A number of personal and Occidental records were posted as the men’s and women’s track and field teams competed in two meets in a span of seven days. After two meets of non-conference competition, the Tigers were able to finally score against their SCIAC adversaries in the first meet of the SCIAC competition.
The Occidental women’s track and field team opened up its SCIAC season on March 8, losing to both La Verne and Cal Lutheran at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps’ (CMS) Burns Track Complex. The Tigers fell to the Leopards by a lopsided 125-29 margin and faired only slightly better against the Regals, losing 115-43. Despite the low team scores, the squad produced two school-record performances while notching numerous personal bests.
First-year Onyekachi Nwabueze’s 100-meter time of 12.66 seconds gave her the 10th-best mark in Occidental history along with a third-place finish in her heat. Junior Kimberly Orpinela’s 39.47-meter throw in the hammer competition moved her up to the sixth spot on the Occidental all-time board and placed her third in the competition.
Rachael Hinkel (sophomore) took home the only first-place finish for the Tiger women at the meet, running a near personal best of 15.59 seconds in the 100-meter hurdles.
“I thought we had a really good team day. It went about as well as we expected it to,” head coach Rob Bartlett said.
The team returned to the track just under a week later, hosting the annual Oxy Distance Carnival and Sprints Festival on Friday. Heading into the competition, the women’s distance squad adopted a team-oriented approach in its race strategy, according to co-captain Marnie Kinnaird (senior).
This strategy failed to materialize, however, as three of the runners registered to race for the Tigers in the 5,000-meter, including Kinnaird, were unable to compete due to lingering injuries.
“I was looking forward to running the 5k with Marnie and was really disappointed when we found out that she won’t be running for awhile,” distance runner Mel Devoney (first-year) said. “Running with a teammate helps me tremendously, so without Marnie, Jenna or Megan I lost focus.”
Two other top performances on the women’s side came from Ayana Foster (senior), who placed seventh in the 400-meter with a time of 1:00.71 minutes, and Jennifer Zhu (junior), who placed 28th in the 1,500-meter with a time of 5:03.15 minutes.
The Occidental men’s team also opened league competition against La Verne and Cal Lutheran in its first SCIAC meet of the season, dropping the match-ups by scores of 118-45 and 82-75, respectively.
While the squad failed to tally a victory, Kyle Dalton (first-year) and Colin Smith (junior) both posted lifetime-best performances. Dalton finished second in the 100-meter with a time of 11.06 seconds and followed up the race with a third-place finish in the 200-meter at 22.30 seconds. Both of these marks were collegiate bests. Smith finished first in the 1,500-meter with a time of 3:55.59 minutes.
According to Bartlett, Smith’s strong performance came as no surprise to the coaching staff.
“His workouts suggest he’s in a place he’s never been before,” Bartlett said.
Along with Dalton, three other Tigers recorded personal-best times in the 200-meter. First-year Jeh Johnson finished sixth with a time of 22.66 seconds, while Alex Ringold (senior) and Gregory Capra (sophomore) finished 15th and 17th with times of 23.72 seconds and 24.04 seconds, respectively.
“It’s always nice to PR this early in the season, so it was definitely a confidence booster for our team,” Ringold said.
Despite the teams’ losses, Bartlett said that the men met his expectations and that he was proud of how they competed.
“I think it was one of those meets that was a really good stepping stone forward for us,” Bartlett said.
Smith again led the men’s squad at the Oxy Distance Carnival and Sprints Festival, running a time of 30:54.36 minutes in his first career 10,000-meter race. He crossed the finish line in sixth place overall and third for Division-III athletes, leading a field that included collegiate and club runners from around the country.
Senior Kevin Cox, Dalton and Johnson also put together successful days in the 100-meter. All three runners finished within the top 12 out of a 39-man field. Dalton finished fifth, Cox came in eighth and Johnson captured 11th with times of 11:08 seconds, 11:28 seconds and 11:48 seconds, respectively.
Both Occidental squads return to the track on March 29, hosting SCIAC Multi-Dual #2.