Cross country running to the top

Photo by Harrison Kallner

The men’s and women’s cross country teams traveled to La Mirada Park for the SCIAC Multi-Dual meet Sept. 29. Both teams placed second among a very competitive field, according to head coach Robert Bartlett. The men’s team finished behind Pomona-Pitzer, beating out long-time rival Claremont-Mudd-Scripps. The women’s team came in behind Claremont-Mudd-Scripps with a strong and impressive finish, according to Bartlett.

“Both the men’s and the women’s teams are probably the best Oxy teams we’ve had in a little while,” Bartlett said.

The men’s team turned in outstanding performances, including a fourth-place finish with a time of 25:57.17 from captain Austin Sankaran (senior). Sankaran credits the success of his race to the camaraderie shown by his teammates.

“Teamwork is crucial in cross country,” Sankaran said. “You have to run in packs — working with teammates to push myself is really important.”

Additional notable performances include that of captain Keenan Leary (senior) and vice captain Tristan Santos (junior). Leary and Santos finished the Multi-Dual meet in seventh and 15th place, respectively, with finishing times of 26:04.20 and 26:34.27. Trusting that the process of the physically demanding workouts translates into success is critical, Santos said. The team has optimistic expectations for the remainder of the season, according to Sankaran, Leary and Santos.

“As a team, I know that we can make it back to nationals, so I think we have a chance to win our regional,” Leary said.

The last time the men’s cross-country team won a conference and a regional championship was in 2011, and they are currently at a similar performance level, according to Bartlett. This year, the men’s team is especially goal-oriented and hardworking, according to Sankaran. Bartlett, Sankaran, Leary and Santos eagerly await the upcoming meets in November for more exciting results.

“We are a very patient team and have been doing exactly what our coach has been telling us,” Santos said.

The women’s team also turned in outstanding performances that included a ninth-place finish by vice captain Roxanne Valle (2019) with a time of 22:14.78. Valle has been the fastest woman on the team since she initially started at Occidental in 2015, according to Bartlett.

“She accomplished something that she has never done before, but she wasn’t happy or satisfied with that performance either,” Bartlett said. “So, I think she’s in a good place for the year.”

Over the course of the past two years, Valle has also been the conference winner and runner-up in the 5,000-meter race. Last November, she attended cross-country nationals as an individual. Last Friday was the highest she ever finished in a conference cross country race.

“Each one of us strives to help each other grow and as a result help the team grow,” Valle said via email.

Captain Eva Townsend, the only senior on the team, ran a break-through race, coming in under 23:00.00 for the first time in her collegiate career; she came in 16th with a time of 22:52.02.

“I think everyone learned something really important and knows exactly what they need to do in upcoming meets,” Townsend said.

After spending Spring 2017 abroad, Townsend is excited to be back and training with the team. The women’s team pushes each other in order to strive for improvement together, according to Townsend and Valle.

“For sure, like 100 percent, the teamwork and the community on the team has helped me get so much better,” Townsend said.

The women’s team is the best it has been since 2013, according to Bartlett. There are several upcoming meets in late October and early November where the women’s team will be able to showcase their talent, hard work and effort. Hopes of a team qualification to nationals this November are very apparent, according to both Townsend and Bartlett.

“The team is motivated, they’re in shape, very positive, and I think very focused on what they want to do,” Bartlett said.

Practices will continue as both the men’s and women’s teams train for the remainder of the season.