At the halfway mark of the indoor season, track and field took care of business at Henry Crown and brightened its UAA outlook.
Battling top regional competition, the women’s side swept the Chicago Duals, ousting Beloit (114–40), Lawrence (109–43), North Park (109–35), Elmhurst (113–29), and narrowly edged out top-ranked North Central (82–81). The men also had a strong day, beating four of the five teams with equally large margins: Beloit (116–39), Lawrence (114–38), North Park (116–28), and Elmhurst (94–55). Despite top performances and personal bests across the board, the men did fall to North Central (91–75), a program that has been dominant in DIII track and field for several decades and is superior to just about any competition the men will see at UAAs.
The results proved that even though coaches and athletes may have their eyes focused on the final UAA Championship test in four weeks, the teams can still remain competitive at smaller weekend dual meets. With an impressive weekend performance, the women’s side previewed a dominant streak that could make this one of their best seasons in recent history.
“I think this meet perhaps got us looking at our women’s team as a contender to win the conference title indoors,” head coach Chris Hall said. “I didn’t think that was going to be the case with [third-years] Appie Hirve overseas and Nofi Mojidi as part of our basketball team right now.
“We looked at the meet and said, ‘You know, I don’t think anyone else in the conference had as good a meet as that.’”
Snagging first in three of her five events, fourth-year Trina Ruhland was the top performer for the women. Though she was feeling sluggish on Saturday, Ruhland did not hold back to save energy for her full plate of events.
“They’re all all-out. Especially in the sprinting events, you go completely at them,” Ruhland said.
The strong effort paid off. Ruhland notched first place in the 55-meter dash (7.61), 200-meter dash (27.11), and long jump (5.25m).
With the team counting on Ruhland to take on five or six events at UAAs, coaches are keeping the strong athletes busy with events at the mid-season meets.
The men’s side had its own usual suspect at the top of the line. Versatile third-year Zach Rodgers performed his first triple jump of the season and won it with a personal best of 13.72m. The result is the best mark of the year for any UAA athlete.
“If we had to pick one guy out of that group who had a great weekend, it was Zach Rodgers,” Hall said.
Rodgers’s strong performance in the triple jump was especially significant as it will be his last chance to compete in the event before UAAs. The coaches are looking to prepare Rodgers for the outdoor season, when he will compete in the decathlon—a mega-event that does not include the triple jump.
Saturday brought a slew of other personal records and top-place performances. Fourth-year Abby Sheldon took first in the 3,000-meter in 10:32.96, a personal best by 12 seconds. After starting the race out strong with classmate Dilshanie Perera, Sheldon surged in the last 800 to win first.
Continuing his stellar final season, fourth-year Brian Hague, who is on the verge of qualifying for Nationals, seized top honors in the mile in 4:21.51, with a comfortable margin of more than five seconds. Fellow distance runner and classmate Vidthya Abraham also took first in the mile in 5:15.10. The coaching staff is building the 2006 cross country All-American up to the 5,000, her main indoor event.
Rounding out the performances on the sprint and jumping side, third-year Cynthia Lin won the triple jump with 10.67m. The State College, PA native had a busy day, competing in the 55, long jump, and the 4 x 400. Fourth-year Mike Doll won the 55-meter hurdles in 8.33 seconds, just edging out Rodgers.
In a sport with such a large roster and athletes competing in disparate events, it is often hard for individuals to even learn each other’s names. But Saturday showed that the Maroons are becoming more cohesive as a whole—something that will boost the teams’ confidence when they battle their toughest regular season competition next week at UW–Whitewater.