Track & Field Finding Balance on Road to Improvement

Track & Field Finding Balance on Road to Improvement
PASADENA (Feb. 16, 2018) – A historically good cross country season has lifted expectations for the Caltech men's and women's track and field season, which is set to begin this weekend.
"We have a talented distance and middle-distance group on the men's and women's side," Head Coach Ben Raphelson said. "It is still a young group but they come into this season with more experience. As we saw with cross country, given a year they are just able to better prepare for the demands of training, racing and they have a better sense of what they're taking on. They are now expecting even more from themselves."
The women's team welcomes in a top-two featuring freshmen Molly Crotteau (Chicago, Ill. / Walter Payton) and Claire Hu (Palo Alto, Calif. / Henry M. Gunn). Hu had a strong finish to the season, earning Second Team All-SCIAC honors for placing 13th overall and second among freshmen. Crotteau ended the season as a regular finisher among the Beavers' top four. The women are also returning junior Michelle Marasigan (Elk Grove Village, Ill. / James B. Conant), a 2017 SCIAC finalist in the 800m who has her sights set even higher this year.
"Claire was more of a cross country runner in high school largely because the distances in cross country were longer," Raphelson said. "In collegiate track & field, we have longer events available so she's eager to explore those."
On the men's side, sophomore Simon Ricci (Chicago, Ill. / Latin School of Chicago) returns having taken a big step forward during the fall cross country season. The sophomore earned all-region honors for the first time over the 8-kilometer distance despite specializing in shorter distances in high school. Along with fellow sophomore Tanner Moore (Roseville, Calif. / Oakmont), the duo is much improved and eager to make an impact after elevating their level of performance in cross country. Junior Rohan Choudhury (Cupertino, Calif. / Monta Vista) and sophomore Jena Srikanth (Fresno, Calif. / Clovis North) will also command a close eye as breakout seasons from both athletes could help take the distance group to another level.
"Choudhury has been a rock for the team," Raphelson said. "He has had an incredibly consistent career thus far and is eager to break through. With Jena, we saw flashes of her potential last year. She is the third-fastest 5K runner in school history. Illness kept her out of the SCIAC Championships so she didn't get to end the year the way she wanted but it's obvious she can make an impact on the SCIAC level."
The throwing team should have the opportunity for success given their improvements. Sophomore Alexa Lauinger (Ortonville, Mich. / Brandon), a three-sport athlete will join the team eager to apply the lessons she learned as a freshman. Last year, while developing new technique and learning two new events, she still found her way onto three program top-10 lists (discus, shot put, hammer). Junior thrower Muskaan Goyal (Apple Valley, Minn. / Eastview) joined Lauinger on the hammer throw top-10 list and is much improved after a dedicated offseason. On the men's side, senior Zane Murphy (Wilmington, Del. / Tampa Prep) returns much improved for his second year of throwing and is joined by freshman Dan Rostovtsev (Swarthmore, Pa. / Strath Haven) in his first year of throwing.
"Alexa had new events to learn last year," Raphelson said. "She had thrown shotput and discus in high school but was basically self-taught so there was a lot to learn and she ended up throwing all four events at a competitive level despite her short season. Overall the group has gained valuable experience which they're eager to apply in this year's competitions."
Another area where the Beavers are likely to improve  is in sprints and hurdles. Sophomore sprinter Jesse Cai (McLean, Va. / Thomas Jefferson Science and Technology), a consistent performer from last year's group and fresh off of the Mountain T's Invitational at Northern Arizona University is eager to showcase the training and technical adjustments he has made for the upcoming season. Freshman Nora Griffith (Santa Cruz, Calif. / Santa Cruz) also posted encouraging results at Mountain T's, picking up a heat victory on the first day of competition while posting her best 200m time in two years, just .05 seconds off her all-time best. Griffith, combined with the addition of women's soccer standout freshman Netra Ravishankar, an accomplished sprinter in her own right, elevates Caltech's sprint group immediately.
"Nora is an accomplished sprinter/hurdler, and that's an event area that has historically been a weaker one for us," Raphelson said. "We're happy to have sprinters of her's and Netra's ability and experience. There's lots to work on but things have been really encouraging. The whole group is getting glimpses of just how good they can be."
This year's crop of captains will include Cai, Goyal and senior mid-distance specialist Chris Haack (New York City, N.Y. / The Browning School). Haack is coming off a stint as men's soccer captain, and along with Cai and Goyal will be relied upon as leaders for the whole team while competing in their individual disciplines. Bijan Mazaheri, who assisted Raphelson during cross country will be back to provide similar support during the track and field season. Newcomer Cedric Hill will join the fold to help with sprints hurdles and horizontal jumps, and long-time assistant Caleb Weidert returns to focus on pole vault while assisting in all event areas.
"We have shown that people on this team are capable of making SCIAC finals and that they're capable of competing at a high level," Raphelson said. "I think the talent of this group is such that if people are doing what they're capable of it should add up to a lot at the SCIAC Championships- more than we've seen in recent years."
Raphelson and the Beavers will begin competition on Saturday, Feb. 17 when they travel to Pomona-Pitzer Colleges for the Sagehens' annual all-comers meet.