CLAREMONT, Calif. (Nov. 11, 2017) – The Caltech men's and women's cross country teams ran to two of the program's best team scores ever at the NCAA West Regional Championships at Pomona-Pitzer Colleges on Satuday.
The day consisted of a little bit of everything, both individually and as a group and featured multiple time improvements as the cross country team capped off a year in which they took a massive step forward as a whole. The men's team rounded out the top 10 and had its best team finish since 1997 when the West region featured only nine teams. The women's team took 14th place, an improvement on the prior year when they finished 15th in a 19-team field which held the prior distinction of the women's best regional finish ever. Moreover, sophomore Simon Ricci (Chicago, Ill. / Latin School of Chicago) finished 30th in the men's race and came just seconds away from setting a new personal best at the Pomona course (26:30.20). Freshman Claire Hu (Redmond, Wash. / Redmond), meanwhile came in as the fifth-fastest freshman in the field, finishing 32nd. Both runners earned all-region distinction for finishing in the Top-35.
Ricci's performance helped lift the Beavers into the Top-10 as sophomore Tanner Moore (Roseville, Calif. / Oakmont), the team's consistent second runner this season, came seven spots away from an all-region distinction himself by placing 42nd (26:53.30). Junior Rohan Choudhury (Cupertino, Calif. / Monta Vista) recovered from an illness he sustained prior to the SCIAC Championships to return to third place on the team by running a 27:32.8. Freshman Spencer Morgenfeld (Palo Alto, Calif. / Palo Alto) improved on his personal best by five seconds (27:36.9) and was trailed by fellow freshman Matthew Earney (San Diego, Calif. / Del Norte) by less than four seconds to give Caltech five runners in the top-70. Sophomore David Fager (Miami, Fla. / Belen Jesuit Prep), meanwhile continued his ascension up the team ladder with a 28:25.9 and sophomore Tommy Alford (Dublin, Ohio / Dublin Coffman) rounded out the Beavers' top-seven by clocking in at 28:58.6.
"We felt like we had been consistent in races all year but that there was another level we were capable of reaching," Head Coach Ben Raphelson said. "They turned in a really memorable performance. It was inspiring watching them compete with a new level of focus and intensity. They represented Caltech well."
The men's team finished fifth among eight participating SCIAC teams and defeated more teams at regionals than any year prior to put an exclamation point on a pivotal season for the program.
The Beavers met many preseason goals on the women's side with Saturday's results but have been overcome with illness that has affected the team up and down the lineup since SCIAC Multi-Duals.
"We knew we had some adversity to overcome due to illness," Raphelson said. "Several people stepped up with their best runs of the season to secure a very solid team finish."
SCIAC Newcomer of the Year Hu led the Beavers with another strong showing to cap off a consistent string of high-level championship performances. The freshman finished in 23:05.6, though only five seconds separated Hu and the five next finishers. The women's team also saw sophomore Jena Srikanth (Fresno, Calif. / Clovis North) step up and into the team's second running spot with a 24:35.2. Freshman Krystal Brodsky (Redmond, Wash. / Redmond) finished third on the Beavers with a 24:55.3 on the women's 6K course in what could be called her most clutch performance of the season. Going with the theme of personal bests, junior Melissa Gutierrez (Pico Rivera, Calif. / El Rancho) also set a new best for herself this season by running a 25:31.5. Sophomore Skye Reese (Concord, N.H. / Concord) finished just two seconds off Gutierrez's time to take 101st and freshman Molly Crotteau (Redmond, Wash. / Redmond) finished just two spots behind Reese (25:37.1). Freshman Sirisha Gudavalli (Boulder, Colo. / Fairview) rounded out Caltech's top seven (26:17.1).
"There was a lot of selfless racing that speaks volumes to the character of the women on the team," Raphelson said. "It's hard enough to race at a high level even when you're feeling great. It takes another level of courage to race hard when things haven't been going well. Melissa had been battling injuries for the past few weeks but came through with her best race of the year. Molly and Sirisha were both under the weather. All of them gave what they had to help the team."