LOS ANGELES – Intertwined with a field that included an Olympic gold medalist, a world champion, plenty of professionals and several NCAA Division I athletes, Occidental College's two young guns put their best feet forward.
Cole Williams (San Francisco) held onto the third ranking nationally in the 800 meters with the best two laps of his career, Colin Smith (Las Vegas) made a good case for the national championships and a handful of Oxy senior track and field athletes finished up their collegiate careers with personal records on Saturday at the Oxy Invite that annually attracts some of the finest track and field has to offer.
Williams went 1 minute, 49.89 seconds in the 800, rumored to be the fastest time for an Oxy freshman in the event in 54 years, finishing 10th overall out of 70 participants, and second in Section 2 of the event. A more concrete measuring stick, it's the 8th best 800 ever by a Tiger.
The schools of some of the runners behind him; UCLA, USC, UC Santa Barbara, Cal State Fullerton, UC Irvine and Utah Valley, to name a few of the D-1s.
According to an unofficial Oxy insider alumni record list, Williams' mark surpassed Oxy Track and Field Hall of Famer Jim Cerveny's 1958 time as the fastest an Oxy freshman has gone in the race.
Toward the end of his second lap, Williams surged to the front of the pack to the surprise of approximately 2,500 people in attendance, the biggest crowd at an Occidental athletic this school year.
"Cole is going to have an exciting future," Occidental coach Rob Bartlett said. "It says a lot about him when you put him in a highly competitive atmosphere and he rises to the occasion."
Smith ran his best 5K of the season, going 14:33.03, placing him 13th in the nation in the event for NCAA Division III. To put the rookie's time in perspective, it's faster than the best mark ever posted in the event by teammate Eric Kleinsasser (Glendale), who became the only four-time male athlete of the year when he earned the award in cross country for the fourth time in October, 2011.
With two weeks until the NCAA Division III National Outdoor Track and Field Championships at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, both men are in line for bids to the national meet. A top 20 time punches your ticket to the championships, or in Smith and Williams' case, a short 30-minute van ride to the SCIAC rival school that's hosting the meet in its first appearance on the West Coast. Jonathan Padron (Kapolei, Hawaii) Oxy's top 100-meter sprinter will likely join them. Padron did not compete in the 100 on Saturday, only the 4x100 relay.
While Cinco de Mayo 2012 will be memorable for the standout rookies, they were hardly the most impressive athletes to compete at the Invite. A handful of headliners posted much better marks.
Jason Richardson, a former South Carolina Gamecock who won Gold at the 2011 IAAF World Outdoor Track and Field Championships in the 110-meter hurdles, broke his own meet record in the event, going 13.30. Richardson's previous best at the Oxy Invite was 13.42.
Felix Sanchez, a gold-medal winner at the 2004 Olympics in the 400 hurdles representing the Dominican Republic, had the top mark in the 400 (45.34).
In the 100, Ryan Bailey sprinted 10.01, breaking former UCLA athlete Michael Marsh's meet record of 10.12 set back in 1988.
On the women's side, Fummi Jimoh reset the Oxy Invite record in the long jump and posted the second best jump in the world for 2012 with a leap of 6.80 meters.
Leslie Cole, competing with Run With Us, posted the third-best 400 in the United States this year, finishing her lap in 51.46.
Jessica Cosby, who owns the American record in the hammer, won the event at Oxy, throwing 70.33 meters.
It's not often that a small, prestigious academic liberal arts institution like Oxy attracts so many world class athletes to its Eagle Rock campus, but the Oxy Invite is the rare exception.
"I think it speaks to the quality of Oxy's track and field facilities. People want to compete on our track because they know it's a great track," Bartlett said, adding that he thought it was great for the Oxy and other SCIAC and Division III athletes to see the highest level of the sport first hand. "To watch world champions, Olympic champions and to see track and field at its very best is inspiring."
Some Oxy seniors put together a career meet in their last organized Oxy competition.
"It was just great because they're seniors, on their home track and they post their best marks ever," Bartlett said.
Oxy distance runners Meghan Lang (Longmont, Colo.) and Deanna Dupuy (Newbury Park) both posted exceptional school marks in the 5k. Lang moved up to fifth on the school's all-time list with a 17:57.98 and Dupuy up to seventh with a 18:17.69.
Meghan Fruth had a seasonal best in Section 4 of the 800, finishing 19th overall with a 58.62.