Track and field nationally ranked and looking for more

Paige Waters (senior) watches her javelin soar through the air at a meet against Claremont, Pomona-Pitzer, Chapman, and California Lutheran at Occidental College. Saturday, April 13, 2019. Matthew VanBronkhorst/The Occidental

Occidental’s men’s and women’s track and field teams competed against the University of Redlands and the University of La Verne March 30. The final score for the women’s team was a 106–50 win against La Verne, and an 86–76 loss against Redlands, while the men’s team won against La Verne 102–60 and lost 85–77 against Redlands. Speaking on how to improve and hopefully beat Redlands at the next meet, captain Sabrina Degnan (senior) said the team needs to be confident and keep pushing through hard practices. Despite the loss against Redlands, the Tigers still recorded good performances overall, according to head coach Robert Bartlett.

“I think Saturday’s performance was really good,” Bartlett said. “It was our best competition of the season so far. I think after the meet we counted 71 seasonal bests and 30 lifetime bests so, from a team of 90 people, that’s an incredible amount.”

Talking about the loss, Bartlett credited Redlands for their talent and deep coaching staff. He said every time they see one another, they know both teams are in for a tough battle.

“There’s no shame in losing,” Bartlett said. “We told the team afterward, we really felt like Redlands just beat us, we didn’t lose. They were just better than us on that day.”

The women’s team is currently ranked fifth in the nation. According to Bartlett, it is the highest the team has ever been ranked. Bartlett emphasized the impact Degnan has had on the program.

“She is one of the best athletes I think to come through Occidental in recent years, and I say that not specifically to track, she’s just an incredible athlete,” Bartlett said. “She is our school record holder for javelin, she is ranked amongst the top ten performers in school history in three other events and she sets a great example for other people.”

According to Degnan, the meet held large importance because it was against two conference rivals. In the end, she said she chose to trust her training. This paid off for Degnan, as she placed on all four podiums in hammer, javelin, shot and discus.

Sabrina Degnan (sophomore) begins her run-up for a javelin throw at Occidental College. Saturday, April 13, 2019. Matthew VanBronkhorst/The Occidental

“It’s really fun. Honestly, it’s a really great feeling,” Degnan said. “What I am most happy about is that it helps my team, because podiums mean points. We are close with Redlands this year, like neck and neck, so the fact that I could get four podiums to get points for the team is really great.”

What makes the team so special, according to Allison Kilday (senior) and Emma Yudelevitch (senior) is how supportive the environment is, which comes from both the team itself and coaching staff. Degnan, Kilday and Yudelevitch all echoed the idea that Redlands is beatable next time they face them.

Something that stood out to Kilday was the growth of the women’s team. When Yudelevitch and Kilday first joined the team, they were ranked sixth in SCIAC. Now, four years later, they are nationally ranked. Yudelevitch added how good it feels to see that type of progress, and how it shows growth both individually and as a team.

“We haven’t had a SCIAC championship in like 20 years or something like that, and this is the closest we have ever been,” Degnan said. “For the team, I really want the women to win. The men obviously, too, but I think we can come together as a team and show everyone that this is the women’s team’s year to win.”

Looking ahead, Yudelevitch, Kilday and Degnan all want to qualify for nationals.

“My ultimate goal this season is the hammer, it’s my favorite event,” Degnan said. “I want to make some progress on that and beat my mom. She threw the hammer in college, and she threw a 164. I’m currently throwing a 162.”

The women’s team had many excellent individual performances against La Verne and Redlands, according to Kilday and Yudelevitch. Juliette Lum (first year) achieved a personal record in the 400 meter by three seconds, Kilday said.

“The beauty of track is that everyone can be a team player, but also do individually great,” Yudelevitch said. “There are so many ways to ensure your success. I still felt like I did well supporting my teammates, even though I personally did not hit any PRs.”