CLAREMONT, Calif. (Oct. 17, 2016) – Freshman Sophie Walton (Emerald Hills, Calif. / Sequoia) placed fourth overall and set another program record and led the Beavers to their lowest-ever team average time as Caltech cross country competed in the Pomona-Pitzer Invitational on Saturday for its final tune-up before the SCIAC Championships.
Walton clocked a 22:24 to shatter the previous program record by more than 30 seconds while leading the Beavers to a scoring team average time of 24:34.8, which also cleared the previous mark by over 30 seconds. On a wet course that ran roughly 15 seconds slower than the Multi-Duals at La Mirada Park two weeks prior, Walton chopped off a full 1:30 to place fourth overall and tops among all rookies. Classmate Jena Srikanth (Fresno, Calif. / Clovis North) was a key contributor to the historic day, making her collegiate debut following injury as the Beavers' No. 2 runner and already ranking as the seventh-fastest runner in program history. Her performance helped Caltech vault past Chapman University in the championship scoring format by more than 30 points, whereas the Panthers recorded a 24-36 dual victory at the Multi-Duals. Sophomores Melissa Gutierrez (Pico Rivera, Calif. / El Rancho) and Michelle Marasigan (Elk Grove Village, Ill. / James B. Conant) ran well in third and fourth position, with Gutierrez shaving 45 seconds off her time at last year's meet and Marasigan recording a personal best, while freshman Skye Reese (Concord, N.H. / Concord) broke out to score in fifth thanks to a 38-second improvement on her Multi-Duals time. Senior Lilly Luo (Belle Mead, N.J. / Montgomery) also impressed, cutting 21 seconds off her most recent time and running almost two minutes faster than last year.
"Sophie was one of many on the team who turned in strong runs," Head Coach Ben Raphelson said. "It was a really strong team effort. Collectively, we're moving in the right direction, but we still have work to do in order to realize our full potential."
Freshman Simon Ricci (Chicago, Ill. / Latin School) again led the men's team, placing 27th overall to lead the Beavers to their second-fastest team average time in history, just six seconds shy of the record. Fellow rookies Tanner Moore (Roseville, Calif. / Oakmont) and Sam Blazes (Seattle, Wash. / Sidwell Friends) each moved up a position in the lineup, with Moore finishing third on the team and Blazes scoring for the first time in fifth as the duo shaved 43 seconds and 1:14, respectively.
Sophomore Rohan Choudhury (Cupertino, Calif. / Monta Vista) turned in a personal record on a full-length course by four seconds while the majority of the rest of the team also dropped significant chunks of time. Freshmen David Fager (Miami, Fla. / Belen Jesuit Prep) and Tiger Lu (Shanghai, China / Shanghai American School Puxi) and junior Mason MacDougall (La Mirada, Calif. / La Mirada) all cut more than two minutes from their previous performance, while sophomore Joey Hong (Campbell, Calif. / King's Acad.) fell just short of that mark but clocked a personal-best as he ran almost a minute faster than at the same meet last year. Senior Rishabh Pipada (Princeton, N.J. / West Windsor-Plainsboro North) also trimmed 1:30 from last year, while classmate Nick Haliday (Springfield, Va. / Thomas Jefferson) incredibly chopped off more than three minutes.
"We weren't able to match the effort and motivation of some other teams in today's field who really elevated their performances," Raphelson said. "We didn't run poorly, as our individual improvements clearly show, but I hope it will serve as a wake-up call headed into SCIACs and Regionals. As the final competitive opportunity before our championship season, it showed that we're positioned well, but have some critical things to work on if we're going to end the year the way we'd like."