Last Saturday’s Third Annual Pomona-Pitzer Invitational brought 181 runners from around Southern California to the line of the men’s 8k race around Claremont’s carefully marked farm and soccer field areas. The competition included SCIAC rivals, Division I schools, and NAIA powerhouses, but the Sagehens weren’t concerned with a top finish.
Their top seven were weary from two consecutive weeks of hard races, most recently at the Stanford Invitational on Sept. 24. Other harriers were out with sickness and injury. The men of PPXC were definitely not at full strength—but they weren’t intended to be.
With the runners who competed at Stanford taking the race as workout, yet another new runner finished first out of the team. Captain Ryan Rosmarin PZ ’14 was the first across the line for the ‘Cocks in 26:52, good for 52nd place. Next was Scott Humbarger PO ’12, making his bid and displaying the fitness he accrued running for the Cambridge Track Club last spring, closing hard in 26:55.2. Rounding out the scoring for the Hens was the big senior trio of Colin Flynn PZ, Anders Crabo PO and Paul Balmer PZ in 27:00.7, 27:01.7, and 27:01.8 respectively.
“It was really impressive that we could come out with our top guys running a tempo effort and still have a strong pack, have some new guys run some fast times, and in general just show up today,” summarized freshman phenomenon Ben Girodias PO ’15, sidelined on Saturday.
Recovering from long injuries, Hale Shaw PZ ’12 and David Erf PO ’13 both ran their season debuts.
“The legs were a little rusty, but it felt good to get out there and kick down some Oxy guys,” said Shaw, a perennial contributor to the Hens’ top pack.
The race, while not a very important one at face value, followed the same course as the D-III West Regional Race, which will be hosted by Occidental College at Pomona on Nov. 12.
“It’s good to get our guys used to course before Regionals,” Head Coach Tony Boston explained. “Once the time comes, we’ll be used to these tight turns and hills and can really go to work on CMS.”
Boston referenced the unorthodox nature of P-P’s course, with its hairpin turns, narrow sections, and short-but-steep hills.
“It’s not at all like the downhill course they have up at Willamette [the site of the 2010 Regional race]. Anyone can run sub-25:00 there,” dismissed Alex “Red Eye” Johnson, PZ ’13. Johnson was also absent from Saturday’s race.
I sat down with Colin Flynn this week to talk about the significance of the race. Flynn had sent an inspirational e-mail to the team late the night before, stressing the importance of pushing through the potentially gratuitous mid-season.
“We need to stay focused out there [on the roads]. [The Pomona-Pitzer Invitational] was a good effort for me, good to get Ryan, Scott, Hale, and Luke running strong, but we also had a lot of guys missing. There’s a lot of work left to do. You can’t get ranked first in the West early in the season, kinda cruise through, and then come out and expect to win SCIAC. You just can’t,” Flynn continued, “Oxy came out big this weekend, so did La Verne. It’s gonna be a tough competition for the division.”
Eric Kleinsasser, Occidental College’s top runner, is gunning for his fourth SCIAC title this year, and he is surely a competitor for the national title as well, having run more than a minute faster than the quickest Hen. Oxy’s number two runner is not far behind. La Verne has two athletes who have run in 25-minute range before, Cal Lutheran has one, and CMS has a squad with a lot of speed that could perform highly at any time. The SCIAC features a deep field of runners.
The men of PPXC take this weekend to get after the “3 Dubs,”—water, workouts, and wellness. The next time they are in action will be the first race of SCIAC competition at the Multi-Duals meet, La Mirada Park, on Oct. 15. The Hen Men have much to rest up for: the course is tough, the stakes are high, and the competition is fierce.
“It’s definitely going to be a dogfight in the last kilometer,” Crabo mused. “I’m just lucky I have the best wingmen out there.”