Barton and Nguyen Shine at SCIAC Track & Field Championships

The Pomona-Pitzer women’s track and field team reached the peak of their season last weekend when they traveled to Occidental College to compete in the SCIAC championships. The Sagehens scored 81.5 points during two exciting days of competition, earning a fifth-place finish behind University of La Verne, California Lutheran University, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, and University of Redlands. While many Sagehens had personal-best performances, the stars of the meet were Katie Barton PO ’15 and Ailene Nguyen PO ’16, who each earned an individual SCIAC title.

Friday’s competition ended on a high note with Nguyen winning the long jump competition, setting a school record in the process. Jenny Stary’s record of 18’4”, set in 1977, was the longest standing P-P women’s track and field record until Nguyen’s championship jump. Nguyen jumped 3.5 inches farther than the second-place finisher and was one of only four women to break the 18-foot mark in Friday’s long jump finals. The accomplished first-year also holds the school record in the triple jump.

Nguyen has been a prime point-earner for the Sagehens all season, and the SCIAC Championships were no different for her. On Saturday, on top of being part of the P-P women’s 4×100-meter relay team, she added a third-place finish in the triple jump and a sixth-place finish in the 100-meter dash to her impressive long jump victory.

Others may have had high expectations for Nguyen going into the meet, but Nguyen herself managed to keep remarkably calm amid the stressful championship atmosphere. Although she acknowledged that nerves affected her first few attempts in each jumping event, she added, “I didn’t feel too much pressure because I hadn’t really gone into the meet expecting to do well compared to the other athletes; I just wanted to PR, which I did in two events.”

Barton, who set a school record in the 400-meter hurdles at the P-P Invitational two weeks ago, was the only other Sagehen to come away with a SCIAC title.  Barton barely edged out Ashley Lively of Redlands by 0.04 seconds to win the race with a time of 63.10 seconds. Rhea Jayachandran PZ ’16 finished fifth in the race, and Sydney Rupe PO ’15 finished seventh, making the 400m hurdle race the Sagehens’ best event. Jayachandran and Barton showed hurdling prowess in the 100-meter hurdles as well. Jayachandran placed fourth with a time of 15.41, while Barton was fifth with a time of 15.64.

In a finish nearly as thrilling as Barton’s 400m hurdle victory, Stassja Sichko PO ’15 came from behind in the 800-meter run to nab a third-place spot on the podium.

“It was so exciting,” Sichko said of her race. “I just really wanted to catch the girl who was in third place. It ended up being a pretty great day.”

Sichko’s personal-best time of 2:20.35 was only 0.21 seconds ahead of Isabelle Ambler PO ’13, who finished fifth after a tough first day of competition that included the 3000-meter steeplechase finals and a cutthroat 800m prelim race.

Alex Oxborough-Yankus PZ ’14 had a terrific meet, earning fourth place in both the hammer throw and the javelin. She threw 140’3” in the hammer on Friday and 110’2” in the javelin on Saturday, both personal bests. Her new personal record in the hammer throw ranks sixth in P-P history.

Erin Delaria PO ’15 rounded out the Sagehens and earned All-SCIAC Honors. Delaria finished sixth in the pole vault with a height of 10’6.25”. The 4×100-meter relay team—comprised of Barton, Leslie Rice PO ’16, Nguyen, and Joyce Nimocks PO ’15—also had a strong performance, posting a time of 49.51 seconds. The race was the first time the Sagehens have run under 50 seconds this season.

“Katie and Ailene each earned a conference title, which was outstanding. Both of them have worked so hard all year; they deserve it. We had across-the-board personal bests from nearly everyone, too, which is a nice reflection of the team coming together at the culmination of our season,” Head Coach Kirk Reynolds said.

While most of the P-P women’s track and field team will put their spikes away until next season, Ambler, Barton, Jayachandran, and Nguyen will compete at the Occidental Invitational this weekend. Tomorrow will be Ambler’s last shot at the 3000-meter steeplechase school record, while Barton and Nguyen will attempt to improve their national rankings. 

Among Division III athletes, Barton and Nguyen are currently ranked 17th in the 400-meter hurdles and 12th in the long jump, respectively. The athletes with the top 22 marks in each event will qualify for NCAA DIII Outdoor Track and Field Nationals, held May 23-25 in scenic Lacrosse, Wisc. Barton and Nguyen’s performances at the SCIAC Championships proved that the two can excel under pressure, and if all goes well, they will get another chance to do so at Nationals.

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