Photo: Jesse Cai
CLAREMONT, Calif. (Nov. 16, 2019) – The Caltech women's cross country team cemented its status as a top-seven program in the region with its collective showing at Saturday's Pomona-Pitzer Colleges-hosted NCAA Division III West Regional Championship. The Beavers came into Saturday's race ranked seventh in the region (fifth among SCIAC teams) and justified the ranking with a massive six-spot improvement on last year's race. Prior to Saturday, the Beavers had never finished ahead of the University of Redlands at the regional championships.
"This was the year we saw the biggest jump in overall performances, but the team has been steadily improving every year," Head Coach Ben Raphelson said. "Now, more and more of the growth we've seen in practice is showing up in the races."
Junior Claire Hu (Palo Alto, Calif. / Henry M. Gunn) led the Caltech group with a ninth-place 22:45.10 to return to all-region status and become the first Caltech woman to qualify for the national race since Cailin Henderson in 1994, 25 years ago. This year marked the first time Hu has cracked the top-10 at regionals. Her successful day earned her an individual bid to the NCAA Championships thanks to a fifth-place finish among the top seven runners not on qualifying teams.
"Claire has worked very hard to get to this point," Raphelson said. "I'm thrilled that she gets the opportunity to represent Caltech at the NCAA Championships."
Classmate Molly Crotteau (Chicago, Ill. / Payton) joined Hu on the all-region team with a 28th-place, 23:39.30. The junior's time marks a 25-second, 33-spot improvement from last year's regional performance in Walla Walla, Wash., and this year marks the first time in recent memory the Beavers have had multiple women finish all-region in the same season. Together, Hu and Crotteau led the Beavers to 174 points, a 140-point drop from 2018 though every competing runner also had a hand in arguably the best day in the history of the program.
Freshman Lauren Garriques (Lake Forest, Ill. / Lake Forest) lifted the Beavers with a solid debut at the regional race, finishing 39th for the team's highest freshman placement at regionals since Hu took 32nd back in 2017 (23:57.80). Sophomore Alex Bardon (Boston, Mass. / Winsor School) took 46th with a 24:15.30, dropping her time by seconds from last year's regional race while improving her place of finish by 31 spots. Freshman Pippa Richter (Columbia, S.C. / A.C. Flora) joined classmate Garriques in making a successful regional debut, taking fifth among Caltech runners with a 54th-place 24:26.50 and junior Sirisha Gudavalli (Boulder, Colo. / Fairview) ran to a 25:21.10 to take 89th. Senior Nicole Feng (Bethany, Conn. / Amity Regional), in her final cross country race for the Beavers, rounded out Caltech finishers with a 25:31.20.
The NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships will be held in Louisville, Ky. on Saturday, Nov. 23.