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Sports: A Noozhawk Partnership with Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table, The Lab, and American Riviera Bank

Westmont Cross-Country: Warriors Overrun in Annual Nationball Classic

Despite double losses to Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, coach Russell Smelley says he likes what he sees.

While Olympic gold medalists Todd Rogers, Phil Dalhausser, Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh were competing in the AVP Tour at Santa Barbara’s East Beach, two far more storied competitions were being held at Leadbetter Beach on the west side of Stearns Wharf.

For 18 years, the Westmont cross-country team has hosted Claremont-Mudd-Scripps at the Santa Barbara waterfront in early September for a pair of prestigious events. The first event of the day is a 4.2-mile cross-country race, which Westmont head coach Russell Smelley describes as “a little longer for the women and a little shorter for the men.”

Claremont-Mudd-Scripps was the victor in both the men’s and women’s competitions, which is run simultaneously with not only the current squads but also with alumni from both schools. The CMS men defeated Westmont 17-41, with the CMS women claiming a 21-35 victory. Despite the outcomes, Smelley was encouraged about both of his squads.

Jacob Goodin came in as a top 10 all-time (Westmont) performer on this course, which we have run for 18 years,” Smelley said. “He equaled the time of Aaron Megazzi, which is a good sign. Nathan Kemp is running far superior to a year ago when he was a rookie with very little background. It was good to see Sean Adams and Kirby Ifland back in the race after sub-par performances at UCSB for both of them. So now we are dependent upon who is going to come forward from this group of freshmen and sophomores to be our five, six and seven runners and close the gap so that we can be a competitive team.”

Reed Lyon, a CMS alumnus, won the event in a time of 21:23, with Brian Chow of CMS finishing first among the current collegians in a time of 21:27. Goodin placed sixth overall in a time of 21:47, while Kemp placed ninth in a time of 22:07.

In the women’s race, Claremont’s Ev Ross claimed first place with a time of 25:26, with teammate Julia Rugby taking second in a time of 25:37. The Warriors’ Lisa Griego and Kate Stuart finished third and fourth with times of 26:08 and 26:11 respectively.

“Lisa Griego and Kate Stuart made (Westmont’s) top 10 list, finishing third and fourth all-time. We had a little turn-around in placement this week with Kate running better than Chrissa Trudelle; last week that was reversed,” Smelley said. “Chrissa was off the pace a bit, so we are hoping to see her come back into it. Kristen Wiersma is a wonderful walk-on who shows some exciting prospects. Katie Fritzke is a competitor, and Caitlyn Corrao is in the hunt. The battle on the team as the season goes on is for the coveted No. 7 spot.”

Contemplating the results and what they portend for this year’s teams, Smelley said, “I like where we are sitting because of how we tend to improve and be ready in November. I am hopeful for our women and see them as a possibility for a national qualifying team. They will need to run under a one-minute team spread, but I’m looking for that to be one through seven and not just one through five. For the men, it will be interesting to see who can step up and close that gap and get it closer to the fourth runner.”

With the racing out of the way, both squads participated in another 18-year-old tradition: an old-fashioned game of “Nationball,” or “double-dodge ball.” First, the two women’s teams competed against each other with Westmont prevailing to go up 1-0. 

The men’s teams then took to the sand court, but the Warriors couldn’t withstand the barrage of a team that numbered three times their own size. As a result, the score was tied at one apiece going into the third and final round, which would see everybody taking part.

In the end, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps prevailed again, leaving the Warriors to begin plotting their revenge for the 19th annual Nationball Classic to be held once more on the beach in Santa Barbara in early September 2009.

Ron Smith is Westmont College’s sports information director.

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