Author: Spencer Donaldson
Outside the spotlight of Occidental’s varsity programs, men’s rugby, men’s ultimate Frisbee and dance team are gearing up for their upcoming winter and spring seasons.
Reigning champions in three different leagues, Occidental’s men’s rugby team is looking to uphold its reputation as one of the top small-school squads in the west.
“The Olde Boys” were champions of the National Small College Rugby Organization (NSCRO) 7s, Pacific Coast Rugby Football Union and Southern California Rugby Football Union, while ranking as the fifth best small college in the nation last season.
Senior flanker/hooker Aaron Kiesler said that the veteran members of the team are using a loss in the 2011 NSCRO 15s Nationals as a motivator to remain humble while building upon recent successes.
“Nothing’s ever really good enough,” he said. “You have to keep doing better, keep improving, try to be perfect in every way.”
According to Kiesler, one must develop a natural instinct suitable for the flow of gameplay and mental toughness that is required to be a skilled rugby player,
“Rugby hurts,” he said. “It’s a tough sport. Every time you get hit and you get knocked on the ground, you have no idea if you want to get back up. But you have to get back up and just keep running. The game never really stops.”
The Olde Boys have completed two scrimmages against University of Southern California (USC) and University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). They are preparing to defend their title as champions of the Doherty Cup, the longest active annual rugby rivalry west of the Mississippi, this weekend against Loyola Marymount.
Like the rugby team, the Occidental ultimate Frisbee team is ready to take its game to the next level.
After consecutive tightly-contested losses to Claremont McKenna in the NCAA Division III sectionals the last two years, the squad is set on making nationals this season.
The unit started practicing three times per week in September, focusing on conditioning in preparation for the two-day, four-game, eight-hour tournaments that they compete in throughout the year.
According to captain Jacob Surpin (senior), the 2013 team plans to alter its past emphasis on making flashy, spectacular plays. Instead, the focus is on possessing and advancing the disk in order to control and win games.
Along with fellow senior captains Andrew Featherston and Ben Toney, Surpin teaches the technical aspects of the game, such as throwing form, to new players who already possess raw athletic ability.
“The thing we look for at first is athleticism; if they can run, if they can jump and if they have endurance,” Surpin said. “There’s a lot more intricacy to throwing, and there’s no way you would have learned if you didn’t play before.”
The team recently returned from an exhibition tournament at University of California Irvine and will continue to train in order to be in top form for the regular season in the spring.
While the rugby and ultimate Frisbee teams are gearing up for potentially historic seasons, the dance team’s season is already in full swing.
Despite the loss of coach and main choreographer Dana Rosenthal, the team is as prepared as ever to perform at Occidental’s athletic events with both energy and spirit.
Occidental alumna Chelsea Duncan ’12 is now leading the group of a dozen dancers for the 2013-14 season. Juniors Morgan Carnes and Jenny Craig as well as Sophia Rubenstein (sophomore) have stepped up as captains to maintain the discipline and focus of the group.
“We have morning practices like other sports,” dancer Mika Cribbs (sophomore) said. “We say we meet four times a week, but then you have to use your own time to practice.”
Guest choreographers and the captains have taken over the majority of the routine planning duties this season. The team dynamic has not been impacted by the shift of artistic control.
“We’re pretty much like a family; we all get along with each other,” Cribbs said. “The song choices are usually fun to dance to, and the captains have been doing a really good job at keeping a unified team without any drama.”
Self-described as shy, Cribbs never danced before college and said that those who join do not need to have outgoing personalities or performance experience – just flexibility, stamina and commitment.
With members from Vancouver, Canada to Honolulu, Hawaii, the team performs as a cohesive unit and is a fixture at many of Occidental’s athletic contests.
“We’re pretty much the face of the school when it comes to dance,” Cribbs said.
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