Hens Get by With a Little Help from (Injured) Friends

At last week’s track and field meet, the Sagehens traveled to Occidental’s Henry Track via party bus. Although the sound system was sub-par and the team only learned about the neon strobe lights after disembarking, the ladies were prepared for the meet. Well, as prepared as they ever would be with such a small number of athletes actually racing.

The Pomona-Pitzer women’s track team has been plagued with a number of injuries that have severely diminished the team’s starting-line presence.

“It’s been a rough season,” distance runner Annie Lydens PO ’13 said. “This is the first time in P-P track history that so few people are slated to run.”

Of the 21 athletes on the team roster, only 13 women competed in last weekend’s meet. Injuries ranged from hairline fractures to dog bites, even a knee injured on the dance floor.

“I was getting my boogie on at the Wedding Party the other weekend and the next thing I knew my knee hurt so bad!” distance runner Kathleen Shea PO ’12 said. “I couldn’t believe it. I had been hoping to see some red [track dust] on my shoes this season, now I fear I’ll be joining the P-P cheer squad!”

Shea is referring to one of P-P’s newest club teams—Enchanted Eclipse: the new Sagehen Cheerleading squad comprised of Sagehens nursing long-term injuries. A talented bunch of athletes, the students who comprise the squad have each logged quite a solid amount of time going through the proper technical cheer-training during rehab in the Rains Center training room. The cheers are inspiring, enlightening, and engaging—think Krav Maga meets Technotronic’s “Pump Up The Jam.” And they would be little without the leadership of Pomona freshman Tasha “Mama Tash” Block.

“I’m glad we’ve got Mama Tash on our side,” distance runner Claire Brickson PO ’14 said. “I don’t know what we’d do without her. Or even worse, what we’d do if she were supporting another team. She really is a lifesaver.”

Tash, injured for the past year, has kept herself busy with Enchanted Eclipse as she nurses her hamstring back to health. Since joining the women’s cross-country team in the fall and continuing on with a spot on the track team this spring, Block has been a devoted athlete and fan to “her girls.” Tash’s dedication to the team served as the initial inspiration for the cheering squad, and the squad has since blossomed from a hobby to a full-time sport.

“The girl knows how to do it,” Dot Silverman PO ’14 said. “She’s got the skills to really motivate us when we’re running.”

Although it goes by the name Enchanted Eclipse, the squad is anything but mystical. Block is known for her “Tough Love” cheering techniques, and her tactics are not for the weak of heart. The team has a rigorous practice schedule and has honed their chants to near-perfect coordination.

“We don’t do that ‘Hey good lookin’ and ‘You’re amazing, you’re GORGEOUS!’ kind of thing. Nuh uh,” Block said. “That stuff is alright, but not when the intensity is heightened, not when winning is on the line.”

Block’s cheer-leadership, although perhaps not appropriate for the tennis courts, is popular amongst the runners on the team. Before each race, athletes find time to talk to Mama T.

“I like to talk strategy with Tash,” distance runner Naomi Wagner PO ‘13 said. “Sometimes I’ll tell her to scream my favorite cheers. Other times I’ll just give her the go-ahead to make me run fast.”

Not that Wagner needs the extra speed, running a 1,500m time of 5:13:20 and a 20:35 5k, but Block seems to inspire the runners with her mere presence.

“I was really nervous about the steeple,” Cassandra Owen PO ‘14 said, referring to the steeplechase, a 3k race where athletes run seven-and-a-half laps around the track, jumping over barriers every 100m. “I figured I’d talk to Mama Tash. She was so motivating and inspiring and soothing, all at once. I kept thinking about her mantras as I ran, she got me ready and saw me through to the end!”

After overcoming her nerves, Owen pulled on her blue racing flats and ran her first steeplechase race. Owen’s smile as she crossed the finish line said more than the already-impressive 14:08:59 on the stop-watch.

Enchanted Eclipse was certainly an appreciated sideline presence at the meet, and even with so many girls out of the races, the Sagehen women’s track and field team had a number of proud moments. Pitzer sophomore Roxy “Rox” Cook came in third in her 800m race with a time of 2:28:87. Soon after the 800, Cook ran 5:05:81 in the women’s 1500m race, coming in second with a time of 5:05:81. She didn’t stop at the finish line, though, sprinting off the track to her car to make the Threepenny Opera’s curtain call an hour later in true scholar-artist-athlete fashion.

From the sprinting squad, Pomona junior Isabelle Ambler ran the 400m hurdles in 70 seconds, a personal best. The pole vault squad—the few, the proud—saw a spectacular performance by Pitzer senior Lara Hughes-Stinson. Hughes-Stinson has been having quite a season, and last weekend came in third, vaulting 3.05meters. She was shy to comment, and when pointedly asked about what influence Enchanted Eclipse might have had on her performance, Lara replied, “No comment.”

Although temporarily burdened with injuries, the P-P women’s track and field team expects a speedy recovery. With the help of Enchanted Eclipse and the strong athletes who have maintained healthy limbs and ligaments, P-P will look forward, this week, to their first dual meet with Occidental on Friday afternoon, followed by the annual Occidental Distance Carnival on Friday evening.

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