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (CMS) and Pomona-Pitzer challenged them throughout the difficult course. The men’s team finished fourth overall, while the women finished third, trailing Pomona-Pitzer by only one point.
For the men’s team, Collin Smith (sophomore) finished first overall, pulling away from competition early in the 8k race. Louis Jochems (sophomore) was the second fastest Occidental runner, coming in 23rd overall. Behind Jochems was captain Charlie Sauter (senior) in 34th place, Shawn Dunn (sophomore) in 38th, and Tommy Warfel (freshman) in 57th. Cole Williams (sophomore) had to be pulled from the race, as illness overpowered the efforts of the strong runner, whose participation in the final meets of the season is still in question.
The women’s team packed its signature one-two punch with captains Megan Lang (senior) and Deanna Dupuy (senior) coming in 14th and 15th overall in the 6k race. The Tigers surprise advantage came in the stunning performance of Jenna Wong (junior), who pulled into 16th place right behind Lang and Dupuy.
“Jenna really stepped up yesterday and we put five women in front of where our first women was last year. It was a huge performance for us,” said Lang, “We have been trying to run as a pack this year, and team wise that was by far and away the best pack we have put together.”
Rounding out the pack, Tara Saxena (senior) finished 20th, and Marnie Kinnaird (junior) finished 25th. The top five Occidental women’s runners all finishing closely together is no accident. By making sure the runners paced smart and stayed together, the women’s team ran many fast times. This pack style running is going to be a focal point for the men in coming meets as the Tigers work to the last meets of the season.
Kinnaird’s performance is her debut for this season, having only recently healed from an injury. Kinnaird was not alone in this struggle, as she was one of many on the team who came in to the season with a hurdle or two to jump over.
“It started off a little bit slow,” said Assistant Coach Kelli Blake, “People came in this season a little banged up and we had a couple runners entirely new to the sport, but it’s a good place to start.”
The Tiger’s performances displayed how training has been working well for all of its members.
“We have had some really good workouts the past couple weeks, and have a lot people really stepping up from where they were last year,” said Sauter.
Although this meet demonstrated many improvements for the team, the SCIAC multi-dual meets are not the main focus for the season. The Tigers are looking to make sure the last meets of the season show how the dark horses of the SCIAC conference are coming up as challengers to their main competition from CMS, Pomona-Pitzer and University of La Verne. From facing adversity at the start of the season to a point of strength and unity today is a huge positive for the team whose ultimate goal is to send runners to Nationals.
“Every race we are just practicing. Everyone’s head is in a really good place. The pieces are finally coming together,” said Blake.
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