Sagehens Have Strong Showing at Mustang Challenge

The Pomona-Pitzer men’s
cross-country team was back on the course at the Mustang Challenge hosted by
The Master’s College on Sept. 20 for their second race in
consecutive weekends.

Two weeks ago at the University of California, Riverside
Invitational, the Sagehens finished 11th in a mixed field of
Division I, II and III athletes. However, the team was not completely
satisfied with its performance.

“I think overall
the team ran pretty well,” Head Coach Tony Boston said. “We didn’t achieve all the goals we wanted to going
into Riverside, but I think in part Riverside was our first meet of the year, and that’s never happened before.” 

Knowing they were
still a bit rusty, the team made a strong week of practice their top
priority.

“As a team we had
two pretty solid workouts, which was exciting, but it’s not necessarily like
other sports where you work on a technical skill,” Ben Girodias PO ’15 said. “It’s more about continuing to
add on fitness as the season progresses and tapering down when the races
count,” Ben Girodias PO ’15 said.

Even more
impressive than their weekly mileage, which sometimes reaches 120 miles, is the
team’s race-day routine. When asked to describe their morning ritual,
coach Boston began with a chuckle.

“They start very
early. For example, for UC Riverside we met here at 5 o’clock in the morning
for a team run,” Boston said. “We compete, and we’re back on campus before
most of everyone else is awake.”

As for the race
itself, the Sagehens finished sixth out of 19 teams at the Mustang Challenge.
While this was a solid finish in an invite filled with scholarship runners,
many other factors made this high finish even more remarkable.

First, a critical
decision made prior to the event ensured that the ten runners competing in this
upcoming weekend’s Stanford Invitational would run at a slower pace in order to
conserve energy. In cross-country terms, this is known as a tempo run.

“They held back a
bit, so it was more of a workout for the top ten guys,” Boston said. “The
other guys on the roster were doing more of an actual race, so they were really
going for it. I think that the guys that were doing a tempo run were able to
pull the other guys along to some faster times, which was nice to see.”

Besides an attempt
to save their legs, the PP-XC men’s team also had to deal with a mishap after
the lead bike led the pack astray.

“The lead biker
turned the wrong way, so the course was actually longer than eight kilometers. We
don’t know exactly how much, but we estimated something like 30 to 50 seconds
longer,” Girodias said. “So some of the times were especially frustrating for
people who could have potentially PR’ed.”

Perhaps the
greatest obstacle overcome was that by John Fowler PO ’16, who took a slight
stumble in the final leg of the race. Despite falling, Fowler was still able to
mentally collect himself and finish the race in ninth place, much to the respect
of his coaches and teammates. In fact, this was Fowler’s first top-ten finish
in an invitational, with a final time of 26:15.9.

The other top five
Hen finishers—Girodias, Steven Ory PO ’16, Sheridan Grant PO ’15 and Jeremy
Karson PO ’18—finished with respective times of 26:32.3, 27:07.4, 27:36.9 and 27:38.7. Out of all competitors, they placed 19th, 52nd, 71st and 72nd.

The PP-XC men’s
team accumulated a total of 183 points while California State University, San
Marcos, the eventual winners, had only 72 points.

At the Stanford
Invitational tomorrow, Sept. 27 the team’s plan of action will be much different.

“This week, we
have reduced mileage and altered the structure of our workouts so as to be
recovered come race day,” Boston said. “If we have timed this recovery correctly, the guys
should feel fresh and ready to run fast.”

While the meet at
Stanford may be too far for the average fan, the PPXC men and women’s teams
will be hosting the Pomona-Pitzer Cross Country Invite on Oct. 4
and would appreciate the support of the P-P faithful.

“I’d love to see
some fans out there. Yes, cross country is early in the morning, but it gets
you up and excited for the day,” Girodias said. “We have a great team; we’re
national caliber.” 

“This year’s not about making it to nationals; it’s doing well
at nationals,” he added. “I think everyone should realize that and be excited too.”

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