Cross country coach John Goldhammer is no stranger to success. In his 33 years as a Claremont-Mudd-Scripps coach, the Athenas have won the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) 23 times, and the Stags have won 15 times. Additionly, the women have made it to nationals seven times and the men 13 times, which led to a CMS men's record seventh place finish last season.
Last weekend, the Stags and Athenas continued their streak of excellence in La Mirada at the SCIAC Multi-Dual meet. Both teams are now 8-0 with two meets to go before the SCIAC championships. Carmen Mejia SC '17 and Joshua Sealand HM '17 led the way with second place overall finishes.
“It was the first race when all the girls and guys ran the same distances,” Rachel Barclay HM '20 said. “It was different for guys and girls, but varsity and non-varsity ran the same. It was great to be in the same race as the rest of the team. On the girls' side, everyone was working together well—I really felt like I was running with people on the team.”
Coach Golhammer was quick to praise the team dynamic as key element this season, too.
“Last week, the women looked as good as they ever have,” he said. “The team itself is what's really special this year. We've done well athletically, but I think the athletes on the team are enjoying what they're doing and get something from being in sports other than winning and losing, which is fun to watch.”
Not only are the teams doing well on the macro level—they're excelling at the micro, too.
“Seeing them work daily is fun to watch,” Goldhammer said. “For instance, our abilities and desire, or lack thereof, to get the small things done, like sleeping and drinking fluids. And some of those things have gotten better this year, and that's really the proof that the whole team has made a commitment this year.”
Cross country running is a notoriously grueling sport. It requires a unique mindset and is all about dedication. “Consistency is key. You realize that as long as distance people keep getting stronger, they keep getting better. Of course, that slows down—the better you get, the harder it is to improve,” Goldhammer said. “In our program, the athletes we recruit are usually not the best in the state, but they've developed quite nicely this year. They've probably dropped bigger chunks of time than I've anticipated.”
“The season is going really well,” Barclay added. “It's definitely an adjustment from high school cross country. But the team is just so welcoming it's not hard to feel like you fit in.”
Although it's nice to reap the benefits of four years of hard work, for coaches, losing dominant seniors is a looming, unfortunate reality.
“It's a very good team,” Goldhammer said. “We're senior-heavy, which is a good and bad thing. It means that all the seniors have worked hard over four years and are graduating as being the best athletes [they could be], which, of course, is the goal. But, someone has to take their spots.” This is an especially threatening circumstance for the teams this year, as six of the top eight runners on both sides are seniors.
“The senior women in particular have been phenomenal. They're beating the athletes we tried to recruit that went to other schools by minutes, which is insane. But it's been four years of training—it's cool to watch that,” Goldhammer said.
On his hopes for the rest of the season, Coach Goldhammer told TSL, “It's always the goal to get to the end and do well at that. To me, this is just totally a different year. It's been fun going day-to-day with this group. It's not so often that you get to focus on things other than future meets—this year, it's just been a cool process. I can't say that that's happened many times in the years I've been here. I can't remember the last time.”
The Stags and Athenas will go for 9-0 on Oct. 15 at the Pomona-Pitzer invitational.