As the team went through its classic warm-up routine, the play of the day was decided. Captain Paul Balmer PO ’12 declared the day’s offense of choice to be “Sagecock Dub.” The goal? Return the SCIAC Cross Country Championship team award to the south side of Sixth Street.
As the brisk morning air was warmed by a rising sun, it was split for but a moment by the sound of a starting gun, immediately followed by the roars of spectators as men resplendent in a myriad of colors began their 8-k quest. Moving straight away into the front pack, PPXC looked to put itself in a position to be aggressive for the entire duration of the race.
Sidelined with a collapsed lung, Hale Shaw PO ’12 still found breath to comment.
“Yeah, the plan was to have them get out with the lead pack and chill through three [miles], at which point they’ll audible ‘Sagecock Dub’ and hopefully come away with it.” He turned back to the course to yell out mile splits to his comrades, “5:15…!”
Disappearing into the back fields for three miles, the race was lost to spectator’s eyes for about 15 minutes. Biding their time, those who braved the slightly chilly morning repositioned themselves around the course in an effort to be able to see the runners once more with about a mile to go and again right as the exhausted harriers began their finishing kicks. P-P spectators, including the women’s team, were especially vocal when they realized the PPXC men were still challenging for a top spot in the conference.
Rounding one last turn, the plethora of colors representing all the different schools in the conference began flashing across the finish line.
“How many in the top ten?” asked one member of women’s PPXC.
“Yeah, do we know how many guys finished All-SCIAC?” asked another.
These were but the murmurings of those familiar with the scoring of cross country meets. Much like a game of golf, cross country wins are determined by the lowest cumulative score of each team’s top five runners, and those on the sidelines were trying to figure out how the team results were faring. It was at this point that things began to look more dire than they had first appeared.
Spectators realized that some other teams in the conference had advanced their positions during the latter miles of the race, while PPXC—though they had certainly run aggressively from the start—seemed to have slipped backwards in the standings despite their effort.
Occidental’s top three men were all in the top ten and each finished within a minute of one another, leading to their first conference title in four years. Meanwhile, CMS had managed to put ten guys across the line before PPXC’s fifth man crossed. Surprisingly, La Verne also ran a highly aggressive last few miles, squeaking out third place in the conference. The Sagehens were left in fourth, scoring 67 points.
The individual winner was also from Oxy, as Eric Kleinsasser ’12 became the first SCIAC athlete in any sport to ever win four individual titles in the same event, breaking the tape in 25:37.45 for the roughly five-mile distance.
Not everything about the morning was a disappointment. The classic trio of Alex Johnson PZ ’12, Anders Crabo PO ’12, and Balmer all earned first-team All-SCIAC honors, finishing seventh, eighth, and tenth, respectively, while Alex Johann PO ’14 finished 14th and earned second-team All-SCIAC honors.
That said, it was easily apparent after the meet that everyone on the team was crushed emotionally.
“Yeah, it’s disappointing,” Crabo said. “We knew we were fairly capable of a win today and just didn’t capitalize on it. It just sucks because we’re not a team built on talent as much as we are on hard work—and unfortunately this means that even though we’ve worked hard all season, we just have to work that much harder over the next two weeks.”
The Sagehens next compete at the NCAA West Regional meet, held on P-P’s home course on Saturday, Nov. 12.