Sagehens Not Intimidated by DI Competition

The Pomona-Pitzer men’s and women’s track teams competed on Friday, April 4 and Saturday, April 5 at the California/Nevada Invitational at the University of California, San Diego. The meet featured competitors from all three NCAA divisions, as well as some from the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). The Sagehens looked to build off their impressive showing at the March 29 SCIAC meet at Occidental College, where five runners won their races.

Competing against experienced runners from Division I and Division II schools, P-P had two top-10 individual finishers, one in the 800-meter race and one in the 10,000-meter race. Ben Girodias PO ’15 finished fourth in the 10,000-meter, finishing with a time of 31.19.71 behind DI runners from the University of California, Santa Barbara and California State University, Fullerton, and a DII runner from UCSD.

Paul Messana PZ ’17 finished first in his 800 heat on Friday with a time of 1:54.53. He finished eighth overall, and improved his time in the final on Saturday to 1:54.34. Five of the runners who finished ahead of him were from DI schools, one was from a DII school, and one was from NAIA’s Azusa Pacific University. Messana’s time in the 800-meter is now third in the nation for NCAA DIII men’s track. 

“To be ranked nationally at this point in the season is very motivating,” Messana said. “I’m anxious to see how upcoming races will play out and if I continue to maintain my mark.”

The Sagehens also earned a point in the 4×100-meter relay with a team composed of Alex Chong PZ ’16, Titus Van Hook PO ’14, Matt Sloane PO ’15, and Greg Hook PZ ’14. The team finished with a time of 42.94 seconds, placing ninth in a race that featured teams from all three NCAA divisions. 

Even though there were not a lot of top finishes for the Sagehens against this stiff competition, the meet was still a good learning experience for those who competed.

“Individually, I think those who competed got a lot of good competition race experience that will help them during the rest of the season,” Messana said.

For the women, Ailene Nguyen PO ’16 jumped a season-best 18-3.75 in the long jump and finished 10th overall. She finished the 100-meter race with a time of 12.88 seconds to place 23rd overall. Rhea Jayachandran PZ ’16 finished with a time of 15.93 seconds in the 100-meter hurdles, placing eighth in her heat and 31st overall.

“I definitely didn’t run as fast as I was hoping I would, but I ran a consistent time,” Jayachandran said. “I was racing against NCAA DI national qualifiers in my heat, which was really awesome because I’ve never run with anyone that fast before. It was definitely very intimidating; these girls were all tall and muscular with incredible speed, but it was a great experience.”

In the 800-meter race, Stassja Sichko PO ’15 ran a personal best. Her time dipped below 2:20 at 2:18.61, earning her a 20th-place finish out of 34 runners. 

Maya Weigel PO ’17 also had a time below 2:20 in the 800, running a 2:19.37 to finish 23rd. 

In the 5,000-meter race, Lauren Collins PO ’15 finished with a time just shy of her personal best, 19:30.25. In the 10,000-meter race, Claire Brickson PO ’14 finished 13th with a time of 38:52.37 and Jordan Jenkins PZ ’17 finished 23rd with a time of 43:00.45.

Both the men’s and women’s track teams will be back in action this Saturday, April 12 in the Pomona-Pitzer Invitational at home on Strehle Track, one of the biggest meets of the year for P-P. The meet will feature competitive squads from all divisions of collegiate athletics, as well as some unattached athletes. P-P hopes to follow up on their success at the SCIAC meet at Occidental on March 29. The women will look to build on the impressive performance from Nguyen and the highest team point total against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps since 1996 from the Occidental meet, and the men will look for strong showings from Messana in the 800-meter and Girodias in the 10,000-meter. The first event will begin at 10 a.m., and the meet will last all day.

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