2016 SCIAC Men's Track and Field Championships Preview

2016 SCIAC Men's Track and Field Championships Preview

PASADENA, Calif. (Apr. 28, 2016) – The 2016 Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Outdoor Track & Field Championships will be hosted by Caltech at Occidental College on Friday, Apr. 29 and Saturday, Apr. 30.

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National No. 3 Occidental enters the Championships with a perfect 8-0 record in dual meets, having edged out three-time defending champion Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Colleges by a surprising 19 points (91-72) in the first Multi-Dual of the spring.  The Tigers last defeated CMS in the early 90s and won their most recent SCIAC Championship title in 1998.  The all-time SCIAC leader with 56 conference titles, including 18 straight midway through last century, Oxy has only recently begun its journey back to the upper echelon of the SCIAC, vaulting from sixth place in 2014 to second last year.  2015 Newcomer of the Year Hugh Pegan is the Tigers' standout among an elite sprints corps, having made the podium in four events last season, including both relays which rank among the best in Division III.  Oxy will attempt to defend its title in the 4x400 and enters as the #2 seed in the 4x100, which combined with the top high-jumping duo in the conference and a pair of podium-seeking throwers in Noah Winnick and Andrew Clarey could be enough to carry the Tigers back to the pinnacle of the SCIAC.

CMS of course will be neck-and-neck with Oxy as the Stags attempt to claim their fourth straight championship.  Prior to the University of Redlands winning back-to-back titles in 2011 and 2012, the Stags had shared or won the title outright for 19 straight seasons dating back to 1992.  Josh Sealand and Evan Molineux are among the top three seeds in the mid-distance races, while rookie Corbin Bethurem is just outside the top-3 in the 100m, 200m and 400m.  A trifecta of top field athletes rounds the team out nicely.

A trio of programs sitting just behind Oxy and CMS are likely to make the battle for third place a tight one, and could even sneak into the championship conversation if things break right.  The University of La Verne racked up six points in dual meets while Pomona-Pitzer Colleges earned five, with the Leopards defeating the Sagehens head-to-head (89-74) and giving Oxy its toughest test of the spring (90.5-72.5).  La Verne is the only team besides Oxy, CMS and Redlands to have claimed a share of a conference title since 1992, having split with CMS in 2001.  The Leopards are led by sprinter Joshua Francis, who has also propelled the 4x100 relay team to the second-fastest time in DIII this season, and a pair of field competitors in former triple-jump champion Jacob Lopez and defending hammer champ Andrew Carrasco.  The Sagehens, meanwhile, are relying on cross-country champion John Fowler in the distance events, Paul Messana in the mid-distance, Corey Purcella in the steeplechase and Calvin Aylward in the javelin to crack the top-4 for the first time since 2010.

No. 21 Redlands and California Lutheran University each picked up three points in dual meet competition, with CLU barely victorious (82-80) in the head-to-head matchup at the year's first Multi-Dual.  All-American sprinter Joey Colucci is the Bulldogs' only #1 seed heading into the meet, but could score in both sprints and has the 4x100 team eager to defend its title.  The Kingsmen boast a pair of title defenders in Trevor Wood (110-meter hurdles) and two-time champ Michael Bassette (shot put), along with last year's runner-up and this year's top seed in the long jump, Michael White.  CLU and the rest of the conference will also have an eye on Cody Jones, who has a chance to break his own American marks in the Paralympic F38 category javelin event as he trains for the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Caltech sits in seventh place after dual victories over Whittier College and Chapman University, marking the Beavers' first two-win season since 2007.  Morgan Hill shattered an 81-year-old program record in the hammer and ranks fifth in the conference, just four inches out of fourth but over 12 feet off the podium.  Sprinting revelation Edward Garza is not far off what it will take to qualify for finals in the 200m.  A scorer as a sophomore before missing last year's meet with an injury, Anup Kishore will attempt to bring home some points in one or more of the pole vault, triple jump and javelin.

Whittier and Chapman round out the conference competition, with the Poets hoping Ruben Solorza can improve on his runner-up finish in last year's inaugural 10k as the top returner in the field.  Other than Julian Sandoval, who has a chance to make finals in any of the mid-distance events, Whittier hangs its hat on the field events, with a quintet of Poets having posted top-10 marks during the season.  Chapman is set to compete in just its second SCIAC Championship since adding men's track & field as a condition of its application to join the SCIAC in 2011.  The Panthers have rallied behind breakout star Mitch Bouldin, who has a chance to become the program's first-ever champion as he is seeded second in the long jump by just three-quarters of an inch, along with a top-10 time in the 100m. 



Colucci (UR) posted the top time in the conference last year (10.37), but it came at the NCAA Championships as he missed the podium  at SCIACs.  As the conference record-holder, he is the favorite entering this weekend, but has his work cut out for him with all three podium finishers back from last year, including Pegan (Oxy), who is just .02 behind Colucci's fastest time (10.69) this season.

Oxy's duo of Jeh Johnson and Pegan have posted the top two times in all of Division III this season (21.12 and 21.21), but this could be the tightest final in the entire meet with Colucci (UR), Joshua Francis (ULV) and Myles Speegle (UR) all within half a second of Johnson's leading 21.12 seed time.

Once again, Oxy boasts the top two seeds in Johnson and Gabriel Barrett-Jackson – last year's runner-up and All-American.  Both have posted top-10 Division III times (47.92, 48.00), with the latter trailing Johnson by just .08.  With Pegan (Oxy) committed to both the 100m and 200m, Francis (ULV) has almost a second to spare (48.83) for a spot on the podium. 

Messana (P-P) is looking to break up a 2015 CMS podium sweep and is in prime position to do so, having already run faster than last year's winning time and two seconds clear of the next competitor this season (1:51.99).

Sealand (CMS) is hoping to defend his title but teammate Molineaux is right behind him by half a second (3:47.34, 3:47.88) after finishing as runner-up in 2015.  The pair is nearly 10 seconds clear of third, which will be hotly contested but has Kevn Huang (CMS) with about a one-second advantage coming in.

The door is open for Fowler (P-P) to double up on his fall cross-country title and the senior has wasted no time in laying his claim, running a SCIAC-record 14:13.25 this spring.  After last year's tactical battle left Fowler in third place with depressed times across the board, he will only have to contend with last year's runner-up in Sealand (CMS), as champion Aditya Bhagavathi (CIT) graduated early after the winter term.

Last year's runner-up, Solorza (WC) is not entered, nor is Purcella (P-P), who ran the season's top time.  With the event run at just three meets all season and only two times posted within the last month, it should be anybody's race.  JD Kieffer (P-P) and Jesse Joseph (CMS) are the top seeds at 31:40.52 and 31:43.21, but 12 no-times are in the field.

Rookie Nathan Munoz (UR) and sophomore teammate Afari La-Anyane lead the field at 14.74 and 14.82, respectively, with another rookie rookie Marcus Polk (P-P) close behind at 14.91.

Defending champion Jesse Wong (Oxy) holds the top spot this spring (54.47) but has a pair of rookies hot on his heels in Cal Neikirk (P-P) and Nick Burchett (UR) at 54.52 and 54.74.

3000 steeple
Purcella (P-P) has run the seventh-fastest time in Division III this spring (9:07.51) and is one of three Sagehens looking to post a sweep, although a pair of Stags round out the quintet to have gone sub-10 minutes this year.

4x100 Relay
Another of the likely most exciting races at the meet, this event has La Verne, Oxy and Redlands ranked second (40.91), fourth (41.43) and sixth (41.53), respectively, in DIII this year.  That order of finish was reversed in 2015 as all three relays were within just .27 of one another.  Oxy's entire All-America team of Johnson, Pegan, Kyle Dalton and Barrett-Jackson is back, while La Verne boasts Francis, Robert Oshodin, Nick Gonsalves and Austin Warrington, the latter two of which were part of the 2014 national championship-winning squad.  The Redlands team of Luke Bohlinger, Colucci, Speegle and Nathan Munoz has its work cut out to retain the title.

4x400 Relay
Oxy's team of Johnson, Pegan, Barrett-Jackson and likely Wong or Dalton is a seven-second favorite in this relay (3:13.15), with La Verne a near three-second favorite (3:20.19) for second over CMS (3:22.83).

High jump
Rookie Austin DeWitz (Oxy) could become the second straight Tigers freshman and men's basketball dual-sport athlete to win the title, but he will have to topple teammate Taylor Walton, in whose footsteps he would be following, to do so.  The pair have cleared 6'6" and 6'4 ¾", respectively.  Sandwiched between the pair is Cam Van (CMS), who placed third last season.

Pole Vault
Wagenveld (CMS) has burst onto the scene as a sophomore, blowing past last year's winning mark by more than two feet and the best mark of the 2015 season by half a foot (16'4 ¾").  He posted the second-best mark in the conference last year but was recorded a no-height at the finals to miss the podium.  Two more Stags round out the top-3.

Long Jump
A mere three inches separate the top trio, but a six-inch dropoff after them could make this a clear-cut podium.  Boulding (CU) and Van (CMS) are the only two to have jumped past 22 feet this spring.

Triple Jump
Lopez (ULV) is hoping to stop a downslide that has seen him go from champion in 2013 to runner-up in 2014 before placing eighth last year, but he seems primed to do exactly that with the ninth-best mark in DIII this season (47'4 ¼").  Once again, 2015 runner-up Van (CMS) is just half a foot behind him (46'10").

Shot Put
Another title defense will be mounted here by Bassette (CLU), whose mark of 53'4 ¼" sits just outside the top-10 in DIII and is more than six feet clear of the next competitor.  Barely two feet separate second through fifth in the standings. 

2015 runner-up Alex Rich (CMS) has the inside track to the title with a four-foot advantage (149'0") over second-place Ryan Fisher (CLU), who is two feet (145'2") beyond the dropoff after third-place Chris Gura (ULV).

Carrasco (ULV) has already added 10 feet to his throws (181'11") as he looks to defend his title against teammate Gura and Rich (CMS), who have both reached 170'6" and sit a comfortable 12 feet clear of the rest of the field.

A massive 27-foot edge has Aylward (P-P) tabbed as the prohibitive favorite in the javelin (193'3") after just missing the podium as a freshman.  Winnick (Oxy) and Hilborn (CMS) are the only other two to have cleared 160 feet.