While track and field is a sport that is dictated at its core by individual performances, for the Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens, 2018 is all about the team.
“You use others to build yourself, but they also use you to build themselves, and in that way it’s a team dynamic,” distance runner Helen Guo PO ’20 said. “You’re using your teammates to become better. It actually is a team effort even though you’re running your individual race.”
After finishing third and fourth in the conference last year, respectively, the women’s and men’s teams have their sights set on the ultimate team effort: winning a SCIAC title.
“We have a lot of talent to be developed on the team, and we have a full four months to do that,” Guo said. “Definitely by the end we hope to be in tip-top shape and show the other schools in the SCIAC what we can do.”
The two teams will pursue their titles behind coaches with very different levels of experience at the helm. The women are led by Kirk Reynolds, who is nearing his 30th year with the program, while Jordan Carpenter heads the men’s program in just his second year with Pomona-Pitzer and his first in charge of both the men’s cross-country and track and field programs.
Despite his relative lack of experience, Carpenter has been quick to make his mark on the Pomona-Pitzer program. In his first season as head cross-country coach, he led the team to its first SCIAC title in more than a decade, and tied a program-best sixth place finish at the NCAA national championship, earning him SCIAC Coach of the Year honors.
Armed with one of the largest and most talented teams in the program’s history, including three returning All-Americans in Calvin Aylward PO ’18, Andy Reischling PO ’19, and Danny Rosen PO ’20, Carpenter is confident that the team is trending upward.
“This year our guys believe that we can compete at the top of our conference,” he said. “I think with more of a full team there’s just a belief that we can score points in every event and compete with the bigger track and field programs.”
Reynolds decades with the women’s program speak for themselves. Among his many accolades lie nine SCIAC Coach of the Year honors with both the cross-country and track teams, though the women haven’t won a track title since 1991.
“We want to start competing well in these low-key February meets before opening up the conference season in March,” Reynolds said. “If we lay a foundation of excellence now in the early part of the season – committing to our team and committing to your teammates – we will achieve the level of success that we’re aiming for.”
Echoing both coaches’ sentiments, Cal Neikirk PO ’19, who hurdles, sprints, and jumps for the Sagehens, said: “We have a lot of momentum from successes in last year’s track and last semester’s cross-country seasons and I think that both teams are going to have great seasons. We’ve hit the ground running since coming back and we’re ready to compete.”
Both teams kick off their seasons at Occidental College Saturday.