Cross Country sweeps Occidental’s Athlete of the Week

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Tim McClure (first year, left) frequents the Bill Henry Track as a member of Occidental’s Cross Country team at Jack Kemp Stadium in Los Angeles on Friday, Sept. 21, 2018. Roxanne Valle (senior, right) soaks in the sun outside the Tiger Cooler at Occidental College in Los Angeles on Friday, Sept. 21, 2018. Hope Fowler / The Occidental

Roxanne Valle (senior) placed first for the Occidental women’s cross country team in a 5K race at the University of California Riverside Invitational Sept. 15. Valle placed 28 of 219 runners in the competition with a time of 18:35.6.

“I just wanted to run with a lot of confidence, especially considering it’s my senior year,” Valle said. “I think it was nice to race having the mindset of taking a risk.”

Valle said that since it is still early in the cross country season, this race provided her with a positive learning experience that will allow her to hone her craft as the season progresses.

“I know during the race I want to focus more on my form and my breathing and make sure I stay confident,” Valle said.

According to head coach Rob Bartlett, Valle’s hard work ethic and commitment to striving for success have prepared her for a smooth transition into the beginning of the cross country season.

“She’s in really wonderful shape, she’s been working really hard all summer and she’s had great workouts,” Bartlett said. “I think she’s positioned herself to have a really strong senior cross country season.”

Coming into her senior season after qualifying for the Division III Cross Country National Championship last year, Valle said the pressure of entering her final year of collegiate competition can be overwhelming, but remembering why she competes in the first place renews her motivation.

“A general influence is motivating others, especially for me, how important it is to inspire other people of color to enter sports,” Valle said. “There are so many other barriers, including how it is to be a person of color in spaces that are dominated as white. I just generally want to see more comfort for them to be in this new arena.”

Valle’s drive to work for those around her is apparent in the development of the team’s culture, according to Bartlett.

“Roxanne’s very much a lead-by-example person, she sets a really great example for her younger teammates,” Bartlett said.

Teammate Cora Davies (junior) also said that Valle plays an important role in bringing out the best performance in her fellow runners.

“Roxanne always gives her all at practice and during races,” Davies said. “I think that her hard work ethic shows the team that it’s okay to be competitive and push yourself.”

Valle is a sociology and Latinx and Latin American studies double-major, and her favorite post-race meal is In-N-Out Burger.

Tim McClure (first year) placed 20 out of 201 runners in an 8K race at the UC Riverside Invitational Sept. 15. In McClure’s second outing of the season, he finished with a time of 25:51.6, making him the second-place finisher from Occidental, only three seconds behind Brody Barkan (senior).

“I felt like it was a good 8K debut, it all went by really fast,” McClure said. “I was mostly really thankful for my teammates getting me through that.”

The Occidental men’s cross country team placed fourth overall at the meet out of 25 teams, with five team members, including McClure, finishing within 19 seconds of one another. According to McClure, head coach Rob Bartlett emphasized a team-oriented racing style in order to help pace the younger runners.

“Rob mentioned that we should let them [Barkan and Tristan Santos (senior)] dictate how the race goes because we had never raced an 8K before, and they’re sort of the vets,” McClure said. “They’re both great role models.”

According to McClure, observing Barkan’s racing technique during the meet helped inform his own strategy.

“Brody has really taught me that it’s not about where you are at a certain point in the race, it’s about where you finish,” McClure said. “It’s not over until it’s over.”

Barkan said McClure’s youthful energy worked to his advantage during the race.

“Despite being surrounded by hordes of tall and mature Division I athletes, Tim wasn’t scared and ran like he had nothing to lose,” Barkan said.

Bartlett said that along with McClure’s successful performance on the course, one of his greatest attributes is his ability to contribute to the encouraging atmosphere that has become characteristic of the team this season.

“He and the other first years are adding a lot of enthusiasm and personality, and they’re having fun,” Bartlett said. “He’s really talented, he cares a lot and works really hard, and I think those three things mean he’s going to have a really wonderful athletic career at Occidental.”

Aside from race-pacing goals, McClure said that dialing in on the mental component of his performance was one of his primary goals going into the Sept. 15 meet.

“I felt really good mentally during the race,” McClure said. “The biggest thing for me has been learning how to focus and stay positive.”

McClure’s go-to pre-race meal is coffee, toast and peanut butter, and his favorite types of dogs are pugs and greyhounds.