Despite unfavorable conditions, the men and women’s cross-country teams finished impressively at Saturday’s Loyola University Lakefront Invitational, an 8-kilometer race held at Montrose Beach.
The Maroon women placed fifth out of the 41 teams competing, while the men came in 11th, missing 10th by only four points.
These results were all the more impressive considering the adverse weather conditions.
“On Friday, Coach Hall told us that the day would be a great day to be a cross-country coach, in part because of the expected low winds and 60–degree weather,” said Julia Sizek.
Unfortunately, though, the weather turned out to be an enemy rather than an ally, Liz Lawton explained. “When the girls’ race started, there were 30-mph winds and driving rains to the extent where I think there was hail. It was hands-down one of the nastiest race conditions I have ever competed in.”
Nevertheless, the team “managed to perform better than expectations,” said Sizek.
A number of athletes contributed to the women’s strong performance. Fourth-year Liz Lawton had a time of 17:50, which earned her fourth place out of the 511 female competitors. She was only 17 seconds behind the winner, McMaster’s Jessica Pearo.
Other notable athletes include second-year Julia Sizek (18:35, 36th place), third-year Rachel Ohman (18:57, 50th place), first-year Michaela Whiteman (1910, 75th place), fourth-year Molly Peverada (19:21, 98th place), third-year Sonia Khan (19:21, 99th place), and fourth-year Lizzie Bright (19:27, 116th place).
For the men, our top finisher was third-year Moe Bahrani, who finished 30th out of 528 with a time of 25:51. Compare this to the first place time of 24:32, run by DePaul’s Matthew Graham.
Other standout athletes were second-year Billy Whitmore (25:57, 41st place), first-year Dan Povitsky (26:09, 72nd place), third-year Brian Wille (26:19, 92nd place), second-year Wyatt Jones (26:21, 94th place), second-year Gregor Siegmund (26:41, 145th place), and fourth-year Andrew Wells-Qu (26:45, 154th place).
The day disappointed some of the men’s strongest runners, according to Bahrani. “Two runners usually in our top five, Arthur Baptist and Issac Dalke, both had rough days, so its tempting to say that we would have done even better if those two had run where they were supposed to.”
However, Bahrani acknowledged that variable performance is simply part of the sport. “‘What-ifs’ are dangerous to talk about because every team has ups and downs, and no one really cares if you have one or two guys not run up to their potential. All anyone cares about at the end of the day are the results.”
Heading into the second half of the season, both teams are focusing on specific areas of improvement. For the women, teamwork remains integral. “I think we need to close our gap for our 2–5 pack and run more as a team,” Sizek stated. “We’ve been working on this during practice […], but we also need to make sure that people stick together in races.”
The men face different problems going into the latter half of the season, as Bahrani explained. “We’re doing all the right things training-wise and strategy-wise: running as a team and so on. But we’re just not good enough at this point to compete with the Augustana and UW-Stevens Point and other teams that we’re going to have to beat to get out of a very competitive Midwest region.”
Only five teams from the Midwest region can advance to NCAAs. According to Bahrani, “Getting out of the region as a team has been our goal since day one, but we’re going to need to make some major strides in the next few weeks to do it.”
On Friday, the Maroons compete at the Benedictine Invitation in Lisle, IL, where they will attempt to improve upon problem areas and working toward the NCAAs.