The low-hanging orange sun crested the horizon not long past 6 a.m. last Saturday as the men of the Pomona-Pitzer cross country team met for their standard early morning jog, breakfast, and discussion of tactics. Resplendent in Boathouse warmups, a nervous tension permeated the air as captain Paul Balmer PO ’12 declared, “It’s a Sagecock day today, gentlemen!”
Heads nodded all around—no further explanation was necessary. The first of two conference meets, Saturday’s SCIAC Multi-Duals was known to all as a big deal; work had to be done.
Lining up with a few final nods to one another, those last short sprints, and the characteristic nervous jumps always present at the starting line, PPXC and the other men of SCIAC looked out at the field in front of them. As the crack of the starter’s gun cut through the air, their minds went blank as their legs went into action—eight kilometers lay before them all, the first of two grueling duels meant to separate those worthy of a SCIAC title from all the others.
Orange singlets, blue singlets, and orange shorts flitted through green fields and over fallen leaves as the race unfolded. Leading from the front, two Occidental College runners brought the closely bunched field through the first mile in just over five minutes. Not long after this, a long, gradual hill greeted the runners, and the race quickly thinned out as the men wound their way between trees and frisbee golf holes.
The men of PPXC looked well-positioned at this point, moving themselves up toward the front of the competition. Sidelined with an injury, Max Coyle PO ’14 could be heard cheering on his teammates with loud cries of, “Arehyahenz!” while injured companion Hale Shaw PZ ’12 called out splits.
As the harriers disappeared for the last loop around the park, spectators waited with bated breath, anxious to see who would crest the final hill first, and who could best survive the last 600 meters of La Mirada in an effort to position his team for a SCIAC championship in two weeks.
Not twenty minutes later it became clear—Saturday was a good day for the “Orange Shorts Club” of Oxy and PPXC: both teams had managed to defeat their foes in the conference, including annual favorite CMS, over whom P-P squeaked out a victory by just one point. However, the top-ranked Hens found themselves at the mercy of the fourth-in-SCIAC Occidental Tigers.
Though valiantly led by Alex Johnson PZ ’13, who crossed the line in 26:39.91, Balmer in 27:15.48, and Anders Crabo PO ’12 in 27:19.10, PPXC had a rough day, as almost every man ran slower than expected. Oxy, meanwhile, found itself lifted to victory by a seven-point margin on the shoulders of Eric Kleinsasser ’12 (who finished in 26:01.35) and Colin Smith ’15, who was only 25 seconds behind his teammate.
When asked what happened, Pryor Stroud PO ’15 commented, “I’m not quite sure. To be honest, I think we’re all still in a little bit of shock about losing to Oxy, especially seeing how we came into today sitting on top of the region, let alone the conference. Be it a combination of team illnesses, loss of some key contributors, or the fatigue that comes with the midterms most guys had this week, I can’t be certain. However, we’re not a team built on excuses so those aside, I think we just didn’t bring our A-game today… it’s disappointing to know we have to work that much harder Halloween weekend to definitively bring home that title we know we deserve.”
The Hens next compete in two weeks at the SCIAC championships at Prado Park in Chino.