LOS ANGELES — Despite a fair amount of individual success for Occidental runners last season, both the men's and women's teams took a step back in the SCIAC standings, finishing in sixth place. But with a strong core of upperclassman and some big-time newcomers, the Tigers look to regain their competitiveness against conference rivals.
"We want to get a little bit better in terms of the conference standings," Head coach Rob Bartlett said. "Obviously that's the bottom line for us."
Senior Jonathan Padron returns off a 2013 season that included All-SCIAC honors and trips to the Division III Indoor National Championships and Outdoor National Championships. Padron added two more All-American performances to his tally, giving him three total on his career, finishing sixth in the 60-meter at indoors and eighth in the 100-meter outdoors.
Joining Padron as the only other Tiger on the roster to appear at last season's outdoor championships is senior Kevin Cox. Cox teamed up with Padron, Edmond O'Suji '13 and Jesse Wong to post a national qualifying 4x100 time of 41.74 seconds. Cox also claimed All-SCIAC honors in the long jump, finishing fourth with a jump of 6.89 meters at the SCIAC championship meet.
Guzman Aguilar is coming of a cross country season in which he won the SCIAC championship and West Region title before claiming sixth place at nationals. The finish was the highest by an Oxy runner at the championship meet in recent memory, according to Bartlett, and it came in just his first semester at the school.
"We're excited to have [Guzman]. It's not every day that an All-American joins your team," Bartlett said.
Smith has been one of the mainstays of the Tiger distance squad. He has claimed All-SCIAC honors each of his first two seasons, finishing second in the 5,000-meter as a first-year and third in the 1500-meter as a sophomore. Like Guzman, Smith is following the track season with a cross country campaign that included All-SCIAC and All-West Region honors, and a trip to the national championships.
A very capable class of first-years should add plenty of depth to both the sprint and distance sides.Harrison Luft, Charles De Anda and Raoul Friedemann lead a group of eight newcomers who join an already solid distance squad that also includes talented junior Louis Jochems.
The men also feature their deepest group of field event athletes in many years. Sophomores Mike Ma,Andrew Clarey and Noah Winnick lead a group of five throwers, while Cox, sophomore Kase Rattay and first-year Grant Uba will handle the jumping duties. First-year Stephen Nemeth is the squads lone pole vaulter.
Foster returns from a 2013 in which she finished fourth in the 400-meter at the SCIAC championships, claiming All-SCIAC honors. Foster ran personal bests of 58.45 and 26.62 in the 400-meter and 200-meter respectively, on the way to her most successful season at Oxy.
"[Foster] has contributed an awful lot to this team," Bartlett said. "She deserves to go out with a great year.
Joining Foster in the short distances, junior Jenny Quilty and first-year Onyekachi Nwabueze will be instrumental to the team's success. Quilty has posted the top time for the Tigers in the 200-meter each of the last two seasons, while being named All-SCIAC in the event twice. Just removed from a strong high school career, Nwabueze will contribute in the 100-meter and 200-meter and may very well contend for SCIAC titles in both events.
Wong and Kinnaird will both work to fill the big shoes left behind by do-it-all distance runner Deanna Dupuy. Wong was one of the top 5000-meter runners for the Tigers in 2013 and broke out last cross country season, finishing fourth at the SCIAC final. Kinnaird missed the entire 2013 due to injury, but she comes into the season healthy and holds the fastest career 1500-meter and 5000-meter times on the team.
First-year Melina Devoney, who earned All-SCIAC and All-West Region recognition in her first cross country season, and sophomore Megan Bull help to round out the distance group. Bull lowered her 6k time by over a minute during cross country and looks set for a breakout season.
After improving by over a second and a half in the 100-meter hurdles last season, sophomore Rachael Hinkel enters this season as a force to be reckoned with. Hinkel ran a best of 15.39 at the SCIAC championships, good enough for third place and All-SCIAC honors.
Senior Lisa Matsukata, Junior Kimberly Orpinela and first-year Olivia Baker will be responsible for all of the teams field event duties. Matsukata pole vaults, while Orpinela vaults and throws and Baker is the sole jumper.
"If you focus on what we have, instead of what we don't have, there's some real talent out there," Bartlett said. "There's going to be a lot to look forward to."
The Tigers open their seasons this Saturday, traveling to the Pomona-Pitzer All-Comers.