Occidental College’s Women’s Track & Field team’s successful season continued during the Pomona-Pitzer Invitational April 7, highlighted by record-setting individual performances from sprinter LaShauna Porter (sophomore) and pole-vaulter Melissa Braun (junior).
Head coach Rob Bartlett said Occidental’s current women’s team is the best of his 13-year tenure at the school, with Braun and Porter’s successes exemplifying its strength. According to Bartlett, the athletes’ improvement from last year has made them both strong contenders in the SCIAC and legitimate candidates for a Division III National Championship berth.
“I think the women’s team is definitely as strong as it’s ever been, certainly in my tenure,” Bartlett said. “And I think [Braun and Porter] are key parts of [a strong team], have high aspirations, and have good people to practice with as well.”
Porter’s 24.70-second finish in the 200-meter dash — a personal record — is the fifth-fastest Division III time in the country, second in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) and fourth all-time at Occidental. Porter also ran the 100-meter dash in 12.21 seconds at a multi-dual meet at the University of La Verne March 31, moving up to fourth on the school’s all-time list for that event as well. According to Porter, she was surprised to see her time on the leaderboard. She attributed it to a change in racing strategy.
“The previous week I tried a new strategy where I ran the curves slower and paced myself on the straight,” Porter said. “But this time I just went all out, because I like the curve a lot better, so I thought, ‘Why not go all out for that and see where I am?’”
A recent All-Region nominee for the 2018 NCAA Division III indoor track & field season, Braun pole-vaulted 12 feet 1.5 inches — matching a personal record and placing 2nd all-time at Occidental — to win her event and take over the individual first place in the SCIAC. Having matched her personal record twice this year, Braun expressed confidence that she will soon surpass it, noting the consistency of her practice and jumps and overall comfort level.
“In practice, things have been looking really good. Every time I jump at a height [past my personal record], it’s really close, there’s only tiny things that need to change for me to get it,” Braun said.
The invitational participant pool ranged from all three NCAA divisions and include international and domestic Olympic hopefuls competing unattached (without affiliation to a specific school) for official qualifying results. Despite the team’s impressive showing, the meet’s outcome bears no implications on their overall standing, as collegiate invitationals are unstructured events and don’t involve team scoring, according to Bartlett.