Author: Riley Kimball
This Saturday, Nov. 12, both men’s and women’s cross country teams will be competing in the NCAA West Regional meet at Pomona. After strong finishes in the SCIAC conference meet, the women are positioned well to take a place at Nationals, and the men are ranked first in the region.
Oct 29 saw extremely successful performances out of both sides. Men finished first in SCIAC, with Eric Kleinsasser (senior) winning an unprecendented fourth SCIAC title in a row. His performance alone did not secure Occidental’s victory. Strong showings by Colin Smith (first-year) in fifth place, Cole Williams (first-year) in sixth place, Sebi Devlin-Foltz (senior) in 15th place and Louis Jochems (first-year) in 20th place rounded out a fast finish. With all of them placing in the top 20, each earned All-Conference recognition.
The women finished third, but head coach Rob Bartlett is even happier with their performance. “The women’s team doesn’t have a standout performer, so everything that they’ve achieved they’ve achieved as a team. On the women’s team, for them to be successful, they’ve had to have everyone running great at the same time. The women have come very close to having that perfect day,” he said.
The women’s pack strategy edged a large number of competitors out of low-scoring finishes. Runners earn points for their team equal to their overall place, so the school with the lowest number wins. By placing all of their scorers in the top 35, the women scored very low. In the process, Sierra Walker (sophomore), Megan Lang (junior) and Anna Dalton (senior) also earned All-Conference recognition.
Bartlett is happy to be past the SCIAC meet and on to the more intense and exciting Regional meet. “You want to have your greatest successes on the biggest stage. You have rivalries and things in SCIACs, but then in Regionals it’s this gateway, this all-or-nothing, you either qualify for Nationals or you don’t. We get to run excited instead of run scared,” he said.
The women enter against a tough field on Saturday. Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (CMS) is ranked third in the nation and is expected to win West Regionals, and Lewis & Clark has a team that will likely place second. Bartlett hopes that with a strong teamwork-based effort like that at SCIAC, the women can take third at Regionals.
Men, on the other hand, are ranked first in the West Region, so they hope to finish in one of the top two spots. Taking first or second guarantees the team a spot at Nationals, so if all goes as planned, next Saturday will be Kleinsasser’s first time running at Nationals alongside his entire team. Another 16 spots at Nationals are filled by the remaining best teams in the country, so the women would also likely earn a place if they take third in the NCAA West Region.
The teams have been bolstered by their emergence as SCIAC powerhouses and hope to continue this success at Regionals. “At the SCIAC championships, both of our cross country teams proved they’re among the elite teams, not just in the SCIAC, but in the entire West Region,” said Occidental Athletic Director Jaime Hoffman.
Alumnus Keith Blumenfeld ‘09 returned to support the Tigers at the SCIAC meet. “It was especially fun this year to see the team carrying on a winning legacy,” he said. “Oxy Cross Country and Track & Field have a pretty impressive history, and it’s great not only to have been a part of it but to see it carried on.”
Regardless of the results this Saturday, the team has a promising future. Three of Occidental’s first-years, Colin Williams, Cole Smith and Louis Jochems, were ranked in the top four first-years in SCIAC. Similarly, of the five women that scored for Occidental, only two were seniors. Alumnus Alex Ramon ‘08, a member of three SCIAC champion teams, was a part of the audience at this year’s SCIAC. “This year’s team is straight up better than any other team I have been on. I honestly believe that they have more athletic talent and depth than I have ever seen at Oxy,” he said.< /font>
Ramon’s support at the meet is not unusual. “A bunch of alumni come back to watch every year, even those that are far enough out of school that they didn’t run with anyone on the current team,” said captain Anna Dalton (senior). Coach Bartlett attributed the alumni’s support to the strong family atmosphere cultivated by the team.
“Certainly we want to be successful every year, and I think the next step in our program is to become a perennial powerhouse,” he said. “Getting good recruits is important, but maintaining that positive culture will be crucial. We’ve developed this family attitude, and I think that’s what has allowed us to be so successful.”
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