Riverside got more than they bargained for at the annual UC Riverside Cross Country Invitational. Charging out of the team vans with music blasting, the Pomona-Pitzer women’s cross country team was ready to prove to Southern California just how fast they are.
Rolling hills and orange groves—maybe it’s that zest that makes Riverside’s course so magical. Oranges and lemons offered an extra-tangy odor in the early morning dew; runners were even spotted toting bags full of avocados home after the race, the backdrop to a record-setting day. The Sagehen women charted record cumulative team times, and personal records (PRs) were achieved by many of your Lady Hens.
“It’s the one we usually look forward to,” Naomi Wagner PO ’13 said of the Riverside race. “It’s really fast, and you can smell the citrus fruits while you’re running.”
The speed of the course comes from its hard-packed soil, leveled-off and flat, with the exception of a few sloping hills. Most women expected to PR, and many did.
In the six-kilometer race, Claire Brickson PO ’14 ran a speedy time of 22:37. Although still recovering from a nasty case of plantar fasciitis, Brickson’s time earned her a spot as the sixth fastest 6K runner in Pomona-Pitzer history. Flying across the finish line, Claire nabbed 84th place out of 167 women.
“I mean, it felt pretty good,” Brickson said. “I just kept thinking about Sagehen glory. I think that’s what got me through the tough spots on the course. Oh, and when our cheering squad blasted Kanye.”
Behind Brickson were Naomi Wagner PO ’13, who came in 104th and ran 22:59, Kayla Eland PZ ’12, who placed 121st and ran 23:36, Leslie Canter PZ ’12, who placed 123rd and ran 23:38, and Stephanie Micham PO ’15, who came in 134th and ran 23:59. The top-five cumulative team time in the 6K race came out to 1:56:51, unseating the third fastest time in 6K program history. Top P-P runners Annie Lydens PO ’13 and Roxanne Cook PZ ’13 were absent from the race, with Lydens taking the weekend off before competing in this weekend’s Stanford Invitational.
In the five-kilometer race, Sagehens Alana Shine PO ’14 and Ilona Kats PO ’12 hiked up their shorts, and each ran personal bests. Kats kept a solid pace throughout the course, while Shine started out slightly slower and steadily increased her speed throughout the race, picking runners off one-by-one to approach Kats. The women sprinted out the last 200 meters to the finish line together, nearly stopping the clock with simultaneous finishes. The clock showed Shine crossing the line in 19:49.2, with Kats only two tenths of a second behind her at 19:49.4. The runners took a moment to catch their breaths before falling into a relieved hug.
“It was a great race,” Kats concluded. “I’m happy that I had one more chance to run a 5K. My goal was to run a sub-twenty race, and I’m glad that I did it.”
As the season presses on, five-kilometer races give way to six kilometers, and stifling heat turns to T-shirt weather. Looking forward to the coming months, the girls are preparing for the best—Lydens is thinking about tomorrow’s meet at Stanford, and the rest of the Hens anxiously anticipate the annual Pomona-Pitzer Invitational next weekend at the Farm.