Author: Peter Johnson
With a whopping 74 lifetime or season best personal records set at the latest SCIAC Multi-Dual April 2, the track and field team continued their string of strong performances throughout the season with a sweep over Pomona-Pitzer and Cal Lutheran for both the men’s and women’s track and field teams.
“[These records] were the most our coaches had ever seen at a single meet since they began coaching,” co-captain Jesse Wong (senior) said. “It speaks to our efforts and how it’s all about the team working cohesively, a counterintuitive thought for track and field.”
The 74 records came from events ranging from the steeplechase and the triple jump to shot put and the 4×400 relay.
Nick Conklin (sophomore) set one of the records this Saturday, running the 400 -meter dash in 50.11 seconds. Conklin said he wouldn’t have been able to achieve the feat without the support of his team.
“It was the most painful 400 I’ve ever ran and the first meet I’ve ever thrown up at,” Conklin said. “It was a really fun race. I was smiling afterwards. It felt like a fast race. I didn’t even see the guy who was supposed to beat me.”
Even though he set a lifetime record, Conklin said he wished he had performed even better. He felt disappointed by the fact that he did not break 50 seconds — a milestone for a 400 runner.
Co-captain Onye Nwabueze (junior) said she thought the team’s cohesion — which was better than ever — allowed them to put up such good results.
The men’s team is currently 4-0 and in first place in SCIAC, and the women’s team is 2-2 with a chance to secure third place in the final meets before the conference championships April 29.
“It’s a big step up from where we’ve ever been,” Nwabueze said. “It’s just pushing us to go further. I think going into the conference meet we’ll obviously have a larger target on our back, but we kind of like that pressure. It drives us to do better.”
Head coach Robert Bartlett said he was pleased with the success of both teams at the meet, which he attributes to their strong practices.
“The things that you see in practice don’t always transition immediately to competition,” Bartlett said. “So it’s nice when you have days like that where for the most part the things you see in practice show up in the meet.”
Both teams placed nationally among the best Division III Dual-Meet teams in the country, with the men at No. 3 and the women securing the No. 7 spot. The men’s team was also ranked No. 15 nationally as of last week.
Wong said the continued success of the team has made this a landmark year, with a sweep at the first Multi-Dual meet this season March 5. This was the first time Occidental defeated Claremont-Mudd-Scripps since 1998.
“Individual meets are great, but really it’s in the context of our ultimate goal for SCIAC championships,” Wong said.
The team has an invitational meet once again at Pomona-Pitzer April 9 and the third and final Multi-Dual meet on April 16. The season culminates in SCIAC Championships starting April 29.
Nwabueze said that while she values these competitions and Occidental’s success in them, the hard work every athlete has put into creating a team-wide bond is the most rewarding part of the season.
“I hope we have more meets that are like this one even if it’s not points-wise or means winning,” Nwabueze said. “As long as we’re just behind everyone encouraging people, it’s great. One of my teammates said whenever we hear our names announced we’re always the loudest team cheering. We’re just here for each other.”
Conklin said this year has felt different to him — the team is happier and more energetic — and he feels the unified team dynamic will produce championship-level results in the conference championships.
The team has benefited greatly from an influx of first-year athletes, according to Bartlett, who said he is excited for the future of the team, especially because they are not graduating too many athletes.
Wong said he is incredibly proud of and motivated by the hard work and perseverance of the team. He said he has no lack of confidence in their ability to carry this success all the way to the end of the season.
“I’d pick my team over everybody,” Wong said. “There are a ton of great other teams, but at practice I see our effort everyday, see everyone commit to each other, how weird they are and how much they’re dedicated to winning. No other team can beat that.”
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