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The race is on

At tomorrow's NCAA meet, Liz Lawton will look to win Chicago's second XC national championship. Rhaina Echols won for the Maroons in 1999.

Photo: Matt Bogen U of C Athletics
Fourth-year Liz Lawton runs earlier in the season. Lawton won the regional tournament last weekend, and has assured victory at the team’s final meet.

“I will win this race…or die trying,” proclaimed fouth-year Liz Lawton.

Following a very successful season, the Maroons will have their sixth shot at the NCAA championship on Saturday. Although the women have never placed nationally, the strength and talent of this year’s team gives them a strong chance to win their first ever NCAA trophy.

They definitely have the ability; prior to last week’s Regional championship meet, they were ranked sixth nationally and second in the region. The women finished fifth at the meet, partially due to a first-place finish by fourth-year Liz Lawton. Down but not out, the Maroons received an at-large bid for Nationals—the perfect place to prove themselves.

“Last week we learned that every single girl in the top seven counts,” said third-year Rachel Ohman. “I feel like that wasn’t accepted by all of us. It’s not just about the top three or four, we can’t afford to check out for even a minute.”

“We know we can trophy…it’s just a matter of everyone putting forth their best race,” said fourth-year Molly Peverada.

Since taking first in both the 5000-and 10,000-meter runs last spring, Lawton has been touted as a favorite for nationals. For her part, she is looking to help the team with an individual win.

“I’m going to run my race; I’m going to run true to myself,” said Lawton. “I’m going to try to make this race as painful for everyone else as possible. If anybody is still with me, I know I have what it takes to win.”

Four other UAA teams will be present at the meet: Washington University (8th), NYU (18th), Emory (26th), and Case Western (dropped from rankings). Of all the teams present, Wash U poses the greatest threat. Although Lawton won Regionals, the Bears managed to get four runners in before Chicago’s second runner.

The women are definitely aware of the situation. “We’re so strong this year because we’ve worked hard to realize not only our potential as individual runners, but our potential as a team,” said fourth-year Erin Cary. “If we’re going to be successful tomorrow, we have to run with, not for, one another.”

Other key teams include the Middlebury Panthers, ranked first in the nation and with five national titles under their belts; third-ranked Williams, with two previous titles; and second-ranked Atlantic Regional Champion St. Lawrence University.

Last year’s national champions, with a score of 171 points, were the University of Wisconsin –Eau Claire. Their most recent victory was at the Midwest Regionals, where they outran Washington University 85–93. The team runs under good leadership: coach Dan Schwamberger was named NCAA D–III Midwest Region Coach of the Year for the second year in a row.

Though the field is intimidating, it does not look to be out of Chicago’s league. While the team’s performance at Regionals was less than ideal, their overall record is more indicative of their national chances, and by that measure a triumphant run on Saturday seems a likely conclusion to the season.

“Personally my drive Saturday will come from it being my last cross country race ever. We are going to be relying on each other to trophy,” concluded Peverada.

 The Maroons travel to Wartburg College in Iowa for the meet.

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