Ethan Widlansky PO ’22 and Lucas Florsheim PO ’24 credit the team for record-breaking performances in Riverside

Two members of the Pomona-Pitzer cross country team compete on a dirt track.
Ethan Widlansky PO ’22 and Lucas Florsheim PO ’24 run alongside each other at the UC Riverside Invite. (Courtesy: Lucas Cunningham PO ’23)

Ethan Widlansky PO ’22 just broke a 15-year team record. But he’s more focused on what’s to come for P-P men’s cross-country

As Ethan Widlansky PO ‘22 crossed the 8-kilometer race finish line at the UC Riverside Invite last Saturday, he didn’t realize he’d run a record-breaking pace until after the results became official.

With Will Leer PO 07 holding the previous Pomona-Pitzer record time of 24:14.1 for fifteen years, Widlansky crushed the mark by a whole four seconds. But in the moment, he wasn’t even thinking about punching his name in the record books. 

“I thought I was running at 24:30 or 40 pace because the course was so poorly marked,” Widlansky said. “And then after Lucas [Florsheim PO ’24] and I crossed the finish line, I was like, ‘Oh shit, we went really fast.’”

Teamwork on the course made the achievement possible, he said.

“There’s a dependency in there: I don’t think either of us would have broken it without the other,” he said. “Lucas definitely got me through that last mile.”

Having rarely run with others for almost two years due to the pandemic, Widlansky missed the sense of togetherness the P-P cross-country team had.

“I was running alone a lot, missed being with the guys especially during workouts,” he said.  “I would go on regular easy runs with other people, but it would be very difficult to find someone with whom I can really push myself and give more exerted effort.”

But despite its hiatus from competition, Widlansky said, the cross-country team is already showing signs of excellence early in the season.

“Oliver Chang [PO ‘22] totally popped off and ran at 25:10 with a wrong turn — a time that would have been competitive my freshman year and the Invitational which I ran,” he said. “The time would have rivaled our top seven from a year or two ago; the team is just incredibly deep and continues to surprise.”

In addition to enjoying the unexpected shining moments from his teammates, Widlansky continues to run due to the personal mental health benefits the sport provides. 

“It also allows me to share space without adhering to the social expectation that often comes with sharing space.” — Ethan Widlansky PO ’22

“Through high school and as it is here, it became a lifeline,” he said. “I always like to think of the sport as catharsis; it’s a good social outlet and safety net for me. It also allows me to share space without adhering to the social expectation that often comes with sharing space.”

But it hasn’t always been easy, he explained, and the closeness of the team is critical to helping its runners keep going.

“There is no other aerobic sport, aside from swimming maybe, that challenges and pushes human capacity to that extreme of extent,” he said. “There’s often a culture of self-reliance given the nature of the sport, but I really appreciate that the team here especially has been so proactive and reaching out. There’s a really great go-with-the-flow attitude here.”

With these challenges in his path, Widlansky said, the feeling of overcoming them and reaching success is second-to-none.

“I like it when everyone else gets so hyped about nationals — all the work everyone puts in is paying off, even the guys who weren’t with us,” he said. “The coolest thing I’ve experienced in collegiate running is when we all cross the finish line; 10 minutes later, it’s announced that we won and everyone goes berserk.”

Looking ahead, Widlansky seems more focused on finding ways to bolster the team’s success rather than staying rooted in his recent achievements.

“It’s a surprise and it’s exciting, but it’s also not the end — it’s just a number,” he said. “I’m just excited to keep getting back at it with my teammates.”

Strong bonds and tight-knit camaraderie help Lucas Florsheim PO ’24 run his way into record books

After completing his first collegiate race, Florsheim didn’t expect his work to include a record-breaking time — never even having run the 8K competitively before.

“I have run this distance before, but never for cross-country,” Florsheim said. “I didn’t think we [Widlansky and I] were going to break the record; it wasn’t even on my mind at all.” 

And the run was far from a walk in the park.

“At times, we had moments in the middle of the race where we had no idea where we were,” he said. “I only knew we were running pretty fast because there was a PA system saying second place ran 23:40. So I was telling myself: ‘Dang, unless we really slow down, we’re gonna have a shot.’”

Florshm ran the 5K in high school, and he said moving to the eight-kilometer race in collegiate cross-country has taken some adjustment.

“It’s hard because you have to set a point mentally where you’re going to engage; you have to strategically decide when you’re going to really get after it,” he said. “Personally, I’m more of a long distance runner so I feel like my skills are better suited for the 8K than the 5K. But again, it really just depends on your physiology.”

Despite these obstacles, Florsheim said he’s overcoming them with the help of a P-P program that prioritizes the mental status of athletes over their results. 

“I think P-P does a really good job of comprehending cross-country as a team sport and not as an individual sport because that takes the load off to you and makes it more of a team effort,” he said.

This strong emphasis on team building is what drives him to continue to pursue the sport. 

“I would say the community is probably my favorite aspect about the sport because you just get really close with people in and outside of the sport,” he said. “You can go on runs with people who maybe wouldn’t be your friend and not say a word to them for an hour — but it’s not awkward. Stuff like that is pretty special.”

Florsheim also felt a similar, significant team moment as he crossed the finish line at Riverside.

“My proudest moment so far was probably just toeing the line with a bunch of the guys,” he said. “I lived with a bunch of the sophomores on the team this past year and we trained together all the time. So it’s pretty cool to make it through to this point, like to finally be at a college race.” 

In the coming months, Florsheim hopes to keep pushing himself and his teammates. 

“Obviously it’s exciting to break a record but we have to get ready for more races this season,” he said. “I hope we’ll continue to run fast and push each other to drive my number further down, which will be really exciting.”

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