For the first time in 31 years, the Pomona-Pitzer men’s cross country team took first place at the NCAA West Regional meet to book their ticket to the National Championship. Racing on their home course on Saturday, Nov. 16, the team had their strongest showing of the year and edged out Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, last year’s champions, by a slim seven points. The team will compete at the NCAA National Championship meet Saturday, Nov. 23 in Hanover, Ind. The only other Regional meets that P-P have won were in 1981 and 1982, and the men’s team has only gone to Nationals nine times in P-P history. With their second-place finish, CMS will also be competing at Nationals for the sixth year in a row.
All of P-P’s five scorers placed within the top 30 runners at Regionals. Leading the Sagehens was Ben Girodias PO ’15, coming in fourth place overall with a time of 25:01. John Fowler PO ’16 finished shortly thereafter in fifth with a time of 25:11.
Alex Johann PO ’14 out-kicked two CMS runners within the last 200 meters to finish in 25:51 and 14th place, a big point swing for P-P. His race likely contributed most to the team’s overall victory.
“Individually, this has been a very tough season for me coming back from asthma, and Saturday was really the first time this season that I felt like I could push hard and leave everything out on the course. I spent all season wanting to give the team the performance it deserved, and Saturday I finally had my wish come true,” Johann wrote in an e-mail to TSL.
Pryor Stroud PO ’15 was P-P’s fourth finisher, placing 24th in a time of 26:09. Corey Purcella PO ’16, the last Sagehen scorer, battled with Colin Briskman CM ’15 down the home stretch and ultimately placed just 0.13 seconds behind his CMS rival in 26:11.55, good for 26th place overall.
Adam Hathaway PO ’17 and Steven Ory PO ’16 also competed for the Sagehens and will be running at Nationals. Hathaway placed 36th, and Ory fought bronchitis to finish in 45th place.
Johann attributed the team’s success to their improved strategy and the support of spectators on the course.
“I felt like everything really came together on Saturday. As a team we looked at what we did wrong at SCIACs and learned that we needed to stay together and form a pack for Regionals. When we combined that dominant strategy with the enthusiasm of all of the alumni and supporters and the well-timed peak of our training, we were able to unleash the cohesive West Region champion team that had been laying dormant in us all season,” Johann wrote. “As a senior, I’m just glad that I got the chance to be on this team as we’re starting to hit our stride.”
Five of the current top-seven Sagehens competed at Nationals last year as well, and their experience—as well as the team’s continued positivity and group mindset—will certainly contribute to P-P’s performance at Nationals.
Like Johann, Girodias also commented on the team’s cooperative strategy and the encouragement of those who came to watch the race. “We packed well [and] raced hard and the results showed it. [Head Coach Tony Boston’s] training resulted in our strong, fresh legs. Friends, family, and alumni all showed up to support us. It truly was a great day to be a Hen,” Girodias said.
The men aim to dominate again at Nationals Nov. 23, in Hanover. The men’s race will begin at 11 a.m. and can be watched live online.