The Claremont-Mudd-Scripps women’s cross country team won the NCAA West Regional meet last Saturday, Nov. 16, with three runners in the top 10 and all five scorers within the top 25. The Pomona-Pitzer women’s cross country team placed ninth out of 20 teams. The first-place finish ensured that the Athenas will travel to the NCAA Division III National Championship on Saturday, Nov. 23 in Hanover, Ind., for the sixth year in a row. While the P-P team will not be competing in Hanover, Claire Brickson PO ’14 had an outstanding race for the Sagehens, placing tenth in a time of 22:38 and earning the right to run at Nationals.
CMS was led by Sara Mostatabi CM ’15, who finished third
overall. Allison Barnwell CM ’14 and Lisa Beem SC ’14 finished shortly
thereafter, coming in sixth and seventh respectively. After running
barefoot and placing second at the SCIAC Championships, Adele Eslinger
CM ’14 proved to be an integral part of CMS’ success. She was the
fourth Athena to finish at Regionals, placing 22nd in a time of 23:12.
Meghan Fuelling CM ’16 rounded out the Athena scorers, coming in 24th.
“[I]t was awesome to have such a big race right here at home. The
atmosphere was electric. I loved seeing so many friends, parents, and
alumni come out to watch, and I won’t soon forget the crescendoing chant
of ‘C-M-S’ that met us as we surged up the hill after the starting
gunshot,” Eslinger wrote in an e-mail to TSL.
After a fulfilling Regionals performance, Eslinger and her teammates hope to have one last strong race together at Nationals, as they hope to improve upon their third place finish at last year’s race.
“We’ve been working hard all season, and those dark and early 6 a.m.
practices are finally starting to pay off,” Eslinger wrote. “While of
course placing high as a team at Nationals is in the back (or front) of
all our minds, my true hope for us is just to run in teamsmanship
[sic]; to run as strong as we’ve trained to become; and to empty every
last bit of ourselves for every last one of our CMS teammates, whether
they are with us physically or not … and for me, hopefully to run
Brickson led the Sagehens, running one minute and seven seconds faster than her time on the same course at the P-P Invitational earlier this season. Her time, the third-fastest ever by a Sagehen on the course, placed her fifth among SCIAC competitors, an improvement on her 12th place finish at the SCIAC Championships two weekends before.
Maya Weigel PO ’17 was the second Sagehen finisher, running 23:15 to place 25th. Ally McLaughlin PO ’16 placed 42nd in 23:45. Lauren Collins PO ’15 finished fourth for the Sagehens in a time of 24:09, good for 62nd overall. After collapsing just inches from the finish line, Camille Matonis PZ ’15 gave it her all to finish as the final P-P scorer in 65th place and a time of 24:16.
Molly Cole PO ’16 and Alicia Mizes PO ’16 were the final two Sagehen competitors, placing 77th and 91st.
Brickson’s time was good enough to qualify for Nationals; although the possibility was in the back of her mind, she never considered it realistic.
“I did think about it, but more as an idea that it would be cool to do, and if it happened it would be a really long shot. I probably would’ve been crazy to actually think it was possible,” Brickson said. “Since it was pretty unlikely, I didn’t really want to admit it as a serious goal.”
After running throughout high school and college, Saturday’s race put a satisfying cap on Brickson’s cross country career.
“I couldn’t have imagined a better ending to the eight years that I’ve run. I just love this sport so much and I love my teammates, and no matter what, I would’ve looked back on my time running with lots of happy memories,” Brickson said. “I literally can’t imagine something realistically happening that would’ve made me as happy as it did … if I had imagined the perfect way to end my cross country career, I don’t even think I would’ve come up with this, because it would’ve been too crazy.”
At Nationals, Brickson hopes to run a competitive race and achieve a personal record on the fast course in Hanover.
“At first, I was just so happy that it happened … But this is an awesome opportunity. I should make the most of it. I don’t have [specific] goals yet, but I want to be fierce,” Brickson said.
Head Coach Kirk Reynolds had high praise for Brickson’s Regionals race.
“Claire ran a patient, yet aggressive race … She’s worked so hard for four years and she knows every turn and bump in the Wash area, so for her to put together her best-ever race at Regionals, on her home course, in front of her parents and teammates and friends, is simply wonderful. Claire’s race just jumped into my top five of all-time favorite races by Pomona-Pitzer women,” Reynolds said.
Brickson and the CMS team will compete at Nationals on Saturday in Hanover. The women’s race begins at 11 a.m. and can be watched live online at NCAA.com.