Three cross country runners place well at Nationals

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Author: Kirsten Wright

Three Occidental runners competed in Terre Haute, Ind. at the NCAA Division III Cross Country Nationals on Nov. 17. While none of the competitors placed within the top 100 or were named All-American, all returned back to Los Angeles with solid finishing times.

Senior Megan Lang and sophomores Colin Smith and Louis Jochems traveled together to compete in Terre Haute last week without the company of their team members, as neither the Occidental men nor women earned spots at Nationals as a full team. 

Lang, who found a consistent running partner during races this season in Deanna Dupuy (senior), missed the presence of her teammates in Indiana. 

“It was definitely difficult,” she said. “I hadn’t really thought about going to Nationals as an individual at all until it happened since we were so focused on going as a team. I thought about the team a lot during the race because that’s always a major motivator for me, but leading up to the race it was hard to get into a more individual mentality.”

Smith also missed the motivation and support from teammates while competing in Terre Haute but enjoyed the company of his fellow runners.

I believe having a full team can push you to run better because you’re running for something other than yourself. Nevertheless, it was a great trip going with Megan and Colin and to have their support,” he said. 

As a senior, Lang enjoyed the experience and savored her final cross country race for the Tigers during her only appearance at the national level. With a finishing time of 23:09, good for 159th place, Lang was the only Occidental runner not to run a season best. Still, she acknowledged her contentment with the experience and her performance. 

For my first nationals appearance I was happy with how it went, I tried to just enjoy it as the last race of my cross country season,” she said. 

Underclassman Jochems returned home more disappointed with his performance. Though returning with a season-best time of 26:28, he placed 212th at the competition.  

I was fairly disappointed with my race but very happy to have had the opportunity to go individually,” he said. 

Smith, who led the men’s team throughout the season and place third at Regionals, has dealt with injury-related setbacks since the summer but still set a sky-high goal for Nationals. 

“My main goal of the race was getting top 35, which grants you All-American,” he said. Even finishing with a season-best time of 25:46, Smith placed 115th in Terre Haute, keeping him from earning the All-American title this year. The men’s race was very close; Smith finished less than a minute ahead of Jochems but almost 100 places ahead.

With the results in and the cross country season over, these three Tigers have a lot more to look forward to. All will compete in the track and field season coming up in the spring. Smith and Lang will both run the 1,500-meter and 5k races, while Jochems will compete in the 5k and the 3k steeplechase. 

Smith hopes to significantly improve his performance in track this spring, but hasn’t announced any specific hopes for the season just yet. 

Last year I was top 25 nationally in the 5k. I won’t say exactly what my goals are for track, but I want to significantly improve upon that,” he said.  

Jochems looks forward to the track season while already envisioning a successful 2013 cross country season with his teammates. 

“Colin and I would very much like to have a full squad with us at nationals for our final two years here. And not only that, we would like our team to compete for that top spot,” he said. 

Lang will run one last season as a Tiger this spring as she focuses on the 1,500-meter and 5k. She provided some advice for younger runners hoping to perform as well as she has during her outstanding Occidental running career. 

“It really just comes down to putting in the work but also training smart–doing exactly what your coaches are telling you to do, communicating with them, and listening to your body.  After that you just have to let yourself believe that you’re capable of running the times your training has prepared you for,” she said.

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