Until last Saturday, the Pomona-Pitzer women’s cross-country team had not defeated CMS in a conference meet since 1991. Now, the drought has finally ended. On Saturday, Oct. 31, the Sagehens earned 2nd place (59 points) in the SCIAC Championships behind Occidental (44 points), but ahead of CMS (74 points). Alicia Freese PO ’10 won the individual championship title in only her second race of the season.While the Sagehens came into the race off of a third place finish two weeks earlier at the SCIAC multi-duals competition, in the early part of the race the runners quickly asserted themselves as serious contenders. The top five runners who contributed to the score were Freese (1st place), Rose Haag PO ’10 (5th place), Roxy Cook PZ ’13 (10th place), Rachael Haislet PO ’10 (20th place), and Zoe Meyers PO ’10 (23rd place). The 59 point total is derived by adding the positions of the top five finishers.“We ran exceptionally well as a team, from top to bottom,” commented Head Coach Kirk Reynolds.The team arrived at the course early with the responsibility of constructing the official SCIAC championship banner, and the task quickly became a test of their teamwork. While it was initially unclear whether the women would be able to successfully erect the sign, they eventually succeeded—a good omen for the race to come.After acclimating to the somewhat pungent air from the nearby cow farms, the women warmed up on the soft, spongy grass of the course.A few moments after the bang of the starting gun, the Sagehen runners were already asserting themselves among their SCIAC competitors. While CMS may have been favored as the team to beat, it soon became evident that the real competition was between Occidental and P-P.The race began with some tactical running on the part of the Sagehens as they maneuvered through the turns of soggy mud in the first loop. Freese quickly asserted herself at the front of the pack behind CMS’s first runner, who had beaten Freese two weeks earlier.In a tactical and conservative race, Freese conserved her energy by staying with the CMS runner until the final 400 meters, at which point she surged into the lead and easily won by 11 seconds. Freese’s victory is especially impressive given that she was not able to train or compete in the early part of the season due to injury. “Alicia ran a spectacular race,” said Reynolds. “She’s a phenomenal runner who’s just hitting her stride as we head into Regionals and Nationals. It’s hard to believe, but she still wasn’t at 100 percent today.”Haag had an especially impressive race in the last SCIAC championships of her collegiate career. Finishing fifth overall and second for the team, Haag’s improved performance was an essential element of the team’s success. She ran an especially gusty last 800 meters of the race, holding off Occidental’s second runner. “Rose also ran a very smart, tactical race—one of the most brilliant of her career,” commented Reynolds.To put the team’s performance in perspective, it helps to look at some of the statistics of past performances. Seven runners ran times that put them among the top 25 times ever run on the course. Their combined team time was the fastest ever recorded for P-P on the course. Freese became only the second P-P runner ever to win two SCIAC individual titles.Freese attributes the team’s success to the unconventional body decorations that many of the team members adorned themselves with the night before the race. Some observers commented that the temporary tattoos that the runners wore made them look ridiculous. Freese, on the other hand, said: “I am pretty sure our eclectic tattoos are partially responsible for the team’s success on Saturday. They served to both distract and intimidate our perplexed competitors.”For most of the Sagehen runners, the SCIAC championships mark the end of the season. “Our team put in a ton of hard work all season, and to have it culminate like this at the conference meet is a terrific achievement,” said Reynolds.However, for the top seven finishers at SCIACS, the season continues until the West Region Championships to be held at Pomona Nov. 14. “I know our top seven will continue the hard work and preparation leading up to the end of the season at Regionals and Nationals,” said Reynolds.If the team places in one of the top two spots at this meet, they will be guaranteed a trip to the National Championships in Ohio the following weekend. They could also earn an “at large” bid by finishing in the top four. As of Nov. 3, the team was ranked fourth in the West Region, meaning that with a good day and some gusty running, the women have a chance of qualifying for the second year in a row.The remaining runners are anxious and excited about the prospect of competing for a spot at nationals.“We train for and want to do well at SCIACS,” said Meyers, “but at the same time we are also thinking about the postseason competition and nationals. Getting to nationals as a team is a very important goal for all of us, especially since we were able to go last year.”The Sagehens will have a home-field advantage during the regional championships. “We’re running on our home course for Regionals, right where we’ve dropped sweat and blood in practice,” noted Reynolds.“We are really excited to be racing at home for Regionals,” said Haag. “It really makes a difference to have friends line the course yelling and screaming for you!”The Race will be held Nov. 14 and will feature teams from California and Oregon to Washington and Colorado. The women’s race begins at 9 a.m.
Women’s XC Finishes in Second Place at SCIAC Championships