Don’t let their lack of a big budget fool you: The Pomona-Pitzer women’s track and field team is a force to be reckoned with. In their last SCIAC dual meet of the season last Saturday, the fierce Lady Hens stepped up in a big way against their closest rival, Occidental College.
Going into Saturday’s meet, the team knew that the score would be close against Oxy, but few expected the nail-biter that transpired. With all but the javelin and 4×400-meter relay events completed, the Sagehens and the Tigers were tied in team scoring. Ten points were up for grabs in the 4×400 relay, meaning the victorious relay team would win the meet. Even if the losing relay team captured all nine points in javelin, it would not be enough to turn the tides.
As news of the scoring drama traveled about the stadium, all eyes turned to the drama unfolding on the track. The 4×400 relay is the last on the track for a reason: It consistently delivers excitement, and Saturday’s race was no exception. Lead-off leg Katie Barton PO ’15 kept characteristically calm, gaining an early lead over Oxy that was extended by second and third runners Isabelle Ambler PO ’13 and Stassja Sichko PO ’15. A Sagehen victory seemed guaranteed, but Occidental was saving their best for last. The Tigers’ anchor came dangerously close to passing the Sagehens’ anchor, but Leslie Rice PO ’16—who also came in fourth in the open 400—managed to hold on and save the day for the Sagehens.
The superb relay team ran a time of 4:03.93, the seventh-fastest time in P-P history, en route to beating Occidental.
“It was one of the most stressful and exciting races I’ve ever run. We were all really happy to drop so much time and beat Occidental,” Rice said of the high-stakes relay experience. Head Coach Kirk Reynolds had nothing but praise for the relay team.
“With the meet outcome undecided, we could either succumb to pressure and fold or revel in the opportunity to race in an exciting environment, and we did the latter,” he said. “Our team was tough as nails, which was lots of fun to see.”
Along with beating Occidental, the Sagehens defeated Chapman University 124-31, tied University of Redlands 81-81, and fell to California Lutheran University 101-62.
“I was exceedingly pleased with our team’s performance last Saturday. It was a great meet,” Reynolds said. “We had some big come-through performances at the meet, which enabled us to meet our team goal of beating Oxy. We weren’t really concerning ourselves with Redlands, so to end up in a tie with them is a bonus.”
While the 4×400 relay was critical to the Sagehens’ triumph over Occidental, many other athletes played crucial roles. The throwers had a standout meet, with Alex Oxborough-Yankus PZ ’14 placing first in the javelin with a 106’10” throw and second in the hammer with a throw of 128’9”. Ellen Yamasaki PZ ’15 came through with a huge PR to win the discus with a throw of 110’0”.
“The last thing I remember before the discus landed was stepping into the ring for my last throw, trying to clear my mind, and taking a deep breath,” Yamasaki said of her big moment. “It’s the kind of break I’ve been waiting for all season.”
The Sagehens’ success continued in other field events as well. Erin Delaria PO ’15 achieved a PR in the pole vault to win the event with a height of 10’8”. Ailene Nguyen PO ’16 proved yet again that she can be counted on to deliver, as she won the long jump with a jump of 18’1.5” and was runner-up in the triple jump.
Nguyen was dominant on the track as well, coming in second in the 100-meter dash by a narrow margin of 0.01 seconds. Her 200-meter time of 25.90 was good for third place. Barton set a personal record for the second meet in a row with her victorious 400-meter hurdle race. Her time of 1:03.30 is currently the ninth-fastest Division III time in the nation. Barton was also fourth in the 100-meter hurdles behind teammate Rhea Jayachandran PZ ’15, who finished second with a time of 15.87.
Before running their impressive relay, Sichko and Ambler finished second and third in the 800-meter race with times of 2:21.61 and 2:22.47 respectively. On the longer side of things, Claire Brickson PO ’14 placed second in the five-kilometer run with a time of 18:39.40.
The Sagehens hope to keep their momentum going as they prepare for the beloved P-P “Po-Pit” Invite Saturday on their home track. At the all-day meet, spectators can look forward to stunning performances from competitors of all kinds, from P-P athletes to professionals.
“We’re going to have a good home meet tomorrow in our annual Invite, and we’ll have lots of good competition in every event,” Reynolds said. “This is our last meet prior to the conference championships in two weeks, so we’ll be using our invite to continue to progress toward our end-of-season goals.”