P-P Runners Battle the Heat and Competition in Riverside

Pomona-Pitzer men’s and women’s cross-country teams hit the trails as a single flock Sept. 13 at the University of California, Riverside Invitational.

The Riverside Invitational marked the first competition of the season for the men’s team after an extremely successful 2013 season in
which they won the NCAA Division III West Region championship for the first time
in 31 years and competed at nationals. John Fowler PO ’16, who was a second-year student at the time, was the team’s top finisher at nationals with a finish in
82nd place.

Despite their accomplishments last
year, Fowler and his teammates are focused on training hard and employing strategies for the team to succeed in the 2014 season.

“I think we’re all just trying to have fun with it still and put in
the work,” Fowler said.

Although the women’s team did not
experience the same regional success last year, the pressure was still high following a fourth-place finish two weekends ago at the University of
California, Irvine Invitational. Maya Weigel PO ’17, Camille
Matonis PZ ’15 and Alicia Mizes PO ’16 all contributed to the stellar performance by finishing in the top 20
among racers from all divisions.

“Irvine was a spectacular start to the season,” said women’s head coach Kirk Reynolds.

At the UC Riverside Invitational, the PPXC women placed 14th in the 6-kilometer invitational and 12th in the 5-kilometer open. Individually, the top three PPXC finishers in the 6K—Matonis, Weigel and Mizes—finished with times of 21:59, 22:00, and 22:46. This earned them places of 31st, 33rd, and 79th. In the 5K, Kristen Hernandez PO ’18, Molly Cole PO ’16 and Zoe Flavin PO ’17 finished 35th, 72nd and 122nd with times of 19:15, 19:45 and 20:46.

Though there are 10 new men on the roster this season, Fowler feels the PPXC men’s team is as strong as ever, which is apparent in the Hens’ results alongside Divison I athletes. A strong sense of team and energy helped carry the athletes into the the Riverside Invitational and, according to Fowler, was crucial to their success. 

“There are still some adjustments we know we can make, like some of the guys went out a little too slow, and some of the guys went out a little too fast,” Fowler said. “As far as a first effort goes, it was definitely promising. I think the team dynamic is very strong at this point.”

Overall, the PPXC men placed 11th in the 8K Invitational. The Hens ran a total time of 2:08:26.30 for an average time of 25:41.26 and were barely edged out by Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, who placed 10th with an average time of 25:35.12.

Individually, the top five PPXC finishers—Fowler, Benjamin Girodias PO ’15, Corey Purcella PO ’16, Paul Messana PZ ’17 and James Kinney PO ’18—finished with respective times of 24:53, 25:06, 26:04, 26:07 and 26:14. Out of all competitors, they placed 24th, 37th, 91st, 99th and 104th.

Not to be undermined, the unforgiving Southern California weather also played an important role at the tournament. By 8 a.m., temperatures had already reached nearly 90
degrees Fahrenheit. Coach Reynolds found that having a few weeks to acclimate to the higher temperatures helped his team’s preparation for the races.

“While it was very hot, I think we were well enough prepared for it,” Reynolds said. “We like it to be cooler, but we
can’t control that.”

As both groups of Sagehens look ahead in their XC season, team community and success are primary focuses.  

“My goals for the team would be to continue what we are doing in terms of running together and awareness of teammates and their efforts,” Reynolds said. “Distance running can be a very inward sport, and knowing
that your teammate is out there giving her best effort often will spur you to
give your best effort too.”

With a mix of running relaxed, having fun and working hard, Fowler and his teammates definitely have their eyes set on improving the PPXC men’s team’s standing in nationals.

“We’re shooting for top in the region again and looking to improve our spot at nationals,” Fowler said. 

The PPXC men will compete at two tournaments in the next two weekends at the Mustang Challenge at the Master’s College on Saturday, Sept. 20, and at the Stanford University Invitational on Sept. 27.  Both teams will
be back at it together on Saturday, Oct. 4, at the
Pomona-Pitzer Invitational.

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