Track passes final test before hosting UAAs

By Chris Boots

With their most important meet of the season only a few days away, Chicago raced in weather more suited for the indoor season as they got one last tune-up at the Wheaton Invitational over the weekend.

Continuing a dominant streak that has lasted since the start of the indoor season, women’s track and field crushed runner-up Wheaton with 218.5 points to the host’s 137. The men, however, who have yet to top a meet since their indoor UAA victory, finished third in the nine-team men’s field with 102.5 points. UW–Whitewater dwarfed the competition with 229.5, while North Central edged Chicago with 125.

The meet gave Chicago an important chance to put finishing touches on its preparations for this weekend’s outdoor UAA Championship.

“We did not taper for this meet,” said head coach Chris Hall. “It was only our second competition of the outdoor season [a home invitational on March 29th was optional for athletes], so we had to keep trying to establish seed marks and also trying to make decisions on who runs, jumps, throws what events.”

Leading the point-scoring for the lady Maroons was a quintet of individual gold medalists. In the 100-meter dash, first-year Stephanie Omueti was the only athlete to break 13 seconds, crossing the line in 12.99 to take first place. First-year Margaret Bujarska was hot on her heels to grab second in 13.05 as Chicago claimed 20 of the event’s 39 points.

On the opposite end of the length spectrum, third-year Rachel Venezia topped the field by four seconds with a time of 4:50.79 in the 1,500-meter run, and first-year Liz Lawton added to the Maroons’ distance scoring with a fourth-place showing.

In the field, second-year Claire Ray cemented her dominance with wins in discus and shot put and a third -place performance in the weight throw. Ray’s shot put victory helped the Maroons clinch a one-two-three finish in the event, with second-year Nicole Murphy in second and first-year Kristin Constantin in third. Ray’s 42.12-meter throw in the discus was four meters in front of the nearest competitor.

Rounding out the women’s successes, first-year Bianca Scott topped the podium in the high jump with a 1.5-meter leap, and All-American Appie Hirve found herself in a familiar spot as long jump champion with a 5.11-meter result that made her the only athlete on the day to break the 5-meter mark.

Focusing on the meet at hand rather than treating it as a throwaway before UAAs enabled much of Chicago’s success.

“With throwing, we went into to this meet full force,” Ray said. “We haven’t had a lot of meets leading up to UAAs, and we wanted to get in some good marks before heading into this weekend. Winning this weekend I think has given the team good momentum for UAAs. Considering we won by so much even when the weather was bad, I am excited to see how we perform in sunny skies.”

Despite a solid performance by the men, they have failed to match their counterparts in accomplishments since indoor conferences.

While the women thrived on big first place finishes, scoring in the lower places of events bolstered the men on Saturday, as only two athletes won individual titles.

In his first outdoor win, first-year Brian Andreycak took gold in the 55-meter hurdles with a time of 16.04 seconds. Returning to the top of the podium for the first time since indoor UAAs, first-year Jacob Solus was the Maroons’ other first-place finisher with a triple jump of 13.37 meters.

Second-year Patrick Offner picked up important points for the South-Siders with fourth-place finishes in the 100- and 200-meter dashes, while second-year Blake Obuchowksi took second and fifth in the same events.

Crossing the line in 1:56.59, first-year Harry Backlund grabbed a silver finish in the 800-meter run.

At longer distances, the Maroons struggled. The only Maroon to crack the top 15 in the packed 1,500-meter field, first-year Arthur Baptist finished eighth with a time of 4:07.21. No Chicago athletes managed to break into the top 10 in the 5,000. Chicago was motivated by a familiar face, however, as alumnus Emil Bojanov (’07) returned to his old stomping grounds to race unattached in the 1,500 meters, posting a time of 4:03.5 that would have given him third place.

In the 10,000 meter, first-years Andrew Wong and Matt Wan scored valuable points at fourth and fifth place, respectively, although they trailed a thin group of only five runners.

With Chicago hosting the outdoor UAAs this weekend, both teams’ slates are wiped clean for a shot at the conference title at Stagg Field.

“We never let one win predict our performance at the next [meet],” Omueti said. “We go into every meet believing we can out-run, -throw, -jump, and -sprint everyone. We show up and compete.”