Gearing up for the multi-dual race, the Pomona-Pitzer women’s cross country team looked a little different last Saturday morning as they stretched, did strides, and nervously bounced on the starting line. The team, as well as seeing the return of some injured runners, donned new pairs of orange shorts that added a bit of Pitzer flair to their traditionally blue uniforms.
The race took place at La Mirada Park and served as the first half of the SCIAC championship competition. The Sagehens finished with a 5-2 record, beating all SCIAC teams except CMS and Occidental. Alicia Freese PO ’10 returned from injury to finish second overall. The deciding factor for the SCIAC title will be the championship race on Oct. 31.
The multi-dual race is scored in an untraditional way by matching every pair of teams rather than scoring the entire field. Other teams’ places are irrelevant in the scoring of one team versus another.
Teams end with a win/loss record rather than an overall place. This method of scoring means teams with a larger spread between their top five scorers will not be penalized as much as they would be in a larger field.
The Sagehens had three runners in the top eight and were the first team to have three runners cross the line. Freese finished in second behind a CMS runner, and Roxy Cooke PO ’13 and Rose Haag PO ’10 finished in seventh and eighth. Rachael Haislet PO ’10 and Zoe Meyers PO ’10 were 19th and 34th overall to round out the Sagehen top five.
“The top three are in good position, but Rachael and I have to do a lot better to help the team and to do well at the regional championships,” Meyers said.Cooke led the Sagehens off the line with a strong start, but nearly guided the entire field awry with a wrong turn before some veteran runners yelled ahead for her to turn around.
Head Coach Kirk Reynolds said that the team ran well and remarked that “it was good to see many of our injured runners back in action.”
Haislet, who finished fourth for the team and in 19th place overall, recorded an impressive personal best over the 6k distance. Coach Reynolds commented that he “thought Rachel ran particularly well in our number four spot today. She was patient early, and then aggressive late.”
While many of the women had impressive performances, two seniors, Meyers and Freese, stood out in their return from injury to score as top five runners for the Sagehens. Both runners had season debuts last Saturday and immediately improved the team’s chances for success.
Freese, who estimates that she has only run about 25 times since finishing the 2008 cross country season with an injury, showed that she will certainly be a factor in the SCIAC championships next week.
“I went out behind the lead pack at a pace that I felt was cautious,” Freese said. “I maintained that pace throughout the race. My splits were essentially even, so it wasn’t like I was actively going faster. The girls ahead of me happened to slow down, so I caught them.
“I was tired at the finish. I felt creaky and out of shape, but it was still a joy to be back on the racing scene again…The time was sort of demoralizing given that I ran almost a minute faster as a sophomore, but I haven’t really run at all for almost a year.”
Although frustrated at missing first place, Freese said she is happy with her performance given the fact that she has had very limited training and has spent most of the fall either in the pool or on a stationary bike.
Meyers, who has been injured since the spring track season, was also happy to be racing again and is confident that she will be able to improve in the upcoming weeks.“It is frustrating to race and not be where I was last year,” she said. “But it was still a good race in the sense that it helped my training, and I think that I can get a lot faster in the next few weeks. But it is stressful to only have 3 weeks to get back in shape.”
Haag commented on her teammates’ return to competition, “Things are looking up with all five seniors racing. If the fourth and fifth runners can make some improvements, we will definitely be able to compete.”
Because Occidental finished first and CMS finished second at the multi-dual competition, the Sagehens would have to win the SCIAC championship race next Saturday and Occidental would have to get third in order for the Sagehens to clinch the overall title. However, if the Sagehens are able to maintain their performances up front and improve their fourth and fifth runners, a victory next Saturday is not out of the question.
“The team is very excited, and overall morale is high,” said Meyers about the upcoming championships. She also attributed some of the team’s success to its new look.“The orange shorts definitely made us run faster,” Meyers said.