At the Squig Converse Invitational in Whitewater, Wisconsin, the men’s and women’s track and field teams, injured and outmatched, battled some of the nation’s elite–––and lost mightily. It wasn’t a great Maroon effort, that’s for sure. But the meet did reveal an element of individual potential, as athletes moved up in the UAA honor rolls and executed some top conference and national performances.
“We still have not had a meet that we feel great about and the combination of continued sickness, midterms…left us a little flat,” Head Coach Chris Hall said, “but as I look at the rest of the UAA we had as good a meet as anyone this past weekend.”
The Chicago men (23 points) finished sixth out of seven teams, behind ranked UW–Lacrosse (168), UW–Whitewater (129), North Central (120.5), UW–Oshkosh (91.5), and Augustana (75). They finished ahead of Loras (18), a school from Dubuque, Iowa. The women (74.5 points) finished fourth out of six teams, behind Oshkosh (221), North Central (122.5), and Whitewater (94), and in front of St. Norbert (61) and Loras (35).
“Right now, our team is working through the brunt of our workouts–––we are all putting in work that we hope to pay off at the end of the season. There were some individuals who were disappointed with their performances, and as a team I doubt anyone was overly enthusiastic,” third-year Isaac Dalke said. “But we saw some glimmers of great performances, and some individuals showed glints of their full potential.”
A meet against top teams gives the Maroons a chance to look at the national competition. They aren’t at that level yet–––not even close–––but that’s the eventual objective.
“The competition was exceptional and we want to get to that level in the next couple of years. In order to be at that level we have to see it,” Hall said. “We could easily schedule less competitive meets and feel good about ourselves, but we prefer to look at the bigger picture, and where I feel this team should be, and compete against the best.”
“Going up against these teams sort of numbs us to the competition, so we’re not as intimidated going into it,” fourth-year Ali Klooster said. “So I think it really helps us to prepare to compete at a higher level.”
The men’s meet, Friday at Kachel Fieldhouse, featured some notable performances by the men’s team. Third-year Billy Whitmore ran the fifth-fastest time in the nation in the 5K with a third-place finish, and first-year Renat Zalov moved to fourth in the conference in the mile with a sixth-place finish.
“The highlight of the day was definitely Bill Whitmore’s performance in the 5,000 m run. His time puts him at fifth in the nation, ahead of some truly talented individuals,” Dalke said. “He settled into the middle of the field early, and slowly pushed his way up throughout the race. It was beautifully executed, and a fantastic effort.”
The same is true about the women’s performance on Saturday. They placed fourth in the competition.
“Lauren Adler and Michaela Whitelaw moved to number two in the conference in the triple jump and mile, Kayla McDonald is currently 13th in the country in the 800 and defeated the girl that is seeded 11th,” Hall said. “We had a lot to build off of, but need our team at full strength.”
It has been the team’s consistent position throughout the year that everything comes down to the UAA Championship on February 25–26. On an individual basis, this weekend’s meet might have lent some insight into what the championship holds.
“The ultimate judgment of this team’s ability and depth will come at the conference meet in three weeks,” Dalke said, “and with that in mind I believe some people are setting themselves up to accomplish great feats.”
Both teams venture to Naperville, Illinois next weekend for the Chicagoland Championships. The women’s meet begins Friday at 5 p.m.; the men’s, Saturday at 11 a.m.