On Saturday, the Sagehens will take on the best teams from the West Region in an all-out death match for a chance to compete in the National Meet the following Saturday. In order to secure an automatic berth for the NCAA Division III Championships in Cleveland, Ohio, P-P must record a top-two finish. Teams finishing in spots 3 to 5 can also qualify through a wild-card selection process. The race will take place on the P-P home course, which consists of segments on the track, lower soccer field and wash area in a series of three loops for the women—totaling 6,000 meters—and four loops for the men—totaling 8,000 meters.
After finishing a close second-place to CMS at the SCIAC Championships two weeks ago, the men’s squad is going into competition hungry, and doing everything in its power to get the edge on its regional rivals. Along these lines, a number of runners are radically changing their hairstyles. I asked Charlie Enscoe PO ’11, who recently cut his own mullet, what motivated him to get the new hairdo.
“I saw guys like Bri [Brian Gillis PO ’10] and JMer [John Mering PO ’10] getting haircuts, and I knew I had to get one,” Enscoe said. “I take all my running inspiration from these guys, so a little snip-snip of the locks seemed like the thing to do.”
However, a buzz cut or mullet alone will not be enough to get the Sagehens to nationals. In order to go all the way, the runners will have to be fully invested in the race, both physically and mentally. In cross-country, the top five athletes from each school contribute to their team’s score. The lowest score wins. For example, a first-place individual finish contributes only one point to the team’s score.
I asked Paul Balmer PO ’12 what he thought the team’s strategy should be for the race.
“Obviously, we’re gonna call the Sagecock [strategy] because that’s our deadliest weapon,” Balmer said. “After that, all hell’s gonna break loose. In the heat of battle, we just have to fight harder. We have home course advantage, which is going to be huge.”
Gillis responded differently when asked the same question.
“We’ve definitely put in the miles, so it’s time to go out there and apply that fitness,” he said. “I plan to get out in the top 5-10 and just stay there and compete. I know I’m fit, and I really want to go to Nationals. I think that Ohio in late November sounds like a cool thing to do.”
Pomona-Pitzer’s biggest competition Saturday will come from Willamette University, currently ranked No. 1 in the West region. Additionally, CMS, Whitworth and Colorado College all promise to bring strong teams to the meet. In order to contend with this top-notch field, P-P X-C will be showing up with all of its usual big names. Besides captains Gillis and Mering, Alex Johnson PI ’13 will be throwing punches all over the ring. In addition to having great sideburns, young Johnson has added to the squad’s depth all year, recording an All-SCIAC eighth-place finish two weeks ago.
Enscoe and Anders Crabo PO ’12, both key players in the Sagehens’ bid to take this season to the next level, join Johnson.
Balmer and Hale Shaw PI ‘12 round out the P-P squad. Both runners should consider themselves lucky to have made the final cut for the Regionals team among such a talented pool of runners. The team is expecting big moves out of these two athletes. Should one of the typical top-5 falter, it will be up to Shaw and Balmer to step in and take care of business.