Author: Kelly Neukom
Both the Men’s and Women’s Cross Country teams have had a solid start to the year, with impressive performances at the UC Irvine Invitational on September 8, the Redlands Invitational on September 15 and an invitational on September 29 at Stanford.
At Irvine, the women’s team finished third and the men’s team finished fifth. Individually, the Tigers posted impressive times. Maddie Weissman (sophomore) finished 12th out of 107, the highest finish out of any of the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference runners, at 17:36. Grace Peck (sophomore) came in just 16 seconds behind her. Kevin Chaves (senior) and Alex Ramon (senior) placed third and fourth in the men’s competition out of 195, finishing the course in 24:42 and 24:43, respectively. Chaves was only eight seconds behind the leader and was the top SCIAC finisher in the meet, according to the cross-country website.
“UCI was a really solid meet for us,” Head Coach Rob Bartlett said. “A number of folks on both the men’s and women’s teams stepped up and produced lifetime best performances.”
The women’s team came in a strong third at the Redlands 6K on September 15 with Weissman and Peck leading the way again. Weissman finished fifth out of 72 with a time of 23:27. Peck came in 10th with a time of 23:54. The men’s team finished fifth overall at the Redlands 8K. David Martinez (junior) set the pace for the Tigers at 27:23-17th out of 81. Jon Wheeler (sophomore) finished 20th overall with a time of 27:29.
On September 29, the men’s team traveled north to participate in the Stanford Invitational, an 8K event where the Tigers ran against many Division I programs. Oxy held its own with Chaves coming in at 25:03, 43rd place out of 312 competitors. Keith Blumenfeld (junior) followed Chaves with a 96th overall finish at 25:45. Oxy runners also participated in a 4K run at Stanford. Victor Kali and Noah Carson (both sophomores) came in at 13:51 and 14:08, respectively.
The runners on the team this year have described this season as “difficult,” “exhilarating,” “amazing,” “lively,” “hopeful” and “riveting.”
“‘Hopeful’ because everyone is excited about what we know we can do as a team-we have a lot of potential,” Rachel Keylon (junior) said. “‘Amazing’ because the team has such great dynamics this year; the team has really bonded.”
Caitlin Croall (senior) agrees. “The strength of both teams is our cohesiveness,” she said. “We are truly a family. We run together, eat together, help each other out in our classes and spend a lot of our free time together. That alone builds great team spirit, so whether you are the first woman or the last man to finish, you are still cheered on by your teammates.”Emilie Still (first-year) enjoys the fact that she is treated the same as those who have been on the team for four years. “So far, most everyone is supportive, friendly and welcoming,” she said. “I remember one of the seniors saying, ‘There’s no hierarchy; everyone is a runner.’ Basically, it’s nice because we’re not looked down on just because we’re first-years; everyone treats everyone the same regardless if you’re a newcomer or veteran.”
The team’s cohesiveness has been helped by Bartlett, who was last year’s interim coach and became the Head Coach this season.
“In so many ways, it’s really a dream job for me,” Bartlett said. “I love Oxy and I love Oxy people. I’m phenomenally lucky to have the opportunity to work with so many talented, interesting young people in a field that I’m really passionate about on a daily basis. There are so many things I like about my job that it really doesn’t feel like work most of the time.”
Croall likes the fact that Bartlett goes above and beyond being just a coach. “What makes him unique is his level of dedication to our team and how he really cares for each and every person on this team,” she said. “He is always there when I need him, if even just to talk. It makes running and training much more meaningful when he is willing to work with you on a one-on-one basis.”
“He has rejuvenated our training and has worked really hard to structure [it] to optimize our performance especially for the end of the season,” Keylon said. “He has really stepped up as a leading figure as well and makes a great coach who also has a good relationship with the team.”
Bartlett was first introduced to Occidental athletics in 2002-2003, when he came to Oxy as an exchange student from the University of East Anglia in England and ran the 200m and 400m competitions for the Tigers. He returned to Occidental as an assistant track and cross country coach in 2005 and was named to the interim position in November 2006, following the departure of Troy Engle, who resigned to become Associate Head Coach of the U.S. Paralympic Track & Field team in Colorado Springs.
Led by a passionate coach and equipped with some impressive senior leadership, both the Men’s and Women’s cross country teams are looking at impressive years.
See the Men’s and Women’s Cross Country teams run at the SCIAC Multi-Dual Meet in Chino on Saturday, October 13 at 9 a.m.
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