Women’s Track Team Prepares for SCIAC Championships

After a rare break from meets last weekend, the Pomona-Pitzer women’s track and field team will resume competition this weekend at the SCIAC Championships. Held today and tomorrow at nearby Occidental College, the tournament will be the culmination of what has already been a strong season for the Sagehens. The team has been preparing for the SCIAC meet since January, and the athletes are primed to put forth their best efforts of the season.

The SCIAC Championships is the only time athletes from all SCIAC schools compete together. Events are scored 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1, and All-SCIAC Honors are at stake as the top six individuals in each event earn the distinction. While the field event finals are split between Friday and Saturday, the finals of all running events, except the 3000-meter steeplechase, will be held on Saturday. The top eight finishers from Friday’s preliminary running events qualify for finals.

After four SCIAC dual meets, the Sagehens hold a 4-1-3 record. While the P-P squad is unlikely to defeat California Lutheran University, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, or University of La Verne, the team has its sights set on University of Redlands after tying the Bulldogs in their last dual meet. Occidental has been a friendly rival of the Sagehens all season, and the P-P women hope to prevail once again in their second match-up against the Tigers.

If the season thus far is any indication, many Sagehens are sure to perform remarkably this weekend. The team has already seen four school records broken so far this spring in the triple jump, 4×800-meter relay, 4×1600-meter relay, and 400-meter hurdles. Three more athletes have moved up to the second spot on the P-P top-ten lists, and the SCIAC Championships will be their last opportunity to add more school records to this year’s list.

Katie Barton PO ’15, the current school record-holder in the 400m hurdles, is a top Sagehen to watch this weekend. She holds the fastest SCIAC time in that event this year and is currently ranked ninth in the nation for Division III. While a SCIAC victory is within her reach, it will not come easily. Two CMS runners, senior Rose Lewis CM ’13, who is only 0.08 seconds behind Barton on the charts, and defending SCIAC champion Meg O’Keefe HM ’14, can both challenge Barton for the title.

Despite the pressure, Barton remained calm while contemplating the big race ahead of her.

“We have an all-around strong group of hurdlers this year, and the times on paper don’t mean much,” she said. “The top three of us are all within 0.25 seconds of each other, and I think any of the top five seeds has the potential to win. We’re all going to run faster, and it’s going to be a good fight. The important things will be to keep a cool head and stay strong to the finish. Only one person can win, but I hope we will all run really well.”

Ailene Nguyen PO ’16 is another Sagehen to keep an eye on. Nguyen set the school record in the triple jump early this season and is one inch away from matching the school record in the long jump. A star in the sand, Nguyen has been dominant on the track as well this season. She holds the number three all-time P-P mark in the 100-meter race, the fifth-best time in the 200m, and is part of the seventh all-time fastest 4×100-meter relay team. She is ranked among the top five SCIAC athletes in all four of her individual events. While competing in five events at the SCIAC championships might be overwhelming for some, Nguyen has proved that she can handle a hectic track schedule with poise.

Another standout in multiple events, Isabelle Ambler PO ’13, will be competing in both the 3000-meter steeplechase and the 800-meter race this weekend. While her event combination is unusual, Ambler has proved that she’s no ordinary athlete. In the first steeplechase race of her life two weeks ago, Ambler finished two seconds short of a school record. She currently holds the third-fastest steeple time and second fastest 800m time among SCIAC athletes, and championships will be a great opportunity to improve upon those times.

The Sagehens are going into the SCIAC Championships rested and having worked hard toward this weekend in particular.

“Early on in the season, we talked about all the work we were doing then that was preparing us for this section of the season—the playoffs, as it were,” Head Coach Kirk Reynolds said. “I’m looking forward to seeing the entire team do their events to the best of their ability. It will be a blast of a meet!”

With months of preparation behind them, the women of P-P track and field are sure to deliver strong performances. In the wise words of Reynolds, “the hay is in the barn.”

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