This past Saturday, March 4, both the men’s and women’s Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens track and field teams finished strong in their SCIAC multi-dual meet against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, University of Redlands, Whittier College, and Chapman University. For the first time since 1991, the men’s team defeated CMS in a meet by a slim margin of five points.
The Sagehens’ win came down to the 4×400 meter relay. The team was Cal Neikirk PO ’19, Nick Vucovich PO ’18, Lucas White Moon PO ’20, and Paul Messana PZ ’17. Messana ran the relay leg of his life this meet and made an improbable comeback. Coming into the last leg, the Sagehens trailed the CMS Stags and the Redlands Bulldogs by almost 40 meters, and the outcome did not look promising.
Messana ran an outstanding final lap, making up for the loss and then some, passing both the CMS and Redlands runners, and securing the win by a few hundredths of a second with a time of 3:20.32. CMS finished with a time of 3.20.37 and Redlands with 3:20.74. Those split seconds won the meet for the P-P men’s team.
“Like anyone, I run best when there is someone to chase down,” Messana wrote in an email to TSL. “With CMS in the lead and the stakes so high, this was an ideal race for me.”
Although victory in the 4×400 clinched the win over CMS, Messana credits the entire team for their overall success.
“It was humbling to take credit for the win over CMS, but our team was able to showcase their best and we, collectively, made this win possible,” Messana wrote.
Some impressive individual performances contributed to that win. Messana also won the 1500-meter dash with a time of 3:50.11, the ninth fastest time in the program history. The 3000-meter race saw Sagehen success as well, with Andy Reischling PO ’19 placing first with a time of 14:56.75 and Charlie Watson PO ’17 taking third with 15:22.32.
The Sagehens dominated the 3000-meter steeplechase as well, with Danny Rosen PO ’20 taking first with a time of 9:50.68, Carter Stripp PZ ’19 coming in second with 9:53.35, and Niko Tutland PZ ’17 placing third in 10:00.00.
The short and mid-distance events, as well as the field events, showcased the depth of the team with Cal Neikirk PO ’19 placing first in the 110-meter hurdles and Nick Vucovich PO '18 winning the 800-meter dash. The 4×100 team came in second place, and Calvin Aylward PO ’18 won the javelin.
The women’s team also had some notable performances. Abby Gardner PO ’17 set a program record in the 3000-meter steeplechase and finished second with a time of 11:22.95, and Maya Weigel PO ’17 won the 1500-meter dash in 4:41.59. She also placed second in the 800-meter dash.
“It feels incredibly rewarding to set a program record in the event, especially my senior year,” Gardner wrote in an email to TSL. “I’ve dealt with a lot of injuries and setbacks along the way, so it really feels like a moment where all of the perseverance and time put in is finally bringing things to fruition.”
Her second-place finish was to Caroline Willian CM ’17, but Gardner used Willian’s success to help her run a strong race.
“I tried to run with her a bit to get pulled along to a faster time. Of course, she ended up taking home the win, but she ran really solid splits that definitely helped me reach my own goals for the day,” Gardner wrote.
When given the opportunity to run the steeplechase, Gardner “jumped on the chance to try it at Pomona,” and that decision paid off with a freshly-set program record.
The Sagehens will race next at the Occidental Distance Carnival and Sprint Fest on Friday, March 10, at 11 a.m.