Distance runners excel at Mt. SAC Relays in California

| 4/20/15 6:01pm

The men’s and women’s track and field teams split up last weekend to face some of the best athletes in the country at the Mt. SAC Relays — hosted by Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, California — and at the Larry Ellis Invitational hosted by Princeton University. Both teams received stellar performances by their long distance and field athletes.

A small contingent of athletes traveled to southern California to compete in the Mt. SAC Relays — which assembles some of the best collegiate, professional and high school track athletes in the country — to face top competition and to chase fast times in the California warmth. Both men’s and women’s teams sent athletes to compete in the 5,000-meter races and the women’s team also sent representatives to the 1,500- and 10,000-meter races.

“We had been planning this trip for months,” men’s head coach Barry Harwick said. “I met with [women’s cross country head coach Courtney] Jaworski, and we picked the top eight distance runners who we thought had the best chance of qualifying for [NCAA Regionals.]”

The athletes traveled to California with the goal of running personal bests in favorable conditions and qualifying for the NCAA East Regional, to be held in Jacksonville, Florida, at the end of May, Harwick said. The qualifying process for the NCAA National Championships begins by having one of the 48 fastest times in a given event, which qualifies an athlete to compete at either the east or west regional depending on the location of their college. To qualify for the national championship, an athlete must place in the top 12 in their event at their regional meet.

Highlighting the performances at Mt. SAC was an individual victory in the women’s 10,000-meter open run by Claudia Pham ’15. Pham, who completed the distance in 34:40.55, finished with a 28-second lead over the second-place finisher, Megan Glamann of Central Missouri University.

On top of the impressive finish, Pham said her performance was even more exciting because her friends and family were there to watch.

“I’m from southern California, so this was really the one time in my college career that any of my friends from home and my family could watch me race track,” Pham said. “It meant a lot to have them there and have their support."

For Pham, Mt. San Antonio College is also a special place to run.

“In high school, I had raced a lot at this track and on Mt. SAC’s cross country course,” Pham said. “It was awesome to be back there and experience it again.”

Dana Giordano ’16 finished 16th in the invitational section of the 5,000 meter in 15:54.05. In the open section, Reid Watson ’16 claimed sixth with a 16:17.01. Elizabeth Markowitz ’16 finished 11th in the 1,500 meter in 4:25.38.

“I had a great start to the race, but had a difficult last mile,” Giordano said. “I wish that I had run the race more evenly because I went out very quickly.”

In the men’s open section of the 5,000 meter, Curtis King ’16 finished 11th in 14:07.26. In the C division, Brian Masterson ’16 finished fifth in the 5,000 meter in 14:19.98, while in the B division of the men’s 5,000 meter, Joey Chapin ’16 and Nat Adams ’17 finished 10th and 21st, respectively.

“I had a hard time getting my heart in the race when I was racing unfamiliar competition out west,” King said. “The good news is that, based on past results, I can walk away with a regional qualifier and a [personal record] knowing that I can do much better.”

Harwick said that after this weekend, he thinks that Pham, Giordano and Watson will likely qualify for regional competition on the women’s side, with Markowitz on the cusp of qualifying. On the men’s side, he thinks King will qualify in the 5,000- and 10,000- meter races, Masterson will qualify in the 10,000 and Chapin is on the cusp in the 5,000.

The team relished the opportunity to travel to California and spend some time bonding.

“During indoor, the girls and guys usually race on separate days down in Boston, so we never get to see them compete or hang out with them away from school,” King said. “A transnational trip like this one gave us a lot of time to have some fun.”

The team will have another busy schedule this coming weekend, with some of the team traveling to Philadelphia to compete at the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Relays from Thursday to Saturday. Other athletes will be traveling to Amherst, Massachusetts, to compete in the University of Massachusetts Invitational on Saturday.

The Penn Relays is among the most decorated track events in the sport and attracts some of the world’s best athletes. The Big Green has been attending the Penn Relays since its first iteration nearly 130 years ago, Harwick said.