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Powerhouse downs Maroons in opener

It was a tough start for both track teams, but the squads showed reason for optimism in their close losses to perennial powerhouse UW–Oshkosh.

At a glance, indoor track’s results from Saturday aren’t great. Both teams lost to UW–Oshkosh, but with a little perspective, those losses don’t seem nearly so bad.

When Oshkosh’s track teams come to Crown, expectations must be adjusted. Over the past three seasons, the Titans’ average margin of victory over Chicago’s women has been almost 40 points. Against the Chicago men, that average is closer to 44.

And the Titans don’t perform only against the Maroons. Their men have finished third at nationals each of the past three years. Their women won three consecutive national championships between 2004 and 2006.

With that in mind, you can see why head coach Chris Hall calls the men’s 90.5–78.5 loss and the women’s 84–75 loss “moral victories.”

“Our goal was to go out there and compete hard and find out where we are,” Hall said.“[W]e wanted to get a great sense of what we had as a program this weekend, and I think we accomplished that.”

The men’s and women’s teams both had strong days, and in many cases came up with the sorts of performances that bode well for UAAs in March.

Among the Maroons who won events, second-year Stephanie Omueti stood out by being the only one to win two of her races. Omueti topped the field in the 55-meter dash with a time of 7.49 and won the 200-meter dash with a 26.81-second finish. Omueti earned all-American honors in the 200-meters at last year’s outdoor nationals but still had jitters going in.

“The 200-meter is my race,” Omueti said, “so going into every meet, that is what I am most nervous about because I hate to do a bad job at something I am good at.”

The women also took the top spots in the 55-meter hurdles. Fourth-year Meaghan Ehrhard was first with a 9.08, and second-year Ashley Eaves was the runner-up, crossing the line with a time of 9.46.

Outside of the short distances, the women picked up a few more first-place finishes. Second-year Erin Cary won the 3,000-meter run in 10:59.21. First-year Lauren Adler covered 10.39m to win the triple jump in the first meet of her Chicago career.

Third-year Claire Ray threw for 16.16m, good for first in the weight throw, and also enough to make her an NCAA provisional qualifier in that event. As a provisional qualifier, Ray will be in the running for a spot at nationals in March.

“I did not expect Claire Ray to go out and qualify for the national meet in the weight throw in her first meet of the season,” Hall said. “I fully expected her to do that during the season, but not on January 10.”

First-year Paige Peltzer and second-year Kari-Lynn Ostgaard were the top two finishers in high jump, each clearing the bar at 1.61-meters. After that, Ostgaard and Peltzer attempted 1.66m jumps, though neither was successful at that provisionally qualifying height.

“They didn’t make it, but to clear 1.61m and both of them jumping 1.66, which got into the national meet last year, both of them taking good attempts at it—that was fun,” Hall said.

Peltzer was also one of four Maroons who combined to win the distance medley. First-year Jane Simpson, second-year Liz Lawton, and fourth-year Rachel Venezia were also part of that squad.

In the men’s meet, second-year Brian Andreycak won the 55-meter hurdles with an time of 8.00. Second-year Andrew Wells-Qu ran a 1:57.37 in the 800-meters, putting him first in that event. Wells-Qu was also in the foursome that won the distance medley.

“Andrew, I thought, ran great last weekend, in both the open 800 and the 800 leg of the [distance medley],” Hall said. “He looks like he’s maybe a national-caliber athlete right now.”

Fourth-year Seth Satterlee took home first in the pole vault by clearing 4.38m, three-tenths of a meter better than his closest competition, but said he needed to improve his performance before the UAA meet.

“It’s always nice to win a competition, expecially when you’re not jumping well. But 4.38 doesn’t cut it. Especially when I’m up against Scott at conference,” Satterlee said, referring to Scott Pettit, the Wash U second-year who vaulted 4.55m at last spring’s outdoor UAA Championships.

Fourth-year John Eric Humphries got another win for the men, turning in a 52.40 in the 400-meters. In the 3,000-meters, the Chicago got first on the strength of Jim Mumford’s 8:53.19 performance.

Hall pointed to the long jump and the triple jump as events the teams need to improve in over the course of the season.

“Those are areas that we hope to get better in, like national-caliber better in,” Hall said.

The Chicago women have a very young corps competing in those horizontal jumps, and the majority of their entrants in the long and triple jumps this weekend were first-years. As for the men, their jumpers are working to get over some injuries. Second-year Jacob Solus has an ankle injury, and second-year Drew Jackson has had hamstring issues. Solus and Jackson finished second and third, respectively, in the triple jump, and none of the men were in the top three in the long jump.

Both the men and women will be back in action this Saturday at Henry Crown, when they compete against a six-team field in the Phoenix Invitational.

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