All of the frontrunners at the Division III West Regionals meet last Saturday had one thing on their minds: making it to Nationals—except for one. As her competitors laid it all on the line in hopes of earning a trip to the Division III National Championships in Indiana, Annie Lydens PO ’13 had more modest goals: she just wanted to finish the race.
Lydens had only been cleared to run 12 days before Regionals after cross training for weeks in an attempt to heal a nasty hip injury. While her competitors were likely racking up over 50 miles of training every week, Lydens ran less than 50 miles in the entire month leading up to Regionals. Going into the race, she just wanted a solid performance and to cross the finish line intact.
Proving what a truly talented runner she is, Lydens surpassed all expectations, finishing seventh place overall with a six-kilometer time of 21:29. Despite qualifying for Nationals easily, Lydens will not be joining her fellow Men Hens in facing the best runners in the country in Indiana next week. Instead, as a Rhodes Scholarship finalist, she will join the brightest minds in the West during the Rhodes committee meeting the same weekend.
Deciding whether to go to Nationals or to attend the Rhodes interviews was a difficult decision for Lydens, but she could not pass up the opportunity Rhodes offered her.
“While I have been lucky enough to participate in multiple national championship experiences, this is my one chance at the Rhodes,” said Lydens of her choice. “It’s a strange and difficult decision to have to make, but I feel confident about what I chose. Honestly, I just feel blessed to even be making the choice; what a dilemma to have.”
Lydens’ strong performance helped the women’s team to place sixth out of 18 teams with a cumulative racing time of one hour, 53 minutes and 22 seconds, the fastest cumulative 6k time in Pomona-Pitzer history. The previous record of 1:53:06 was set by the fantastic Alicia Freese PO ’10 and her fearless teammates at Nationals in 2008.
Saturday’s course was flat and fast, which helped the Sagehens run personal record (PR) times. Claire Brickson PO ’14 and Camille Matonis PZ ’15 crossed the finish line milliseconds apart in 22:41. They finished in 36th and 37th places respectively, tantalizingly close to the All-Region honors given to the top 35 runners. The pair worked together for much of the race, passing numerous runners in the second half. Matonis’s time was a PR, improving upon her previous, seventh-fastest time in P-P history.
In the final race of her career, Roxanne Cook PZ ’13 finished in 50th place with a time of 22:55, the eighth-fastest 6k time on record for a P-P runner. Molly Cole PO ’16, the lone freshman on the Regionals team, ran an impressive last race of the season, finishing in 22:18.
Continuing her dazzling rise, Isabelle Ambler PO ’13 improved on her previous best time by 45 seconds to finish sixth for the Sagehens. She ran the 6k course in 23:29.12, the 15th-fastest time in P-P history. Just behind Ambler, Naomi Wagner PO ’13 ran a time of 23:34.
Not only was Saturday a success for P-P, but it also highlighted the strength of the SCIAC conference. The PPXC men and both Claremont-Mudd-Scripps teams qualified automatically for Nationals, while four of the top five men’s teams and four out of the seven female individual qualifiers were SCIAC members.
The PPXC trip to Regionals was a whirlwind ending to a smashing season. The women traveled 946 miles to run 3.7. They took four flights in 36 hours, ate approximately 23 bananas and drank 11 free Starbucks samples.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better end to my collegiate cross country season,” said Wagner of the trip. “We’ve been talking about traveling to Oregon for years, and it felt wonderful for it to finally come together.”
It is only fitting that the women’s cross country season ended with a bang. The team has had great success this year, recording many top-10, all-time records for the school and tying for second in SCIAC. The Sagehens have depended on several seniors not only this season but over the last four years as well. Four of the seven runners who traveled to Oregon will graduate this year, and the young Hens will need to step up to fill their shoes.
The biggest challenge PPXC will face next year is the loss of low-scoring Lydens. Saturday marked the last collegiate cross country race for the runner, and while she will not be able to improve upon her 2011 third-place finish at Nationals, she will undoubtedly bring the prowess she has shown in her running to the Rhodes interview. Lydens and the rest of the running Sagehens may be done with cross country, but keep your eyes peeled for future news of the speedy women, for they will be back running around the track in a few short months.