As the spring season begins for Occidental’s student athletes, current and former players have the opportunity to connect on and off the field through the teams’ alumni games. Occidental’s track and field, baseball and women’s lacrosse teams invited former players to suit up and play with their former teammates.
The track and field alumni meet, which took place Jan. 30, consisted of an inter-squad competition, a banquet and an award ceremony attended by graduate track and field athletes. The meet has only been held on an annual basis for the past four years; however, similar events have taken place sporadically since the creation of Occidental’s track and field program over 100 years ago.
“One of the really nice things about being a student athlete is that you’re part of this huge extended family that goes back over one hundred years,” track and field Head Coach Rob Bartlett said.
The alumni meet also serves as an introduction to collegiate competition.
“Our team has a lot of first years, and although the meet didn’t really count, it was our first time racing in the season,” Rachel Cockburn (first year) said. “During the meet there was a lot of team bonding going on, and a lot of nerves.”
The baseball alumni game served a similar purpose: New and returning players had the opportunity to familiarize themselves with game day procedures, while graduated players returned to reminisce and play with former coaches and old friends.
Baseball Head Coach Luke Wetmore also acknowledged the importance of maintaining a legacy for the baseball team through the alumni games.
“We have seen an increase in talent on the other side of the ball over the last five years and that is helping it be more beneficial for us for game preparation,” Wetmore said via email. “The biggest value comes from providing a way to keep our recent graduates connected to the program and college. We had 29 alumni play this year, and 20 of them played for me.”
For Wetmore, seeing so many of his players return this year has been a validating experience that illustrated the tenacity with which student athletes work as they balance school, sports and extracurriculars.
“Baseball is a great mirror for life because you can literally do everything right and still not get the result you want, need or deserve,” Wetmore said via email. “I enjoy hearing my players talk about the grind of their careers, the hours they work and study, the struggles to balance work, life, family, because I know they’ve been prepared and are enjoying the process.”
Maintaining a connection with Occidental and former teammates has also been a priority for women’s lacrosse player Kristin Feinberg ’15, who made two appearances in the NCAA tournament during her athletic career at Occidental.
“This is the first year the women’s lacrosse team is having an alumni game,” Feinberg said via email. “This will be our team’s seventh year competing at the varsity level, so we’re just starting to build a big enough alumnae base. It’s really exciting to be part of a more active alumni group, and I look forward to being connected with my teammates for years to come.”
While the alumni game is a new tradition for Occidental’s women’s lacrosse team, Feinberg has cultivated the kind of connection with the college, her teammates and her sport that Coaches Bartlett and Wetmore see from their own respective athletes.
“I left Oxy with a lot of injuries that I still need to tend to, but I occasionally get to play pick-up lacrosse on weekends with a local women’s club including [Assistant Coach Hannah Khin] and [Head Coach Stephanie Janice Mark],” Feinberg said via email. “Anyone on the team can vouch how much fun it is to get them on the field.”
For the current lacrosse players participating in the upcoming alumni game, Feinberg has a few words of wisdom to share.
“Live it up,” Feinberg said via email. “I can’t even begin to express how much I miss playing with everyone. This team was my everything while at Oxy; we went out together, did homework together, ate almost every meal together and we were practically always in a group text. Also: Embrace the ‘groutfit.’ Real-people clothes aren’t as comfortable.”
The women’s lacrosse alumni game will take place on Feb. 13 at 10:30 a.m.