With few competitors in sight, Pomona-Pitzer cross country runners Lauren Hamilton PO ’20 and Helen Guo PO ’20 sprinted across the finish line of the SCIAC Multi-Dual meet on Sept. 29.
The duo, who led the P-P women’s team to a fourth-place finish at La Mirada Park on the sweltering Friday, finished second and fourth overall, respectively, to beat out 115 other runners in the conference.
Both Sagehens smashed their personal course records from last year by more than a minute, and challenged rival Claremont-Mudd-Scripps’ fastest runner for the victory.
The day before the meet, “[my coach] was talking to me and Lauren and she said, ‘There’s a very good chance you’re gonna find yourself up with Bryn [McKillop CM ’18], and if you do, don’t be afraid to be aggressive about it,’” Guo recalled.
That’s exactly what the Sagehen harriers did, pushing McKillop for the majority of the race.
“It blew my mind,” Guo said. “I never thought I’d find myself doing that.”
“My goal was just to stick with her as long as I could,” Hamilton said.
Though McKillop ultimately prevailed, Guo and Hamilton will have their chance for revenge at the SCIAC and regional championship meets later this season.
Guo and Hamilton also hope to qualify for the national cross-country championships this November in Elsah, Illinois, and Guo admits to another, slightly more unorthodox goal as well.
“[Our team has] a joke: If you didn’t pee your pants, you probably didn’t run hard enough,” she said. “And I have never peed my pants, so we’ll see if that happens at regionals or nationals, but that would be pretty epic.”
Guo, who typically runs 50 to 70 miles a week, said she wasn’t always this dedicated to her sport.
“Coming out of high school, I was a serious runner. I really liked what I did and I wanted to be better. But I definitely didn’t anticipate being as involved with running as I am now,” Guo said. “I never thought I’d commit to so much mileage, so many hours, and so much of myself is the team.”
When she saw how dedicated her college teammates were to their passion, however, Guo resolved to train harder herself.
Despite finishing 35th at regionals and getting a pair of top 10 finishes in the 1,500- and 5,000-meter races at the SCIAC track championships as a first-year, Guo wasn’t satisfied. This past summer, she made another jump in her fitness.
“When I was working this summer, I would wake up early in the morning at five to run, and when I got back from work, I would run again,” she recalled. “It became such a big part of my life and I feel like I just enjoyed it so much and built up so much base that now it’s not that difficult for me.”
Hamilton had almost the opposite experience. In high school, she said, she overtrained, often running more than 60 miles a week before her body was ready. When she got to college, she backed off and took better care of herself.
The results speak for themselves: Hamilton was the SCIAC champion in the 10,000 meter race in track this past spring. She placed second in the SCIAC in the 5,000 in track and 12th at cross-country regionals.
Even though Hamilton and Guo are similarly speedy, Guo said there’s never any jealousy or competition between them.
“I think that a lot of times when you have two fast runners, it can become a sort of competition thing between the two, like who’s better,” she said. “But I feel like with us, we both came into college kind of on the same level and we sort of built each other up from the beginning.”
Plus, Hamilton said, it’s nice to have someone by your side during grueling runs. “It’d be so hard to get through some of the harder workouts and long runs without Helen, so I’m really glad she’s there with me,” she said. “I feel like it just makes it more enjoyable to have a training partner.”