CLAREMONT, Calif. (Nov. 2, 2019) – The Caltech women's cross country team rewrote the record books at the 2019 SCIAC Championships on Saturday afternoon. An impressive display by all metrics, the Beavers finished fourth out of nine teams, beating out more than 50-percent of the SCIAC field for the first time ever while notching the lowest team score in program history (98 points) behind the best one-two punch the team has ever seen.
Junior Claire Hu (Palo Alto, Calif. / Henry M. Gunn), the Beavers' top finisher at each of the previous two SCIAC Championships, shined more than ever at the conference level with a fifth-place 22:33.80 on Saturday. Hu's All-SCIAC run came in 17-seconds off her 6K program record but marked a near three-minute improvement from last year's race. Two of the four runners in the 110-woman field to beat Hu are seniors, leaving the former SCIAC Newcomer of the Year with the potential for perhaps even greater things to come in 2020. Classmate Molly Crotteau (Chicago, Ill. / Payton) also had a major hand in the Beavers' fourth-place milestone with the first top-20 SCIAC finish of her career. The junior took 15th, running just 19 seconds off her season-best pace thanks to a 23:13.70. The juniors gave the Beavers a solid foundation to build upon moving down the lineup, ultimately putting themselves in a position to beat Redlands for the first time ever.
"We had a feeling we might be within striking distance of Redlands," Head Coach Ben Raphelson said. "The combination of Claire and Molly running smart, tough races up in front with the rest of our depth really sealed the deal for us."
Sophomore Alex Bardon (Boston, Mass. / Winsor School) also came through huge for the Beavers with her best run of the season, a 29th-place 23:52.60 that also marked a new personal best time. Freshmen Lauren Garriques (Lake Forest, Ill. / Lake Forest) and Pippa Richter (Columbia, S.C. / A.C. Flora) crossed the finish line together in 24:05.60 and 24:05.70 to round out Caltech's top-five runners in their first race-day action since September. Senior Skye Reese (Concord, N.H. / Concord) finished close behind in the final SCIAC Championship race of her career with a 24:17.10 while also earning the Celia Peterson Character Award, named for the inaugural champion of the women's race in 1977. Reese is the first Beaver to win the award in five years and her place of finish gave Caltech six top-40 finishers for the first time ever.
"Skye got some well-deserved recognition from her conference peers today," Raphelson said. "It means a lot to win a SCIAC award named after a Caltech alum."
Senior Nicole Feng (Bethany, Conn. / Amity Regional) improved nine seconds upon her time from three weeks ago at the Pomona-Pitzer Invitational thanks to a new personal-best 25:01.40. Junior Sirisha Gudavalli (Boulder, Colo. / Fairview) finished eighth among Caltech runners with a 25:55.5 while sophomore Jamie Littman (Port Washington, N.Y. / Paul D. Schreiber) ran her best race of the season (27:21.30). Junior Jessica Ye (Lutherville Timonium, Md. / Dulaney) shaved more than two minutes off her time from last year's SCIAC Championships with a 29:15.60 while freshman Tea Freedman-Susskind (Seattle, Wash. / Lakeside) (29:32.5) and sophomore Natalie Lelieur (South Pasadena, Calif. / South Pasadena) (32:47.0) rounded out Caltech participants for 2019.
This year also marks the first time the Beavers have outplaced a higher-ranked regional foe at SCIAC's. The Bulldogs came into Saturday ranked sixth in the West region with the Beavers just barely on the outside looking in of the top-10. Saturday's top three teams, meanwhile, all received votes in the USTFCCCA national rankings with SCIAC runner-up Pomona-Pitzer Colleges topping the list at 10th in the nation.
"The team has progressed tremendously, both within the last calendar year and over the last few years," Raphelson said. "Being able to run like this in the middle of mid-terms is a really good sign."
Raphelson and the top-seven finishers will remain in Southern California for the NCAA West Regional Championships, set to be held at Pomona-Pitzer Colleges on Saturday, Nov. 16 at 10 a.m.