Cross country shakes up competition at the Oberlin Inter-Regional Rumble

The Occidental College cross country team practices at Patterson Field at Occidental College in Los Angeles. Thursday, Oct. 23, 2019. Bobby Yu/The Occidental

Select members of Occidental cross country competed against several nationally ranked teams at the Oberlin College Inter-Regional Rumble Oct. 10 in Oberlin, Ohio. The Occidental men’s team placed seventh overall of 39 teams, while the women’s team placed eighth overall of 32 teams. According to Occidental’s website, the finishing times of all eight women were lifetime bests. Teammates Matt Scarlett (sophomore), Tim McClure (sophomore) and Charles Sheh (sophomore) all placed in the top 50 for the men’s 8K, while Sabrina Thurber (senior), Lydia Montgomery (first year), and Kayla Lim (junior) all placed in the top 50 for the women’s 6K.

Head cross country coach Rob Bartlett commended his athletes on their performance.

“They committed themselves to racing really assertively and really put themselves out there to take some risks,” Bartlett said.

The Oberlin Inter-Regional Rumble hosts NCAA Division III runners from colleges across the U.S. Bartlett was first contacted about participating in the competition by a coach at Washington and Lee University, an NCAA Division III school in Virginia.

“They were looking to get a number of different schools from across the country to go to the meet,” Bartlett said. “This would provide us all with an opportunity to get some head-to-head competition.”

According to Scarlett, who finished 32nd in the men’s 8K, the competition was a great opportunity to go up against some highly-ranked national teams.

“We knew going into this race that there were eight ranked teams for nationals, so it was a great opportunity for us to go against some national-caliber teams for Division III,” Scarlett said.

The 16 athletes representing the men and women’s teams were selected based on finishing times from a Sept. 28 meet at The Masters University in Santa Clarita, where the top eight runners from each team were invited to travel to Oberlin.

Attending a race somewhere as far away as Ohio did not come without some challenges, according to McClure, especially when attempting to stick to a routine.

“The toughest part about going to the races that are not in California is just, travel can be really hard on your body,” McClure said. “So you definitely have to be more conscious of everything that you’re doing leading up to the race.”

The athletes described few differences in training for the invitational. However, Scarlett said the team spent more time running on grass to prepare for the conditions in Ohio.

“We did a lot of our threshold tempo workouts over on the grass by the Rose Bowl, which definitely helped us prepare for this race at Oberlin because the majority of the course was on grass similar to that,” Scarlett said.

According to McClure, who finished 44th in the men’s 8K, the weather conditions in Ohio were conducive for running.

“The biggest thing was just it was more humid, but the temperatures actually weren’t super different,” McClure said.

In addition to the weather, Scarlett said the conditions of the course were also favorable to the runners.

“We were fortunate enough to have good weather,” Scarlett said. “The grass was pretty firm. It wasn’t muddy or anything like that, so we didn’t have any real obstacles regarding the course.”

Montgomery, who finished 38th in the woman’s 6K, said she preferred the cooler conditions in Ohio to those of Southern California.

“I’m from Seattle, so it’s not my typical cross country weather here,” Montgomery said.

According to Bartlett, the trip to Oberlin provided valuable experiences to the athletes who hope to compete in future prestigious competitions.

“This was an opportunity for us to expose them to staying in a hotel, being on a plane, all of those kinds of things before they might qualify for a national championship,” Bartlett said. “So if they do, they’re ready for what that experience might be like.”

Occidental cross country will compete at the SCIAC Championships Nov. 2 at Prado Park, California.