Track meets are variable. There are good days and bad days. There are fast times and slow times. There are phenomenal performances and not-so-stellar ones. On Saturday, the Pomona-Pitzer men’s and women’s track and field team realized just how variable a competition could be.
Just as any team can train hard only to come up short in “The Big Game,” so too do track-and-fielders occasionally reach a plateau in their performance at contests. Nonetheless, while one athlete might suffer at the hands of a terrible day, another might have a breakout performance that is sure to be the highlight of their season. And so it was on Saturday.
The Hens traveled to Occidental for their last dual meet of the season. The usual scenario greeted them – a 400-meter oval track, athletes dressed in warm ups and listening to adrenaline-inducing music, and the customary Los Angeles smog. However, this time around, a sudden shock of heat seemed determined to pose as many challenges as possible to those trying to set personal bests.
With the red, rubberized track shimmering in the LA sun, the meet got under way – but not before it posed another challenge to the athletes. With a bug in the timing system, races didn’t begin until 45 minutes after their scheduled start.
First to go were the hurdle races. Jack Lewis PI ‘12 may have left a slew of strewn hurdles in his wake, but he got the day off on the right foot as he scored some crucial points for the Hens. Breaking the tape in a swift 16.69 seconds, he led teammate William Forrester PO ’13 across the line by exactly a second.The hurdle events did not stop there, though, as heavy barriers replaced the hurdles and steeplechase began. Led out quickly by CMS runner Kramer Straube, Paul Balmer PO ‘12 bided his time and fought off the mid-race desire to quit faced by every steeplechase runner. Balmer brought the Sagehens some of their dual meet points—points that seemed to be more and more elusive as the day dragged on.
Things were moving now. Ask any track athlete what the worst thing about a meet is and the invariable answer is, “The inevitable delay between scheduled and actual start time; a meet will drag on so much longer than it should.” But not Saturday: determined to make up for the time lost at the start of the day, meet directors never once fell behind the 45 minutes already tacked on to the schedule. What this meant, though, was that if you turned your head for a moment, you very well may have missed the performances put on by a number of SCIAC athletes.
In the middle distances, it’s not uncommon to hear the names Brian Gillis, Anders Crabo, Colin Flynn, Alicia Freese, and John Mering bantered about. Saturday was a day of change as all these athletes faced greater expectations than many others on the track. All of the aforementioned athletes stepped up to the plate on Saturday, as they came through for the team after running spectacular races only a day or two earlier at the Mt. San Antonio College Relays. The Mt. SAC Relays are a prestigious meet held at nearby Mt. SAC, which often draw many of the best in the business. This didn’t stop P-P Track and Field, however.Freese PO ’10 set a national automatic qualifying mark while simultaneously breaking her own school record and demolishing the old SCIAC record in the 10,000 meters with a time of 35:13 – and all this before returning to competition only two days later to win the women’s 1500 meters at Oxy in 4:41…in trainers.Dynamic steeplechase duo Crabo PO ’12 and Gillis PO ‘10 also improved upon their marks at Mt. SAC, reestablishing themselves as numbers one and two, respectively, in NCAA Division III. Where were they Saturday? Later in the afternoon, all one had to do was glance at the track to see Crabo and Gillis grinding out the laps near the front of the men’s 5000m. Gillis not only finished second in his heat at Mt. SAC, but also placed 2nd in the 5k with a near-season-best 15:16.
Furthermore, those previously described as P-P’s phenomenal middle distance threesome — Mering PO ’10, Wynton Marsalis, PI ’10, and Reily Janson, PI ’10 — all completed the grueling double demanded of them this weekend. Mering bettered his NCAA provisional mark in the 1500 at Mt. SAC with a 3:51 (or the equivalent of a 4:06 mile, to put it in perspective). Fellow miler Flynn PI ’12 joined him as he ran 4 minutes flat, only to accompany Mering in the 800-meter a day later at Oxy. There, Mering again proved his resilience as he won the 800-meter race in 1:54.76, with Flynn close behind in 1:58.72.
Marsalis and Janson, on the other hand, showed off their speed on Friday and Saturday, running the 800 at Mt. SAC and coming back to pull the P-P 4×400-meter relay team to a respectable 3rd overall at the dual meet that pitted P-P against Occidental, Cal Lutheran, and cross-campus enemy CMS.
But the fine performances didn’t end there. The women’s track and field team demonstrated its depth this past weekend as those who didn’t perform so well gave way to those who made massive breakthroughs, or continued their improving ways.
A fine example? Claire McGroder PO ‘10 sits at 2nd in the conference with her 200-meter performance this weekend, as she ran a nearly perfect race, coming through in a little over 25.7 seconds. Not only that, but she pulled a one-day double, returning for the women’s 400-meter and her second victory of the day, accompanied by a finish time of 56.95 seconds—again, a very strong national mark.
In the field, the amazing happened. It seems inconceivable that anyone should be able to jump as high as they are tall – but that’s exactly what Elena Brandford PO ‘10 nearly did. Clearing 4 feet, 11 inches, she was the Hen’s top female performer in that event. The throwers were not to be outdone, and Ellie Chestnut PO ‘10 showed her prowess once more as she took 2nd in both the javelin and hammer throws.
Unfortunately, this long-winded recap of the past weekend’s performances can be a bit misleading. The Hens—for all the success noted above—were still plucked and roasted on Saturday as neither men nor women could come up with the win against Occidental or CMS (as painful as it is to admit defeat at their hands). The women also struggled against Cal Lu, falling to them by a 60-point deficit that became more and more difficult to close as Saturday’s contests dragged on. The men fared slightly better, however, coming away with a tie against CLU.
Nonetheless, both teams are lucky in that they have one upcoming major competition at which to redeem themselves. And so, if you’re to remember any of the many things presented in this article remember these dates—Apr. 30 and May 1. Strehle Track. 2:30 pm. Hen redemption at the SCIAC Championships, hosted by La Verne on Pomona’s campus.