The women of Pomona-Pitzer Cross Country know how to battle, and last weekend they proved that even a pre-dawn wake-up, sweltering heat and a packed field cannot hold back this powerful pack of Sagehens. Following a strong initial showing at UC Irvine two weeks ago, the PPXC ladies performed well in less-than-ideal conditions at the annual UC Riverside Invitational last Saturday morning.
The runners split into two races in their first true test of the season. Head Coach Kirk Reynolds was happy with the result.
“We ran well at Riverside, and I was very pleased with how we executed our races,” he said. “We ran teams in both the 5k and the 6k, since we wanted some veterans to run a final cross country 5k, and we wanted some newcomers to run a 6k to get adjusted to the collegiate distance.”
Standout and 2011 All-American Annie Lydens PO ‘13 proved that she still has magic in her legs, placing fifth in the 5-kilometer race and first among Division III runners. Her time of 17:48 ranks as the third-fastest 5k on a cross country course in school history. Behind Lydens, Claire Brickson PO ’14 and Camille Matonis PZ ‘15, ready to rumble after an injury-plagued 2011 season, crossed the finish line in 19:08 and 19:24 for 32nd and 43rd places.
Roxy “Wonderwoman” Cook PZ ’13 led a spirited group of new faces in the 6-kilometer race, placing 68th with a time of 23:00. Close behind were newcomers Alicia Mizes PO ’16 and Molly Cole PO ‘16 with times of 23:10 and 23:25, respectively. Rounding out the top five in the 6k for the Sagehens were Ally McLaughlin PO ’16 and Naomi Wagner PO ’13.
Saturday’s races took place early, but the heat was still noticeable. With help from the honeyed voices of One Direction, the P-P ladies maintained their vigor. They took the heat in stride, managing to race hard and even conjure energy for post-race dance-cheering.
“In PPXC, we love hot. Cheering and cut-offs are two of our favorite things, and with those, the hotter the better,” Isabelle Ambler PO ’13 said.
The UC Riverside course is notoriously fast, but times were slightly slower than normal on Saturday due to the weather. The entire course is packed dirt, which makes for speedy times but can cause respiratory problems, especially when temperatures are high. The orange groves lining the course provided some scenic and aromatic relief, and the P-P team was drawn to the trees. Cole in particular appreciated the orange groves.
“I’m from eastern Washington, so I’m used to running through orchards. The trees helped me feel at home my first collegiate 6k,” she said.
The weekend before Riverside, the Sagehens raced at UC Irvine in slightly cooler temperatures. As is customary for the first race of the season, the team ran in groups for the first two miles of the 5k to help them ease back into the racing mentality. Despite holding back during the first two-thirds of the competition, the P-P women took first place in the “B” race, an improvement from their fourth place finish a year ago.
Lydens placed first for the Sagehens, good for fifth place overall. Mizes, Matonis, Cook and Brickson also scored. The clock read 19:20 when Lydens crossed the finish line, and the rest of the top five runners broke 20 minutes as well.
The first two races for the PPXC women are a promising start.
“I am very excited about our team and our chances for doing well this fall,” said Reynolds, post-Riverside. “We will put our whole squad together for the first time at our home meet in two weeks, and we will know a lot more about this squad after that race.”
The Lady Hens will break out their spikes and spandex again next weekend at the renowned P-P Invite. While they will not be racing tomorrow, their thoughts are never far from Sagehen glory. They will spend their free weekend toning their legs and honing their minds for success, readying themselves for victory in the P-P Invite.