Senior teammates finish collegiate running careers in Lacrosse, Wisconsin
Photos by: Tony Leon/ActionWestPhotography.com
LACROSSE, WI - Senior distance runners Jessica Iribe (Cypress, Calif.) and Julissa Tobias (Norwalk, Calif.) concluded their Poet running careers with perhaps the most challenging combination of competition and weather they ever encountered.
Iribe placed 15th among the nation's top 22 ranked NCAA DIII 10,000m runners, a very successful performance considering her 20th ranking of the 22 finalists. NCAA officials decided the scheduled 11:50 am start time was too dangerous for 10,000m (6.2 miles, 25 laps on a track) racing due to a high heat index (temperature and humidity combined). As a result, the race start-time was moved up to 8:45 am central time (6:45 am Pacific time) on Thursday, May 24. "We were fortunate to be staying at a hotel relatively close to the meet because it was an earlier wake-up than anticipated"; said Coach Greg Phillips. Unfortunately, the early start-time provided limited relief from the heat and humidity. The event was more tactical than fast with runners experiencing varying degrees of heat illness during and after the race. "Jess stumbled late in the race and endured a heat blister on one foot but came back to pass two competitors with a final surge to the finish," Phillips added.
Two days later Tobias and the field of 22 finalists in the 5,000m run faced conditions reported to be 98 degrees with 68% humidity. Unlike the 10,000m event there was no good option for a schedule change so the gun went off at 3:25 pm as scheduled. A fluid station was placed on the track and volunteers attempted to cool the runners by splashing with cups of water. Tobias raced well through the first mile. She was drafting well in the pack and well ahead of several runners who had fallen off the pace but adversity struck hard on the fifth of 12.5 laps. There were some collisions in the pack just ahead of Julissa caused by the scramble to take water at the fluid station. Julissa had a couple of miss-strides straining her right leg, and lost contact with the pack. Later she stepped on the curb rolling her left foot and ankle. "Julissa received the most applause from the crowd for finishing the race in noticeable pain"; said Phillips. "She can't even remember crossing the finish-line or the later stages of the race probably due to the combination of heat illness, leg, and foot pain"; added Phillips.
NCAA DIII track & field ranks the top 500 student-athletes in each event and there are an estimated 700 women 10,000m runners and three to four times that many contesting the 5,000m. For perspective, sport fans consider a top-25 national ranking in team sports worthy of significant notoriety. For a track & field individual athlete, a top-25 ranking is perhaps an even greater accomplishment because the individual competes against significantly larger numbers of competitors than teams. Congratulations to seniors Jessica Iribe and Julissa Tobias for their performances at the National Track & Field Championships, their four years of strong racing representing Whittier College, and their National Rankings! Both runners look forward to continued training and racing at the post-collegiate club level.