Men’s XC Looks To Earn Nationals Berth at Prado

The day is likely to dawn bright and sunny. The fields of Prado Park in Chino are likely to be dotted with myriad colors, courtesy of the uniforms of runners representing the SCIAC schools.

It is likely that these runners will be temporarily caged behind a faint white starting line painted in the grass. It is likely that, like Pavlov’s dogs, these runners will be set loose at the sounding of a gun. And it is with certainty, one might predict, that, on such a day, heroic men and women will drive themselves to the absolute brink in search of personal bests over eight- and six-kilometer cross country courses, respectively.

Such a reality will materialize on Saturday at the annual SCIAC Cross Country Championships. Pitting Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, Pomona-Pitzer, Whittier College, University of La Verne, Occidental College, Chapman University, California Lutheran University, Caltech and University of Redlands against one another, SCIAC represents the end of the regular season and the start of the championship season; the victor at Prado is crowned conference champion, enjoying a subsequent 12 months of glory and joining the ranks of many SCIAC legends who are now immortalized by oral tradition alone, their physical presence and memories long since left behind.

However, unlike some past years, 2012 looks to be an interesting race, for almost anyone has the potential to obtain legendary status. Clear frontrunners are the Stags of CMS, aided by Rafer Dannenhauer HM ’13, the top returning athlete from last year’s West Regional Championships. As last year’s conference champions, the men on the north side of Sixth Street have been proudly touting the top-10 national ranking they obtained two weeks ago. Saturday looks to be another contest at which the Stags must prove they are worthy of such high regard.

Meanwhile, the Stags’ closest challengers are the crowd favorites—the Sagehens of P-P—led by two-time individual Nationals qualifier Captain Alex Johnson PZ ‘13 at the helm of an otherwise youthful team. With first-years comprising four of the team’s scoring seven athletes, some might be doubtful of the Sagehens’ ability to come through in pressured times. However, coaches around the country seem to think the men of P-P are consistent performers, given their 29th-place ranking nationally for each of the last six weeks. With a strong trio of Johnson, Alex Johann PO ’14 and Ben Girodias PO ’15 and the spry young legs of four first-years determined to prove themselves to Coach Tony Boston, their upperclassmen teammates and their impressionable peers, look for the Sagehens to be making powerful moves against CMS in a tooth-and-nail struggle for victory.

Lastly, with regard to contenders for the team title, wary eyes focus occasionally on Oxy, the surprise Nationals team qualifier in 2011. Led by the swift legs of Colin Smith ’15, few conference runners are sure whether Oxy has been struggling to perform at a level equal to last year, or whether they have merely been lying in wait until an opportune moment.

No matter how the day dawns, no matter how bright the uniforms, no matter how numerous the athletes, no matter how determined the competitors, Saturday’s race will be one for the ages; expect legends touting the mettle of whichever team emerges victorious as the men and women of the SCIAC go head-to-head once more at the cross country championships slated for Saturday at 8:30 a.m.

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