Author: Anthony Ostland
The Occidental Track and Field Team competed this past weekend in what turned out to be a very spirited battle for the conference title at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps. Entering the 2008 SCIAC meet, Oxy had high expectations for what could be accomplished with the level of talent on the team. “This was the first time in about eight years where both [the men’s and women’s teams] were contending for the SCIAC title,” Associate Head Coach Derek Turbin said. No matter the outcome, the meet was sure to be a memorable experience for all its participants.
Track and Field has proven to be one of the most physically and mentally demanding modes of competition in all of athletics. A great deal of stress is put on the body to get an athlete at his or her top performance. In turn, a lot is asked of the mind when coping with a strenuous training cycle. Often times the training at this level can lead to injuries that may have an effect on a team’s performance.
This past weekend, the Tigers found themselves battling with what seemed like a swarm of injuries that may have cost them their opportunity at reclaiming the SCIAC crown. The Tigers finished fourth overall as a team (a repeat of their 2007 campaign), leaving many members of the team disappointed. However, this was by no means a disappointing season for the Tigers. The team boasts five individual SCIAC champions, five national qualifiers and a large number of accomplished athletes who qualified for finals and made the meet a tremendous success.
On the women’s side, the weekend started with Kera Bartlett’s (junior) continued dominance in the pole vault, as she won her second consecutive SCIAC title. Bartlett remains ranked number one in the nation in the pole vault.
The first day of the meet also featured another phenomenal performance with Grace Peck (sophomore) finishing second in the steeplechase running, the third best time in the nation. As if that weren’t enough, Peck returned the next day to compete and take third in the 1500 meter.
On Saturday, Libby Mislan (sophomore) and Elissa Chandler (sophomore) both showed unbelievable heart and determination. Mislan continued her dominance in the 400-meter dash, then rallied back to place second in the 200m, even though she was seeded fourth. As for Chandler, despite just missing out on winning the 100m hurdles, she came back and fought through injury to win the 400m hurdles with an impressive time of 64.60 seconds. Lastly, Mislan and Chandler returned to run sub-60 second legs on a 4×400 team that placed second overall.
On the men’s side, Chris Kyles (senior) started off the weekend with a bang, winning the discus with a national qualifying mark of 158’11”-seven feet further than his previous best, putting him 11th in the nation. Kyles also placed sixth in the hammer throw and eighth in shot put.
Friday also featured an extremely gutsy performance by Galen Smith (senior), who finished third in the steeplechase despite being injured nearly all season. Saturday featured many phenomenal performances as well, including a national qualifying mark for Sam Huie (sophomore), as he triple jumped exactly 14 meters.
Clay Hoadley (junior) ran an impressive 1:55 in the 800m, finishing second in the SCIAC. Kevin Chaves (senior) ended his track career at Oxy as a three-time SCIAC champion in the 5000 meters, leaving Oxy as one of its greatest distance runners of all time.
While the SCIAC season is complete, national qualifiers Peck, Bartlett, Kyles, Chaves and Huie will continue to compete in invitational meets, including the Oxy invite on May 10, as they prepare for the national championship meet in Wisconsin. As the season comes to an end, members of the track and field team reflect on their experiences together and the bond that is sure to continue long after their days of competition.
Thrower James Sabo (senior) articulated the incomparable journey shared between members of the team during their memorable season: “The people on the track team are outstanding,” he said. “We have an excellent coaching staff, who have done everything possible to get us prepared, and a great team environment.”
Hoadley added, “While our season may not have ended as hoped, this year we laid the foundation for a program that will continue to improve.”
Sabo closed with the words, “The team also has potential to do great things, look out for great things from the Oxy Track and Field team in the future.”
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