Photo: Jesse Cai
CLAREMONT, Calif. (Nov. 16, 2019) – The Caltech men's cross country team matched an eighth-place regional finish from 2018, but achieved a 17-point improvement on its team score at this year's NCAA Division III West Regional Championships, held at Pomona-Pitzer Colleges on Saturday morning.
Caltech came into the day unranked in the region but proved their mettle in an expanded field from the prior year. Senior Simon Ricci (Chicago, Ill. / Latin School of Chicago) put in a gutsy all-region caliber performance to finish 17th (25:54.40) and earn himself a spot at nationals thanks to a fifth-place finish among the top seven runners not on qualifying teams. The senior ran strong for the majority of the race and rebounded after being passed late by a runner who could have jeopardized his NCAA qualifying status for the best regional finish in his four-year cross country career. Ricci joins Dan Kleiman (1996) and two-time national qualifier Aditya Bhagavathi (2014, 2015) as the only members of the men's team to reach the national stage.
"It was a special day for Simon as he finally achieved a goal that he'd targeted for a long time," Head Coach Ben Raphelson said. "It was a pleasure to see it and to have his family there to share in it with him. I can't think of a more deserving student-athlete."
Sophomore Gaurav Phanse (Fremont, Calif. / Dublin) took second among Caltech runners and 36th overall with a 26:50.10. Senior Tanner Moore (Roseville, Calif. / Oakmont) tailed Phanse in 40th, a 16-spot improvement from last year's race, and finished his Caltech career with a 27:03.30. Junior Spencer Morgenfeld (Palo Alto, Calif. / Palo Alto) stepped up to help the cause with a 27:35.40 for his best-ever finish at regionals (53rd) as well as a 6K season-best. Morgenfeld's time specifically marked a 20-second improvement on his time at SCIAC's, also held at Pomona-Pitzer. Classmate Matthew Earney (San Diego, Calif. / Del Norte) finished fifth among Beavers with a 28:26.3 while senior David Fager (Miami, Fla. / Belen Jesuit Prep) came in shortly behind him (28:52.20). Freshman Kyle Piper (Lafayette, Colo. / Centaurus) rounded out Caltech competitors at this year's regional championships.
The NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships will be held in Louisville, Ky. on Saturday, Nov. 23.