In a strong finish to a stellar season, the Pomona-Pitzer men’s cross country team finished in 25th place at Nationals in Terra Haute, Ind., two weeks ago. The Men Hens may wear flashy shorts, but they do not run to get attention. They dedicate themselves to their training because they truly love the sport, and while they may not be asking for it, their performance at Nationals deserves the recognition usually heaped upon more glamorous sports.
The PPXC men secured their first trip to Nationals since 2005 with a second-place finish at the West Regionals on Nov. 10 and rode the momentum that had been building all season to Indiana. Every cross country team dreams of a team trip to Nationals, and the men’s achievement was gratifying proof of their talent and hard work. After a heartbreaking fifth-place finish at Regionals last year, the men were over the moon with their Nationals berth this year.
“What was great about Nationals was having the opportunity to see how many people across the country have been running and working as hard as we have and who care just as much as we do,” said Alex Johann PO ’14 of the trip to Indiana.
Alex Johnson PZ ’13 has qualified individually for Nationals in the two previous years, and his experience clearly paid off. He was the first Sagehen finisher with an eight-kilometer time of 25:26, and his 64th-place finish overall was a huge improvement upon his 212th place a year ago.
John Fowler PO ’16, who had been steadily improving all season, was the second P-P runner to cross the finish line. He broke 26 minutes for the second time this season with a time of 25:51.
Not far behind Fowler was Ben Girodias PO ’15, who crossed the finish line in 26:05. Alex Johann PO ‘14, running the 8k race in 26:25, was fourth for the Sagehens, and the final scorer, Pryor Stroud PO ’15, finished with a time of 26:50.
The second freshman in PPXC’s top seven, Corey Purcella PO ’16, finished close behind Stroud with a time of 26:59. In his final collegiate cross country race, David Erf PO ’13 wore his blue and orange jersey proudly as he crossed the finish line in 28:16.
The P-P runners have been performing well all season, and the impressive finish to their season was not a surprise to those who have been following their feats. The tough competition they faced at the SCIAC meets undoubtedly helped them run well on a national stage. Three male SCIAC teams made it to Nationals from the West Region, highlighting the strength of the SCIAC conference. Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, who has been PPXC’s chief competition all season, finished in eleventh place at Nationals, and La Verne finished in 31st.
The Men Hens’ dominance this season indicates a bright future ahead for PPXC as four out of the team’s five scorers will return next year. Johnson has been a powerful, consistent asset for the team, and his graduation will be a great loss, but the younger Hens appear poised for success next year.
“It was a good season, but being at Nationals showed us there is more training to be done,” said Girodias.