The Occidental cross country team competed at the UC Riverside Invitational Sept. 14 in their first invitational meet of the year. The men ran the 8,000 meter open and placed second out of eight teams, while the women ran the 5,000 meter open and placed fifth out of 14 teams.
Occidental’s top finisher on the men’s team was Tim McClure (sophomore), who finished with a time of 26:03 and placed 11th out of 146 runners.
The top finisher on the women’s team was team captain Sabrina Thurber (senior), who ran a time of 18:48 and placed 24th out of 190 competitors. According to Oxy Athletics, Thurber was one of the nine people on the women’s team that had a course PR. She jumped from a previous 57th place in the course to 24th place this year.
Thurber said the top-placing pack of women on the team this season is comprised mostly of seniors and juniors, whose years of experience are evident in the results of the first few meets.
“Part of it is definitely just runners getting older,” Thurber said. “When you come in as a first year, the amount of miles you run in a week is way less than hopefully you’ll do when you’re a senior.”
According to Thurber, the weather made the race more complicated, with temperatures approaching the nineties. However, head coach Rob Bartlett said he felt good about the meet and saw it as a critical part of the team’s development.
“We are process-focused rather than outcome-focused at the beginning of the year, so I was pleased with how we ran,” Bartlett said. “I told the team beforehand that I didn’t care a whole lot about times and places and team standings and things because although nice, they don’t carry any weight going forward.”
According to Bartlett, the program’s ultimate goal is to qualify for the NCAA Division III Cross Country Championship meet Nov. 19.
“Anything that happens in September, October really has no bearing on anything,” Bartlett said. “The first date where tournaments have consequences is on Nov. 2 with the conference championship.”
The men’s team captain Thomas Robertson (senior) said both the men’s and women’s team performances held promise for continued success this season.
“It was really tough with the heat, but I was really impressed with how everyone did,” Robertson said. “The first years as well, since it was their first 8K, so that was really exciting.”
According to Robertson, the runners’ individual performances at their first meet demonstrated that team members were able to maintain their fitness throughout the summer.
Both the men’s and the women’s teams practice eight times a week, according to Bartlett, and both Robertson and Bartlett said the sport is just as much a mental challenge as it is a physical challenge.
“It helps just knowing that I’m going to get up in the morning, and there are going to be like forty other people that are also going to be running with me,” Robertson said. “That’s what keeps me motivated every day.”
According to Bartlett, athletics serve as a significant complement to Occidental’s goals by promoting a growth mindset within individuals.
“I think athletics can help someone learn something about themselves and grow as a person, so when they leave here, they’ll have the kind of personal skills they need to go out into the world and succeed,” Bartlett said.
Looking forward, the next competition for Occidental’s cross country team is Sept. 28 at the TMU Invitational in Santa Clara.