As a pair of Sagehens sprinted across the finish line at Saturday’s SCIAC Cross-Country Championship meet to claim the top two spots, spectators could be forgiven for thinking the Pomona-Pitzer women were about to win their first conference title since 1991.
But a long line of Claremont-Mudd-Scripps runners soon crested the grassy hill 200 meters from the finish, dashing P-P’s hopes and propelling the Athenas to yet another SCIAC championship through strength in numbers.
P-P’s Lila Cardillo PO ’22 won the individual title in the 6,000-meter race, but strong pack running by CMS led the Athenas to a 37-64 win over the Sagehens — CMS’ 10th consecutive conference title.
The Athenas were led by Riley Harmon SC ’22, who finished in third place with a time of 21:56. CMS rounded out its top five with runners placing seventh, eighth, ninth and 10th.
“It was really important that that group behind me all hung together and worked together because that’s how we can continue to move forward and keep everybody up where they should be,” Harmon said. “We went in with the idea that we were going to run for the team and run for each other.”
The CMS women were aware of the gravity of the meet: an opportunity to extend their conference championship streak to a decade.
“We really wanted that 10th straight championship. We’re such a close-knit team and we’ve worked so hard together,” said Olivia Gleason SC ’21, CMS’ No. 2 runner of the day. “It’s just really rewarding to get this and run a really good race that we’re all proud of.”
It was the Athenas’ 29th title since the women’s championship meet began in 1976; no other program has more than 13.
The Sagehens placed second at Saturday’s race — held in the Wash, Pomona College’s expanse of dirt trails and athletic fields — with Cardillo running 21:40 for the win and Helen Guo PO ’20 finishing second in 21:50. Cardillo, however, credited her team for powering her to the individual championship.
“It felt great because it was very much a team effort,” Cardillo said. “Helen and I wanted to stick together for as long as we could and stick in the front pack as long as we could. [We wanted to] try to let someone else take control of the race and then, when we felt good, take it away.”
Both the Sagehens and Athenas have aspirations of making waves at the Division III national meet in Louisville, Kentucky, later this season.
Continued success for the Athenas will come from maintaining a positive mindset, Gleason said.
“Our training is there, and at this point we just need to keep running to stay in shape,” she said. “At this point in the season, the mental component comes through a lot more with running.”
Cardillo said she believes that if the Sagehens maintain their team unity, they’ll be successful moving forward.
“I want to see a continued strong team effort through regionals and to make it to nationals as a team again,” Cardillo said. “[We want to] be in it all together, keep running in packs, keep working hard and keep having fun.”
The Sagehens and Athenas will next compete at the Division III West Regional Championship on Nov. 16 in the Wash.