PASADENA, Calif. (Feb. 5, 2016) – With the men's team coming off its first SCIAC dual meet victory since 2011 and several women experiencing breakthroughs last season, Caltech track & field is preparing to solidify the program's foundation with another strong senior core and influx of young talent.
"This team is light on experience but has already shown huge progress," Head Coach Ben Raphelson said. "We have a very young distance core, but one full of legitimate talents boosted by a deep freshman class. The sprints group has several new members as well but they are picking things up much faster than last year. Along with our field event competitors, we have several student-athletes looking to make an impact at the SCIAC Championships in April."
Despite the graduation of every point-scorer from last year's SCIAC Championships, including 5,000-meter run champion Aditya Bhagavathi and a host of other all-time greats in program history, the Beavers are optimistic that they can continue to progress as a program. The contributions made by the likes of Bridget Connor (tied-third all-time pole vault, fourth javelin), Jared Forte (No. 4 all-time steeplechase), Eric Martin (second all-time 800m, fourth 1500m) and Stephanie Reynolds (second all-time 800m and 1500m, third 3000m) helped set the tone for the future of Caltech track & field, an expectation which the current squad is eager to meet and continue raising.
"We may not be returning any points from last year, but we were in virtually the same situation last year and ended up with one of our best championship performances in years, so it's not foreign territory," Raphelson said. "Every team has to replace points from top athletes when they graduate, and we have shown that our approach to training and competition can lead to breakthrough performances. Really, it frees up current members of the team to step up, knowing it's up to them to shoulder that scoring mantle."
The distance group is the deepest on the team this year, with senior Elliot Simon (Alexandria, Va. / Thomas Jefferson) the only returning upperclassman. Simon is set to serve as one of two team captains and has already made his imprint on this team, both as a runner and team leader.
"Elliot is the heart and soul of this group without a doubt," Raphelson said. "He is a talented runner but, more importantly, he is the consummate teammate. He makes the entire group better."
Freshmen Rohan Choudhury (Cupertino, Calif. / Monta Vista) and Rohan Doshi (West Windsor, N.J. / West Windsor-Plainsboro North) were regular scorers for Caltech during the cross-country season and both have strong competitive track backgrounds from high school. Choudhury will likely focus his efforts primarily toward the 5,000-meter run while Doshi specializes in the mid-distance events (800m and 1,500m).
"The Rohans have different strengths but have been really compatible and productive training partners since early in the fall," Raphelson said. "They felt their cross country performances didn't reflect their full ability and have used that as extra motivation for this season. My goal for them in the fall was to learn what they needed to do outside of practice in order to compete at the college level. They clearly took that to heart and their early-season training has been very impressive as a result of adjusting to life as collegiate student-athletes."
Rookie Michelle Marasigan (Elk Grove Village, Ill. / James B. Conant) will lead the women's side after a very successful fall in which she clocked the 11th-fastest 5k time and 13th-fastest 6k in program history. In addition to her expected success in the running events, her distance and hurdling background in high school makes her a natural fit for the steeplechase.
"Michelle's positive attitude and work ethic should translate into some impact performances," Raphelson said. "She will be a real factor in some familiar events, but I think the sky is the limit for her in the steeplechase."
Junior Lilly Luo (Belle Mead, N.J. / Montgomery), sophomores Chris Haack (New York City, N.Y. / The Browning School) and Gene Vaughan (Mission, Texas / Sharyland) and freshmen Michael Hashe (Plano, Texas / Texas Acad. of Math & Science) and Joey Hong (Milpitas, Calif. / King's Acad.) fill out the distance core. All five have shown significant improvement from either the fall or last spring and will be in the scoring mix throughout the dual meet slate.
"I'm optimistic that this group's large improvements will continue. We have a really positive and productive training atmosphere that they're benefitting from and contributing to," Raphelson said. "Chris is way ahead of where he was last year and I really think that Lilly, Joey, Gene and Michael are all just starting to scratch the surface of their ability."
Senior Kevin Yei (Carlsbad, Calif. / La Costa Canyon) and junior Lucy Chen (Boonton Township, N.J. / Mountain Lakes) are the two other team captains and serve as leaders among the sprint group. The pair enters the season in excellent shape and their veteran presence has sped up the learning curve for the newcomers. Yei chopped off almost three seconds in the 400-meter dash in last year's victory over Chapman, clocking an impressive 54.25. Chen cleared the 30-foot mark in the triple jump in the same meet and brought her 100m time down to a 14.66 at the Beach Invitational. Both arrived at the start of this year poised to continue their huge improvements.
"Kevin and Lucy worked hard in the offseason to get into probably the best shape of their lives and are eager to build on their breakthroughs last year, but they've been vital so far in helping our newcomers adapt to our approach to training, which has helped us progress faster than I anticipated."
New faces on the men's side include senior Edward Garza (Corpus Christi, Texas / King) and junior Teddy Hu (Qingdao, China / Qingdao No. 2), while the women's team welcomes freshman Muskaan Goyal (Apple Valley, Minn. / Eastview). The group will get a further boost when sophomore Alex Bourzutschky (Potomac, Md. / Montgomery Blair), freshman Ben Calvin (Shawnee, Kan. / Shawnee Mission Northwest) and sophomore Serena Delgadillo (Denton, Texas / Texas Acad. of Math & Science) return for the spring term. Bourzutschky proved to be another all-around contributor between the sprints and pole vault, while Delgadillo ranks fourth on the all-time hammer throw list and ninth in the triple jump while placing 22nd in the 100m and 13th in the hammer at SCIACs.
"This will be Edward's and Teddy's first year of collegiate track, but they are both showing that they can push the returners in workouts," Raphelson said. "They're also eager learners, soaking up everything we teach them. Muskaan has a great chance to contribute in a variety of events and is taking advantage of the opportunity to learn a lot from Lucy."
The other field events will be led by a pair of accomplished seniors in Morgan Hill (San Diego, Calif. / Wasatch Acad.) and Anup Kishore (Chappaqua, N.Y. / Horace Greeley). Hill sits fifth on the all-time list for the hammer throw and will be looking to move up further this year as well as crack the shot put and discus ranks in his final year. He finished just out of the scoring at last year's SCIAC Championships in the hammer, placing 10th and later recording a season-best toss of just over 125 feet. Kishore was the Beavers' top individual scorer in dual meets last season, highlighted by a 16-point performance that led the men over Chapman University for their first win SCIAC dual victory since 2011. Having missed the Championships with an injury last year after scoring in the meet as a sophomore, he is eager to make a run at some Top 10 lists as well, particularly in the pole vault and triple jump.
"Morgan has the ability to contribute in multiple events at SCIACs and Anup has some extra motivation this year after missing the championship portion of last season," Raphelson said. "Morgan's performances last year didn't reflect the technical breakthroughs he was making in practice – that should change this year as he looks to go out with a bang in the hammer especially. Anup has the added challenge of returning from a season-ending injury but that hasn't affected his attitude and his willingness to do anything the team needs. If anything, it's strengthened that resolve."
Raphelson and the Beavers open the season on Saturday, Feb. 6 with the annual Caltech All-Comers Meet. Their first SCIAC competition is set for Saturday, Mar. 5 at nearby Occidental College and Caltech will host this year's SCIAC Championships at Oxy on Friday-Saturday, Apr. 29-30.