PASADENA, Calif. (Feb. 6, 2015) – With an entire team of student-athletes determined to find out how good they can be collectively and as individuals, the Caltech women's track and field team is ready to break through and set a foundation for the program for years to come.
"This group is already showing the drive to discover just what their potential really is," first-year head coach Ben Raphelson said. "Our role as coaches is to channel that to productive outcomes through smart training and a supportive environment, which we see happening every day. While everyone might not experience a breakthrough season this year, everyone can contribute to an environment that makes breakthroughs possible for the whole team."
While the graduation of SCIAC shot put champion Paige Logan certainly leaves a void in the lineup, the talented core of this year's squad will lead the Beavers in their bid to move further up the conference ladder. Last year's squad topped Chapman University at the SCIAC Championships and finished a mere six points behind Whittier College.
"Breaking records is always nice, and we expect to be close to several, but we're setting our sights higher as both individuals and a team," Raphelson said. "Focusing on a particular mark or time could limit our incredible potential. We are creating an environment of wanting to find out just how good we can be, and breakthroughs usually follow that."
The Beavers return one of their two scorers from last year's SCIAC Championships in senior Bridget Connor (Albuquerque, N.M. / Albuquerque Acad.), who placed seventh in the javelin to earn two points last spring. The multi-sport student-athlete (women's basketball) also finished 10th in the pole vault, missing out on the scoring by just six inches, and will reprise both roles as she looks to score in each while threatening both school marks.
"Bridget is an experienced competitor and versatile, as you would expect from a multi-sport athlete," Raphelson said. "That's important as she contributes in some unique events, and has a lot of potential to improve in the javelin especially."
Joining Connor in the field events is freshman Serena Delgadillo (Denton, Texas / Texas Acad. of Math and Science), who has taken up the hammer throw in addition to the short sprints, in which she recorded times in high school that already would rank among the top 10 in program history.
"Serena had a very accomplished high school career in the sprints, and shows potential in the hammer," Raphelson said. "She has had some promising technical breakthroughs already in practice, which we think will translate to even better performances."
Sophomore Lucy Chen (Boonton Township, N.J. / Mountain Lakes) will join Delgadillo in the sprints in addition to the triple and long jumps, in which she placed 18th and 19th, respectively, at last year's SCIAC Championships.
"Lucy is an incredibly positive presence in practice every day, and with Serena has created a really positive practice dynamic that has led to them accomplishing a lot."
Senior Stephanie Reynolds (Tallahassee, Fla. / Lawton Chiles) and freshman Caroline Atyeo (Parkland, Fla. / Marjory Stoneman Douglas) complete the roster in the distance events. Reynolds placed 11th in the 800-meter run and posted the 11th-best time in the 1500m last spring, but scored in the 1500m as a sophomore in 2013. After dropping 37 seconds off her personal best time to set the 6k program record in cross country this fall, Reynolds could be primed for an incredible finish to her career. Atyeo will also look to translate her success in cross country, where she too posted one of the top times in program history to the track, which has typically been her stronger sport. Her ability could allow her to excel in the steeplechase as well.
"Stephanie is a highly experienced competitor who has had success in the past," Raphelson said. "Her best times are just off our program records, and she'd have a shot at breaking the mark in just about any event she runs. Caroline comes in with some very competitive 800m and mile times. She is focusing on getting some important experience at the SCIAC level this year, but we aren't going to set any limits on what she can accomplish."
The Beavers' intense focus on their end goals is reflected in their approach to this year's schedule. The main focal points will be a trio of SCIAC Multi-Dual Meets, with SCIACs serving as their culminating team experience. The indoor Tufts Last Chance Invitational in early March and outdoor Mt. Sac Invitational in mid-April will offer some the chance to compete with a wide range of elite athletes, including Olympians and Division I and II schools. Following SCIACs, a select few may continue competing with an eye on qualifying for nationals, or hitting particular individual marks.
"We have a lot of quality across several events this year," Raphelson said. "Every individual has the potential to score at SCIACs– not many teams can say that. The mindset that we establish this year – focusing on the process and keeping an open mind as to where we can go – is what the incoming student-athletes will adopt. This group has a very unique opportunity to set the expectation for the program—that we will compete with the best in the conference."
Raphelson and the Beavers will open the season with the annual Caltech All-Comers Meet this Saturday, Feb. 7.