Author: Spencer Donaldson
The Occidental men’s and women’s cross country teams conquered the rolling hills and soft grass of the Prado Park course in the SCIAC Championships on Saturday, holding their positions from the SCIAC Multi-Duals to finish third and second, respectively.
The men’s top duo finished one-two in the overall standings, as John Guzman (junior) won the race and Colin Smith (junior) was on his heels. Guzman tore the tape with a time of 25:30.19 minutes and Smith crossed the line at 25:36.81 minutes.
Both men earned First Team All-SCIAC honors after the race, and Guzman was awarded as the SCIAC Male Runner of the Year as well as SCIAC Newcomer of the Year.
Smith described the duo’s competitive relationship before the race.
“The main thing is we want to get top two, obviously,” he said. “But we’re still going to battle it out to that finish line. It’s a friendly rivalry.”
After a Multi-Dual performance that head coach Rob Bartlett graded in the C-range, the men’s team was focused on fine-tuning its mental approach going into the Championship race.
“I think a lot of it boils down to confidence,” Bartlett said. “Really, it’s just reaffirming to them how good the workouts are going; reaffirming to them that they are talented.”
Bartlett’s message clicked for Louis Jochems (junior), who took home Second Team All-SCIAC honors after coming in 12th-place with a time of 26:42.50 minutes, demolishing his 36th-place Multi-Dual time by 52 seconds.
Jochems’ performance highlighted the development of Occidental’s “middle pack” runners. The third- to ninth-place runners for the Tigers averaged a 41st overall finish in the championship, six places better than the same group’s average finish in Multi-Duals.
Top runners in that group included Harrison Luft (first-year), who finished 23rd with a time of 27:06.79 minutes, Ryan Kammerman (senior) in 28th at 27:21.10 minutes and Charles De Anda (first-year) in 38th at 27:49.57 minutes.
Senior Jenna Wong and Mel Devoney (first-year) spearheaded the women’s performance in the 6k, cementing the unit’s second-place finish.
They crossed the line in fourth and sixth, respectively, with times of 23:33.71 minutes and 23:44.16 minutes.
Sophomore Megan Bull and Marnie Kinnaird (senior), who placed eighth and ninth with times of 23:52.85 minutes and 23:55.03 minutes, respectively, rounded out the group of four Occidental runners inside the top ten. All four received First Team All-SCIAC honors.
Before the race, Wong and Bartlett admitted that there would be no shame in a second-place finish behind Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (CMS), the No. 7 Division-III team in the country.
The post-race comments reflected the same sentiment.
“Our second-place finish shows how supportive we are of each other, how much we have pushed ourselves as well as each other to get to this point and how much we care about the team,” Bull said via email.
Kinnaird said she knew she was in the top ten and could see three Occidental runners in front of her as she approached the finish line. It was then that she was certain the team had performed according to plan.
“As soon as I crossed the finish line, I put my hand on Megan Bull’s shoulder and said between gasps, ‘We did it,’” she said.
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