2016 SCIAC Women's Track and Field Championships Preview

2016 SCIAC Women'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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Two-time defending champion and national No. 3 Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Colleges enter this year's competition as the clear favorite, having won last year's title by more than 150 points and posting another perfect 8-0 record in dual meets this spring.  Second-place University of Redlands could only muster a 107-55 loss as CMS stormed through the spring slate.  The closest anyone came to the Athenas was fifth-place Pomona-Pitzer Colleges, which were defeated 92-69.  Tyra Abraham holds both top SCISC times in the 100-meter dash and 200m, while Aiyanna Cameron-Lewis is the top seed in both the 400m and 800m.  Vaiva Palunas and Emily Bassett each rank third in the country in the discus and hammer, respectively, and will contend in several other throwing events.

Redlands checks in at a clear second with seven points in dual competition.  The Bulldogs will attempt to close the gap after last year's sizeable defeat, with an eye toward returning to the peak of the conference for the first time since a thrilling two-point victory in 2008.  The quartet of Alison Smith, Vanessa Blanchard, Amanda Widen and Lauren Roberts lay claim to the top seeds in the 110-hurdles, high jump, pole vault and 10k, respectively.  Smith fronts the pack as one of the most versatile student-athletes in the country – she ranks second in DIII in the heptathlon and fourth in the 100h. 

The next four positions are wide open, with Occidental College and Cal Lutheran University each picking up five points while Pomona-Pitzer Colleges and the University of La Verne each earned four.  An overwhelming youth movement at Oxy has the Tigers capable of making the largest jump of the group, having placed sixth in 2015.  An incredible nine first-years rank among the conference's top-10 in at least one event, with Sabrina Degman among the top-7 and on Oxy's Top-10 all-time record board in all four throws, Emma Yudelevitch third in both sprints and Melissa Braun second in the pole vault and third on Oxy's all-time list.  Still, Isabelle Dunne is the Tigers' best returner and only top seed, looking to better her runner-up finish in the 400-hurdles.

CLU rallies around an All-America duo in Allie Hadley and Amanda Hamilton.  Hadley has earned All-America honors all three years in the javelin, finishing runner-up in the nation as a sophomore and placing fourth last year after setting the SCIAC record with a throw of 160'7 ½.  Hamilton is a two-time champion in the triple jump, holds the holds the top long jump mark in the conference and ranks sixth in the sprints.  Hurdler Carlie Burow rounds out the Regals' star power as a close second in the 400-hurdles and high jump.

Pomona-Pitzer is hoping to retain its third place finish from last year, which marked the Sagehens' best finish since placing fourth in 2009.  Another squad that rides its star power, Pomona-Pitzer has a serious Athlete of the Year contender in Maya Weigel, who holds the SCIAC record and ranks second in DIII by just .31 in the 1500m while also holding the #2 seed in the 800m.  A quintet of others – Catherine Banobi, Rhea Jayachandran, Abby Gardner, Ailene Nguyen and Jessica Finn – enter the meet as #2 seeds in their respective events as well.

La Verne is the dark horse to nab third place, having beaten Oxy in the first Multi-Dual (91-69) and falling narrowly to Redlands (75-87) but stumbling against both Pomona-Pitzer (76-82) and CLU (72-84) in the final Multi-Dual.  The Leopards have two top seeds in Taylor Schulze (pole vault) and Melissa Cerrillos (steeple), as well as All-American Tiahna Gillon in the sprints, but with only a handful of other top-four contenders will need their depth to step up and surprise in a few events.

None of Whittier College, Chapman University nor Caltech boast a top seed, but each has its share of student-athletes to watch.  The Poets' Leniesha Ross is ranked third in the high jump, while Anahy Covarrubias is third in the 800m and Julisa Tobias sits third and fifth in the 5k and 1500m, respectively.  The Panthers duo of Josie Chan and Courtney Justus rank seventh and eighth in the triple jump, whileschool record-holder Lauren Deats returns to the sprints after missing last year due to injury; she is a two-time All-SCIAC honoree in the 200m and a one-timer in the 100m.  Caltech's Lucy Chen has moved up the program's all-time list in the triple jump and recently cracked the long jump list as well, ranking fifth and 10th, respectively.  Rookie Michelle Marasigan has debuted on three program top-10 lists, ranking seventh in the 3000m steeplechase and ninth in both the 800m and 3000m.  She has her eye on a finals berth in the 1500m with the #13 seed.


EVENT PREVIEWS

100m

2015 Newcomer of the Year Abraham (CMS) has recorded the third-fastest time in DIII (11.91) and has already beaten her nearest competitor head-to-head – by a whopping .59.

200m
Abraham (CMS) ranks just sixth in DIII here but is still a half-second faster (24.67) than last year's winning time and almost three-quarters ahead of teammate Cameron-Lewis (25.23) 

400m
After winning the title as a rookie, Cameron-Lewis (CMS) is the top seed by a full 1.5 seconds (56.65) over Banobi (P-P) and Kimmy Babluyen (ULV). 

800m
Cameron-Lewis (CMS) ran the fastest time this season but will sit this one out, leaving Weigel (P-P) as the favorite (2:10.91), although defending champion Carmen Mejia (CMS) is within striking distance (2:11.15) and nearly four seconds clear of third-place Covarrubias (ULV) in an event in which not a single senior will compete.

1500m
In possibly the clearest-cut race of the meet, Weigel's record-setting time (4:23.56) is six seconds faster than Bryn McKillop (CMS), who is more than 20 seconds faster than Tobias (WC). 

5000m
Bridget Blum (CMS) placed third last year and her 16:53.75 is almost an entire minute quicker than rookie Roxanne Valle (Oxy).  Tobias (WC) has one of Whittier's two top-3 seeds in this event and is 14 seconds out of second and five clear of fourth. 

10000m
Although just a single top time was run at a meet other than the Occidental Distance Carnival back on Mar. 11, last year's runner-up Roberts (UR) is the favorite with the top time by over a minute (37:15.70).  That can evaporate quickly in a near-40-minute race, however, and Melina Devoney (Oxy), Laura Broderick (CMS) and Jessika Snicsak (UR) will be looking to poach the victory in the 10-woman field. 

100h
The two-time defending champion, Smith (UR) is running another second faster (14.29) than last year's top time, having recorded the fourth-best mark in DIII this season.  Jayachandran (P-P) is closer than would have been expected at 14.72. 

400h
The sophomore trio of Dunne (Oxy), Burow (CLU) and Rebecca Stewart (CMS) is separated by a mere .53 (1:04.29, 1:04.74, 1:04.82), with rookie Allison Kilday (Oxy) just behind them but well ahead (1:05.34)of the rest of the field.  Dunne was last year's runner-up while Stewart placed third. 

3000 steeple
A wide-open event with all three of last year's podium finishers gone and the top times a ways off those benchmarks, Cerrillos (ULV) and Gardner (P-P) are neck-and-neck as the favorites at 11:34.62 and 11:36.07.

4x100 Relay
The Athenas, with the #6-ranked time in DIII, are expected to defend their title with a near-second edge (47.61) on #2 seed CLU, which has all three of Redlands, La Verne and Oxy right behind within just .54. 

4x400 Relay
Another expected CMS victory with the Athenas having run five seconds faster than any other team this year and clocking the 10th-best time in DIII.  Oxy and La Verne should take the second and third spots one way or the other, with CLU trailing by four-and-a-half seconds.

High jump
Last year's runner-up, Blanchard (UR) has a solid three-inch advantage (5'6 ½") over Burow (CLU).  Ross (WC) is the only other student-athlete to have cleared five feet this season, although every other top-10 mark has reached 4'11".

Pole Vault
Widen (UR), Braun (Oxy) and Jacquelyn Desmond (CMS) have each cleared 11'5 ¾", and while a three-way tie atop the standings would appear to indicate a close competition, none of thos marks came in the same meet.  With Schulze (ULV), last year's champion, lurking in fourth on that list having recorded her best mark at yet another meet, it's anyone's guess how high the bar actually will rise this weekend. 

Long Jump
Nguyen (P-P) has a title to defend, but Hamilton (CLU) has already leapt past both her marks from last year and this year (18'3 ¾"), albeit narrowly. 

Triple Jump
Hamilton (CLU) will try to lock up the double in the horizontal jumps and is even better placed to do it here, where she won in 2015 and has posted the top mark in the nation this year (40'2").  She has a three-and-a-half-foot edge in another head-to-head battle with Nguyen (P-P).

Shot Put
Yet another title defense as Vaiva Palunas (CMS) is the only one to have thrown past 40 feet this season (41'3 ¾").  Emily Bassett (CMS) and Mele Halililo (ULV) are within about four inches of each other behind her and safe on the podium by three feet.

Discus
Palunas (CMS) is a two-time champion in the discus and is all but assured of making it three straight as she holds a 12-foot edge (155'4 ½") on second-place Bassett (CMS) and is almost 20 ahead of teammate Lauren Mott as the Athenas are in prime position to sweep the podium.

Hammer
Another potential CMS sweep, just with the order jumbled – Bassett has a major edge here (180'3 ¾") on Palunas (164'0") and Nicole Laliberte (148'1"), the latter of which is still 13 feet clear on the podium.

Javelin
Hadley (CLU) won her second straight title last year by 20 feet and currently sits in the top spot by 21 feet (149'6") over Finn (P-P).  Halililo (ULV) and Degnan (Oxy) will vie closely for second and third at just one and two feet, respectively, back of Finn.