Cross Country warms up for big meets

By Karl Striepe

As the Cross Country season quickly draws to a close, with the UAA, Midwest Regional, and National Championship meets in sight the men and women’s teams traveled to Lisle, Illinois last Friday for their second to last meet of the regular season, the Benedictine Invitational. And while neither team traveled at full strength, as Coach Hall elected to rest his top seven men and three of his top five women, the Maroons still managed impressive showings on both sides.

The women’s side, which competed without its top runner, second-year Erin Steiner, and its third runner, fourth-year Clarisse Mesa, finished third in the 17-team field, losing only to Northern Illinois and Wheaton College, who scored 41 and 79 points, respectively, to Chicago’s 104.

First-year Jessica Winter was the women’s top finisher, placing eighth with a time of 23:01 over the 6K course. Third-year Hannah Benton followed in 15th with a time of 23:25 and first-year Amy Lopez had a breakthrough performance to finish third for the team in 23rd place with a time of 23:45. First-year Beverly Chang and Third-year Sarah Mendez finished in 28th and 30th, respectively, with times of 23:59 and 24:09 to round out the scoring five.

The men’s side, which ran without its entire top seven, finished in 5th place in the 16-team field. UW-Parkside won the meet with 56 points, followed by North Central College with 86 points, Saint Joseph’s College with 113, and Wheaton College with 129. Chicago finished with 150 points.

Fourth-year Paddy White led the team with a 12th place finish, covering the 8K course in 27:10. White was followed by first-year Tyler Brooks who finished 22nd in 27:25, second-year Ethan Jewett, 36th in 27:58, and third-year Kevin Drake, 29th in 28:04. Second-year transfer Sam Jacobson rounded out the men’s top five, placing 41st with a time of 28:05.

Both finishes were quite impressive given the caliber of the runners that Coach Hall chose to rest and speaks volumes about the strides in overall depth that both the men’s and women’s teams have made over the past year. White and Brooks’ performances on the men’s side should also be strong enough to secure places on the men’s UAA Conference team, while the impressive performance by Lopez and Benton on the women’s side should only serve to make Coach Hall’s decision on a his women’s UAA team even the more difficult.

This weekend both teams will travel to Kenosha, Wisconsin for the UW-Parkside Invitational. The meet, their last non-championship meet of the year, will serve not only as the final tune-up before the UAA Championships, but also as the final meet of the season for many of the runners. The men, who are currently ranked 23rd in the Division III National Polls, will face several of their top Midwest Regional rivals, including UW-Platteville, a team they barely beat earlier in the season at the Brissman Lundeen Invitational. The results of the meet should provide a fairly accurate gauge of exactly how ready the men and the women are for the UAAs and the rest of what Coach Hall describes as the “Championship season”