Last Saturday morning, women in blue and orange polyester uniforms huddled beneath a lonely oak tree at La Mirada Park. Fall Break trips to Joshua Tree were not on the agenda for these ladies. Instead, alarm clocks had jolted the women from their dreams at a chilly 5:45 a.m. They pulled sweats on and trudged off to a breakfast of bananas and peanut butter, then made the short drive to La Mirada.
The occasion? SCIAC Multi-Duals. The first of two conference meets, a chance to compete against rivals in a dual-scoring event. Eleven schools, eight teams, and 108 runners.
“Last night I was pretty anxious,” Tasha “Mama T” Block PO ’14 mused as she boarded the bus before the race. “I really was beleaguered with questions of whether I should go for Bengay or Icy-Hot? Keep my hair in a ponytail or braids? And would I be the only one in booty shorts? I’m still kind of getting back into racing, so my mind went wild.”
Block was not alone in her anxiety last weekend. The women of PPXC were uncharacteristically quiet as they prepared for the race. One injured Hen, Camille Matonis PZ ’15, had even taken to climbing park trees in an effort to keep away from the infectious pre-race jitters of her teammates. The numbers on the jumbo-sized digital clock at the starting line mercilessly counted down to race time.
Cooling lotion concerns, hairstyles, and fashion faux pas were all set aside as members of the Hottest Team of the 5Cs took their places in starting box 12.
The women smiled, and 21 voices cried out a savage chirp as the official blew his whistle.
“Once we all got on the line together, things started to simmer down,” Megan “The Hulk” Farrell PO ’13 said. “Each of us just needed to be reminded about what we run for. After that, the team was ready to go.”
With a single gunshot, 108 women from across the SCIAC dashed across a chalky line in the grass, headed toward glory and six kilometers of spongy grass, Frisbee golfers, and rolling hills that put any casual hike up Mount Baldy to shame. Crowds roared and dubstep played, but the PPXC women focused on the glory.
And boy, was there glory.
Sagehen standout Annie Lydens PO ’13 earned first place in 21:46, nearly 30 seconds ahead of the next runner.
“It was amazing to watch Annie,” Shelley “S-Chest” Chestler PO ’12 gushed. “She flew around the [handball] courts and until she crossed the finish, she was the only runner we could see!”
Lydens has had quite a season so far. Her success at La Mirada follows her first-place finish at the Pomona-Pitzer Invitational on October 1.
“It felt great,” Lydens said. “I felt relaxed and ready. It must’ve been that Josh Turner I listened to before the race.”
Scoring for Pomona-Pitzer behind Lydens were Naomi Wagner PO ’13 in 23:15.43, Roxanne Cook PZ ’13 in 24:10.43, Leslie Canter PZ ’12 in 24:35.79, and Ilona Kats PO ’12 in 24:50.26. Claire “Big Bricks” Brickson PO ’14, the Hens’ No. 2 runner, was out with an injured foot.
PPXC women finished with a 4-3 record last weekend, scoring ahead of La Verne, Caltech, Redlands, and Cal Lutheran. The Hens were close behind second and third place teams Whittier and Occidental, with CMS holding a solid position as the top team in the conference.
The Hens look forward to next weekend, when runners from all over the SCIAC universe will descend upon Prado Park in Chino for the conference championship meet.
“It’s the last time PPXC gets to compete all together, all 31 of us,” Kayla “Kandi” Eland PZ ’12 said of Prado. “And even though it’s PPXC for life, we’ve still gotta run like this is it.”