D’Anieri leads Stags to thrilling tiebreaker victory over Sagehens in SCIAC cross-country championship

Thomas D’Anieri CM ’20 throws up his arms in celebration as he crosses the finish line at the 2019 SCIAC Cross-Country Championship on Nov. 2. D’Anieri won the men’s race with a time of 24:52, leading Claremont-Mudd-Scripps to a narrow tiebreaker victory over Pomona-Pitzer. (Justin Sleppy • The Student Life)

In a race that spanned eight kilometers and 25 minutes, a single second made the difference in Saturday’s neck-and-neck battle between Claremont-Mudd-Scripps and Pomona-Pitzer for the SCIAC men’s cross-country title.

CMS’ Miles Christensen HM ’22 held off a hard-charging Joe Hesse-Withbroe PO ’22 at the finish line by just a second — 25:12 to 25:13 — securing a razor-thin tiebreaker victory for the Stags over the Sagehens and ending P-P’s two-year conference championship run.

CMS and P-P both scored 31 points, but the Stags won the tiebreaker 3-2 to claim the title.

The Stags benefited from a first-place finish by Thomas D’Anieri CM ’20, who won the 8,000-meter race in 24:52. After D’Anieri, the Stags had finishers in fifth, seventh, eighth and 10th. 

CMS, picked by the conference’s coaches before the season to finish behind the Sagehens, understood the magnitude of its accomplishment.

“It’s really special to be able to go against a really strong team like Pomona and be able to eke out a victory,” said Stevie Steinberg HM ’21, who finished seventh. “CMS has found ourselves in a good position. Everything’s coming together just right.”

While the meet didn’t go as planned for the Sagehens, P-P head coach Jordan Carpenter wasn’t discouraged by his team’s performance.

“We have goals to bring home a trophy at the national meet, and I don’t think today changed that,” Carpenter said. “I thought we had a solid day, but there were one or two spots where [CMS] got the best of us and that determined the outcome of the meet.”

A pack of runners sprints down a field
Front row from left: Dante Paszkeicz PO ’22, Kyril van Schendel CM ’22, Stevie Steinberg HM ’21 and Miles Christensen HM ’22 lead a pack of runners across a field during the 2019 SCIAC Cross-Country Championship on Nov. 2. (Justin Sleppy • The Student Life)

The Sagehens claimed 11 of the 20 All-SCIAC finishes Saturday, an achievement Carpenter said he was proud of.

Ethan Widlansky PO ’22 led the Hens with a second-place finish in 24:55, and said the Sagehens don’t need to change much as they move toward the regional and national meets. 

“We’re just going to try to win. … We’re going to try to work together. I don’t think there’s any explicit strategy or tactic,” he said. “I think it’s just a lot of team-building and working off of each other and just trying to push everyone to their limits.” 

The Stags’ strategy during Saturday’s meet — held in the Wash, Pomona College’s expanse of dirt trails and athletic fields — was to be flexible and adaptable during the race, something Steinberg believed the team executed well.

“Thinking about what you want to get accomplished should always be in your mind and that’s the larger, permanent goal, and then, minute-by-minute, step-by-step, you try to see what the right move is,” Steinberg said. 

CMS and P-P runners claimed all but one of the top 16 spots at the race, making the competition essentially a dual meet between two of the nation’s top programs. The close victory was decided by a tiebreaking procedure in which the finishing places of both teams’ top five runners were pitted against each other in head-to-head matchups; CMS won three of the five.

The men’s cross-country teams will compete again during the Division III West Regional Championship on Nov. 16 in the Wash.

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