Aria Blumm and Thomas Robertson sweep Athlete of the Week for cross country

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Aria Blumm (senior) finished in 13th place in a 6K race during the SCIAC championship meet in Chino, CA, Oct. 27. Blumm finished with a time of 24:32.1, making her the second-place runner for the Occidental team.

“I think I just kind of shut off my brain a little bit and was just really, truly fighting for my team,” Blumm said. “Sometimes when you’re racing with everyone, you can feel the energy of your team when you’re running, and if you want to slow down, you can’t because you’ve got seven other women depending on you. So that’s really what pushed me through the race.”

Aria Blumm (senior) is a member of the cross country team at Occidental College. Photo taken in Los Angeles on Friday, Nov. 2, 2018. Hope Fowler/The Occidental

Blumm and her fellow Tigers placed third overall in the conference behind Claremont-Mudd-Scripps and Pomona-Pitzer, positioning Occidental to have a competitive postseason showing in the upcoming West Regional championship meet. According to Blumm, the SCIAC meet demonstrated the payoff of taking risks while racing, which she believes will be an asset in the regional meet.

“In cross country, you always think that you’re totally burnt out by the end, but the truth is, you always have more that you just don’t know,” Blumm said. “So kind of risking it at the end is what I think the whole women’s team, and especially myself, should do.”

Head coach Rob Bartlett attributed much of Blumm’s successful performance to the strong foundation of conditioning she has committed to establishing since the conclusion of the last school year.

“Aria’s been working hard since June to prepare for the championship part of our season,” Bartlett said. “She’s done a fantastic job since coming back to campus in August of taking each workout at a time and building fitness and speed over time.”

While the pressure of high performance during the final SCIAC championship of an athlete’s career may have been daunting for some, Blumm said that approaching her race with a sense of calm helped her make the most out of the moment.

“This past season, I’ve just kind of chilled out a lot before meets, not too much pressure, just really trying to have fun,” Blumm said.

According to Bartlett, Blumm’s performance was a synthesis of not only her racing skills, but the character she brings to the competition.

“Aria’s matured into a confident DIII athlete and ran with a lot of poise at the SCIAC Championships last week,” Bartlett said. “She provides the team with a lot of vocal encouragement and positivity, too, at practice and meets.”

Blumm took up cross-country running as a freshman in high school, and over the summer, she ran the San Francisco Marathon.

Thomas Robertson (junior) ran a time of 26:29.1 in an 8K race during the SCIAC championship meet, earning him a third-place overall conference ranking and first among Occidental runners. The Occidental team’s contributions led them to a second-place standing in the conference, which Robertson said was an exciting goal to have accomplished.

“Going into SCIACs, I think we really were hungry to, at the very least, get second and beat CMS,” Robertson said. “Just being confident in my teammates, I knew that they were going to do amazing, and if they were going to do amazing, then I’m going to do just as well. I have to put it all out there.”

Head coach Rob Bartlett said that Robertson’s first-place finish for Occidental was the product of his composed racing style and hard work ethic throughout the season.

“Thomas is having his best ever season as a Tiger this fall,” Bartlett said. “He’s fitter than he’s ever been and done a fantastic job of taking on a leadership role on the team this fall, too.”

Thomas Robertson (junior) is on the cross country team at Occidental College. Photo taken in Los Angeles on Friday, Nov. 2, 2018. Hope Fowler/The Occidental

Robertson gave a nod to the way in which the unique team dynamic of Occidental’s program has helped push him in training and motivate him while gutting out tough races.

“I feel like I’ve had the privilege throughout my three years at Oxy of being in the presence of some of the hardest-working, motivated, most talented runners in conference,” Robertson said. “We’re always the loudest team in SCIAC when we root for each other, and at the end of the day, we care the most, we just have this heart and this energy in supporting each other. I feel like it’s integral to our success.”

Robertson is a major contributor to this strong team chemistry, according to Bartlett, who says that his maturation as a runner is shining through in his SCIAC success.

“I couldn’t be more proud of Thomas’ development as a person and runner in the past two and a half years,” Bartlett said. “He’s a phenomenal example to his teammates in many different ways.”

As the West Regional meet approaches, Robertson said that what will carry him through will be trusting the work that he and his teammates have invested in this 2018 season.

“I feel like I’ve always been looking up to upperclassmen that have been really good in the past, and now I’m one of those upperclassmen,” Robertson said. “Especially with other people in SCIAC and the region as well that I look up to, and now I’m racing against them, I’m one of those people now, so just not being afraid and believing in myself and believing in the work that I’ve done this season.”

Robertson swears by ASICS running shoes and his ideal running destination would be in a rainy green field or forest.