After finishing first and second, respectively, at the West Region Championships the week before, the Pomona-Pitzer and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps men’s cross country teams competed at the NCAA National Championships on Saturday, Nov. 23, in Hanover, Ind. The Stags placed 19th out of 32 teams, led by All-American Zorg Loustalet HM ’16, while the Sagehens finished a few spots behind them, coming in 23rd.
For Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, Loustalet has been the leader of the team all season long, and he had another great performance on the big stage. He ran in the top 30 for the whole eight kilometers, ultimately placing 21st in a time of 25:09, while the rest of the seven CMS men were spread out through the rest of the field. Loustalet became the first CMS man to ever win All-American honors before his senior year.
The first P-P finisher was John Fowler PO ’16 in 82nd place and a time of 25:48, while Ben Girodias PO ’15 ran 25:51 to finish 88th. These top two runners helped the Sagehens to place 23rd as a team.
Both Fowler and Girodias made huge improvements over their performances at Nationals last year; Fowler jumped from 124th place last year to 82nd this year, and Girodias moved from 157th to 88th. In fact, five of the seven P-P runners improved by 10 or more places from last year.
Despite his own solid performance, Fowler believes the team has more potential than they showed in the race.
“The race didn’t go quite as well as we hoped but it was still a great experience,” Fowler wrote in an e-mail to TSL. “Hopefully we can learn from it and come back even stronger next year.”
Girodias expressed similar sentiments; he emphasized the importance of gaining experience from running at Nationals, and felt that the team can improve even more in future seasons.
“Overall, the race was a great learning experience. We improved as a team from last year but not as much as we would have liked. Keeps us hungry,” Girodias wrote in an e-mail to TSL.
Corey Purcella PO ’16 had perhaps the most outstanding race of the meet; after placing 247th last year, he ran a smart race to place 158th out of 275 runners this year. Purcella chose to go out conservatively, running the first few kilometers of the race in absolute last place, but eventually made his move and ended up finishing in the middle of the pack.
“My plan was to make myself hold back as
much as possible for the first mile, and then start picking people off. The gun
went off, and after one kilometer I looked around and was pleased to see that I
was in dead last. 275 out of 275. Once we crossed the first mile marker,
runners started falling back and I moved up 117 places by the end of the race,
so I was very pleased,” Purcella wrote in an e-mail to TSL.
In contrast to Fowler and Girodias’ outlook, Head Coach Tony Boston was quite pleased with the men’s showing at Nationals, noting each runner’s dedication and the continued development of the team from year to year.
“After the race, several of the runners commented that they left it all out there on the course. As a coach, I love hearing those words uttered because it is confirmation that the athlete truly gave it their all,” Boston wrote in an e-mail to TSL. “It was very rewarding to lead this group to the national championship meet. As a whole this group has worked harder than any I have coached at Pomona-Pitzer. When you see such growth from one year to the next, it lets you know that the program as a whole is on the right track.”
After a relatively satisfying end to the season, the men will rest for a few weeks before beginning to train for the upcoming track and field season.