A year after the Pomona-Pitzer men’s cross country team was denied its first chance to repeat as national champion when the meet was canceled by the pandemic, the Sagehens took home their second consecutive NCAA Division III championship anyway.
“It was an amazing day for our program,” says Kyle Flores, who took over the head coaching duties before the season.
Pomona-Pitzer ran away with the 2021 title with the team’s depth, with six Sagehens earning All-American honors with top-40 finishes in the eight-kilometer race Saturday at E.P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park in Louisville, Kentucky.
Colin Kirkpatrick ’24 led the way in 10th place with a time of 24:01.8, Derek Fearon ’24 was 12th in 24:02.5 and Lucas Florsheim ’24 was 14th in 24:04.9. Ethan Widlansky ’22, Dante Paszkeicz ’22 and Paul McKinley ’22 finished 24th, 30th and 31st.
Ranked No. 3 entering the meet, the Sagehens bested second-place finisher MIT by 32 points. Williams was a distant third. John Carroll’s Alex Phillip won the individual title in 23:27.
It was a strong day for Pomona-Pitzer all around at the national meet, with the women’s team taking 10th behind a 25th-place finish by Genevieve DiBari ’23 in the 6K race in 21:37.5. Johns Hopkins won the women’s team title and Claremont McKenna was a close second.
The Sagehen men won their first national championship in cross country in 2019, but the 2020 championship was canceled because of COVID-19.
But the men’s team persisted throughout the pandemic, with many runners gathering in pods across the country to train in spots such as Colorado, Utah and Oregon. They also lost their head coach last summer, when Jordan Carpenter left to become an associate cross country coach and assistant track coach at Boston University, a Division I program.
Nevertheless, former assistant Flores took over the head coaching duties and Adrian Gonzalez, who will coach the men’s track and field team in the spring, served as associate coach.
There were significant changes to the roster as well, but in the end a sophomore class that had never had a chance to compete as first-years because of the pandemic led the way to the title, with a strong group of seniors and team leaders behind them.
“The guys went out and executed the game plan to perfection,” Flores says. “We knew that if we went out and ran our race, that the result we wanted would come. Couldn’t be prouder of these boys and all of the hard work they’ve put in over the years to get to this point.”