Sophomore Hugh Pegan surges to a national title in the 200m as Oxy track and field races toward the top
Fighting through pouring rain against a strong headwind, Hugh Pegan '18 crossed the finish line in a personal-best 21.59 seconds for a wire-to-wire win in the 200m at the NCAA Division III National Championships in Waverly, Iowa, on May 28.
A mathematics major from Ukiah, Pegan becomes the first Tiger to win a national title since 1985 (when Malcom Hardy '86 took the 100m and Rob Brown '86, Todd Stoney '88, Vance Mueller '86, and Hardy captured the 4x100m relay) and caps a stellar season for Oxy's resurgent track and field program.
"We couldn't be prouder of Hugh," says Oxy head coach Rob Bartlett, 2016 West Region Men's Coach of the Year (chosen by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association). "He's establishing a new bar for our program and taking us places that we haven't been in a long time."
Pegan notched Oxy's 12th individual national championship and first in the 200m in the NCAA Division III era that dates back to 1974. Oxy's 14th-place overall finish was the highest of any SCIAC school this season.
"Hugh really hit his stride when it mattered," says assistant coach and sprints specialist Tyler Yamaguchi, the USTFCCCA West Region Men's Assistant Coach of the Year. "He's been on fire since our conference championship and never looked back."
Pegan attributes much of his success to the support of his coaches, assistant athletic trainer Laura Friess Williams, and his teammates. "I'm really excited for the seasons to come and see where our program can go."
Pegan, 2015 SCIAC Newcomer of the Year, has enjoyed quite the sophomore season. He was named the 2016 SCIAC Track Athlete of the Year after winning conference titles in the 100m, 200m, and 4x400m relay. He also took second as a member of Oxy's 4x100m relay.
Gabriel Barrett-Jackson '18 started the day by earning his second consecutive All-American honor in the 400m with a fourth-place finish (47.49, the second-fastest time in his career). In the preliminaries, he became the first 400m runner in the Division III era to crack Oxy's all-time top 10 leaders board with a time of 47.25.
"Gabe is a big-meet performer," Bartlett says. "He's consistently stepped up and run fantastically at the biggest meets, so it's no surprise to see him rising to the occasion once again this weekend."
Oxy's 4x400m relay team (Barrett-Jackson, Jesse Wong '16, Pegan, and Jeh Johnson '17) finished off the meet with a fifth-place, All-American finish at 3:12.70. Barrett-Jackson, Pegan, and Johnson were all members of Oxy's 2015 All-American 4x100m relay team, while Wong ends his career with his first All-American award.
Following a strong showing in the SCIAC Track and Field Championships held at Bill Henry Track April 30 and May 1, the Tigers proceeded to qualify seven student-athletes in a total of five races (the 200m, 400m, 400m hurdles, and 4x100m and 4x400m relays).
Reflecting women's track's second-place showing at the SCIAC Championship meet—its best since 1999—Isabelle Dunne '18 (ranked 26th nationally in the 400m hurdles) and Emma Yudelevitch '19 (25th in the 100m) nearly made the trip to Nationals as well.
"Our women just kept getting better and better as the year went on," Bartlett says. "To go from sixth last year to second this year is something they should be proud of and something we can continue to build on."
Oxy has made great strides in a short period of time following the administration's renewed commitment to excellence in track and field ("To Be the Best," Winter 2015). After a sixth-place finish in 2014, men's track finished second to CMS last year by a score of 207-133. This year, while the Tigers came in as favorites after going undefeated in SCIAC dual meets, they couldn't match the depth of the Stags—but the margin between the two programs was only 25 points (204-179).
Given the momentum that the Tigers are enjoying—and the fact that Pegan and Johnson (who earlier this year ran the nation's fastest time in the 200m) will be back in uniform—Oxy's prospects of finally grabbing its 57th SCIAC title in men's track next spring are as mighty as a headwind in Iowa.
The Force Awakens
Men's track and field took home SCIAC championships in seven events in the Tigers' best overall showing since 1998.
10,000M: Austin Sankaran '18, 31:27.33
Pole Vault: Zach Greenleaf '19, 14'11.5''
100M: Hugh Pegan '18, 10.83
200M: Pegan, 21.20
400M: Jeh Johnson '17, 47.80
400M Hurdles: Jesse Wong '16, 53.19
4x400M Relay: Wong, Kyle Dalton '17, Pegan, and Johnson, 3:15.68
Women's track and field finished second at the SCIAC Championship meet and second in the overall standings for the first time since 1999. The Tigers had six second-place individual performances.