Cross Country Seeking Another Historic Season

Cross Country Seeking Another Historic Season

PASADENA (Aug. 31, 2018) – On the heels of a year where both men's and women's teams matched SCIAC finishes from the previous year while individuals rose to the occasion, the Caltech men's and women's cross country teams will now look to ascend to uncharted territory in 2018 and join the next tier of SCIAC teams.

While many Caltech fall sports are flying under the radar despite having strong recruiting classes, the men's cross country team already has somewhat of a microscope on them, coming in sixth in the USTFCCCA preseason rankings for the Division III West region, and fourth among SCIAC teams after both men's and women's teams finished sixth at last year's conference championships. If that finish holds up by season's end, it would be a new best for either team, but a commitment to training and improvements made during the track season has this crop of Beavers believing.
 
"It's the first time since my first year here that the bulk of our expected varsity line-up will be made up of returners on the men's side," Head Coach Ben Raphelson said. "It's a pretty mature group with their experience now rising to match their ability."
 
The men's team is returning a one-two punch in juniors Simon Ricci (Chicago, Ill. / Latin School of Chicago) and Tanner Moore (Roseville, Calif. / Oakmont), both of which found themselves knocking on the door of top-20 finishes at the SCIAC Championships. Moreover, both runners improved their rankings in their respective distance track events in the spring with Ricci earning fifth-place all-time in the 3000 and Moore matching placement in the 5000. The next step will be breaking into the top-20 at SCIAC's, though they may not be the only Beavers with SCIAC aspirations. Freshman Gaurav Phanse (Fremont, Calif. / Dublin) comes to Caltech with an impressive high school resume and could immediately bolster Caltech's top-six if he can effectively adjust to the longer 8K distance that Division III cross country demands. Phanse will be joined by Kellen Rodriguez (Fairmont, Minn. / Fairmont) and August Chen (Redmond, Wash. / Redmond) as the three new additions to the men's team.
 
Additionally, sophomores Matthew Earney (San Diego, Calif. / Del Norte) and Spencer Morgenfeld (Roseville, Calif. / Oakmont) also benefited greatly from track with Earney scoring points in the 1500m run while Morgenfeld showed continual improvement in the steeplechase. Both men will be looking to showcase those improvements from the spring and like Ricci and Moore are expected to be key cogs for the men's team, as will senior mainstay Rohan Choudhury (Cupertino, Calif. / Monta Vista).
 
"I thought Simon, Tanner, Matthew and Spencer all performed at a higher level in track relative to the conference than they ever had before," Raphelson said. "Matthew scored at SCIAC's but all of them were on the edge of scoring so I see a potential case of experience and ability coming together for them this season."
 
The women's team will enter 2018 less heralded than the men by preseason ranking standards but has its own bright spots and considerable potential. Sophomore Claire Hu (Palo Alto, Calif. / Henry M. Gunn) had arguably the best rookie campaign out of any Caltech athlete when she first finished 13th at last year's SCIAC Cross Country Championships and earned SCIAC Newcomer of the Year. Hu added to that success during track season with a third-place finish in the women's 5000m finals at the SCIAC Track & Field Championships, earning all-conference honors against a stacked field of competitors.  
 
"Claire continues to explore how good she can be," Raphelson said. "Finishing third in the 5k at SCIACs against that field was no small feat. The women that beat her went on to finish 1-2 at the NCAA Championships. Every season is different, but Claire's work ethic will take her far."
 
In addition to Hu, sophomore Molly Crotteau (Chicago, Ill. / Payton) will be looking to bounce back in 2018 after battling illness and adversity in her rookie cross country season. One of the team's more talented distance runners, Crotteau bounced back in the spring, finding her way into fourth all-time in the women's steeplechase. Crotteau will be looking to go step-for-step with Hu and give the Beavers a dynamic one-two punch atop the women's lineup. Fellow sophomores Sirisha Gudavalli (Boulder, Colo. / Fairview) and Krystal Brodsky (Redmond, Wash. / Redmond) also figure to factor into the team's top line-up. They'll be joined by juniors Skye Reese (Concord, N.H. / Concord) and Nicole Feng (Bethany, Conn. / Amity Regional) who are looking to build on their considerable improvements from the 2018 track season as well. Freshman Alex Bardon's (Boston, Mass. / Winsor School) hard work over the summer should position her as a strong contributor and classmates Jamie Littman (Port Washington, N.Y. / Paul D. Schreiber) and Natali Lelieur (South Pasadena, Calif. / South Pasadena), are also showing considerable improvements already.
 
This year's schedule offers some exciting changes to the Beavers' standardized schedule of years past with the cancellation of the SCIAC Multi-Dual meet. The team's final meet of the season will happen at Pomona-Pitzer Colleges on Oct. 6, which will allow for a three-week block for the team to rest up and train for the SCIAC Championships in Chino on Oct. 27. The top-seven runners on each team will represent Caltech at NCAA Regionals in Walla Walla, Wash. where a select few will be looking to qualify for the national meet in Oshkosh, Wisc.
 
Raphelson, now in his fifth season, hopes that he too has progressed enough to where he can help both of his teams reach their lofty goals.
 
"Just like the runners who are getting more experience as they go through their careers, I feel like I've gotten more experience and hope I can better anticipate their needs," Raphelson said. "Planning the training is the easy part. It's more about helping our athletes transition to college and thrive."
 
Raphelson and the Beavers will open the 2018 season at the Redlands Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 1.
 
 
 

 


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