Cross Country Seniors Look Forward to Racing in Salem

As each cross country season comes to an end, Pomona-Pitzer runners cannot help but feel glum. Their ponytails are less perky, their strides less jaunty and the ice baths in Rains seem just a little bit colder. Sure, they will miss aquajogging and Tuesday workouts for a while, but the true source of their melancholy is the departure of the PPXC seniors.

“Last year, I just got so sad when the seniors left,” a despondent Kaya LeGrand PO ’15 said, “and this year is no different. What will we do without these wonderful ladies?”

The Regionals race in Salem, OR tomorrow marks the very last collegiate cross country race for many runners in a stunning group of seniors. These Sagehens have raced admirably for P-P over the course of their collegiate careers, and they deserve some personal recognition.

Many glowing words have been written about Annie Lydens PO ’13 during her time at Pomona College, and she has earned every single one. A two-time All-American in cross country and the highest national finisher in P-P cross country history, Lydens has proved to be one of the best athletes to pass through Pomona’s gates.

While battling injuries for the past year, Lydens has shown that her accolades are incapable of summing up who she is. It takes a great athlete to win races, but it takes an even greater one to stay dedicated and believe in oneself when victory is not guaranteed. After Lydens’s P-P cross country career concludes on Saturday, her accomplishments will be memorialized in Rains, but her teammates will remember her for her indefatigable spirit, not her fast times.

Like Lydens, teammates will look up to Naomi Wagner PO ’13 for years to come. She has been a key member of the Sagehens’ scoring contingent since she started as a first-year, and the team will be lacking next year without her leadership. Her six-kilometer personal record of 22:59 is the eighth-fastest in school history, and Wagner earned Second-Team All-SCIAC honors during her 2011 cross country season. Wagner wows all who know her with her ability to run fast times, excel in her studies, conduct research and bake delicious cookies in her limited spare time.

Besides Wagner and Lydens, Roxanne Cook PZ ’13 is the only other senior who has run cross country for P-P for four years in college. Her ability to race consistently is astonishing, especially considering she had only run one season of cross country prior to her first year at Pitzer College. Not only has Cook never run a poor race, she has continued to improve and has clocked a personal best 6k time of 23:00, the ninth-fastest time in P-P history, during her last season. Cook brings joy and laughter to her teammates every day, and the steps of Rains will seem slightly less sunny when Cook graduates early this December and leaves for Chicago.

After years of running no more than once around the track, Isabelle Ambler PO ’13 decided to join cross country her junior year, and PPXC lucked out. Ambler has improved by minutes since she started and has risen astronomically to be part of the Sagehens’ top five for her final race at Regionals. She has proved to the doubters that it is possible to do it all. She can sprint, jump, vault, run long distance and look good while doing it. Ambler’s enthusiastic spirit was an unexpected but much-appreciated addition to the cross country ranks, and her versatility should be an inspiration to athletes everywhere.

Like Ambler, Juliette Walker PO ’13 was a late, but valued, addition to PPXC. She proved her adaptability in the tricky transition from water to land racing and has showed an impressive dedication to a new sport. Walker continued to improve during her time on PPXC, and her resilience is noteworthy. She spread happiness among her teammates with her optimism and imaginative art projects, and her kindness and humor will be missed.

Ambler, Cook, Lydens and Wagner will be running their final cross country race tomorrow on the soggy grass at Oak Knoll Golf Course in Oregon. Four of the seven runners traveling to Regionals are seniors, and the team will be anchored by their collective experience. Each veteran is a strong runner and top-notch human being, and the team cannot go wrong with these ladies in the lead.

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