Against Chicago’s finest, cohesive cast grabs sixth-place finish

The Maroons finished sixth on home turf this weekend at the Chicagoland Women’s Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

By Katie Burkhart

The Maroons finished sixth on home turf this weekend at the Chicagoland Women’s Outdoor Track and Field Championships. Northern Illinois took the championship (174), while Chicago followed Lewis (74) with an overall score of 60.50.

A sixth-place finish is certainly an impressive feat for the Maroons, who competed among 18 teams representing schools from all divisions, DI to DIII.

“We didn’t walk onto the track this past Friday expecting to win, but to make important improvements for upcoming meets,” fourth–year sprinter Jalessa Akuoko said. “The top scoring teams were DI/DII schools, so finishing sixth shows that we’re right in the fray with high-caliber teams.”

Team captains, including Akuoko as well as fourth-years Maddie Allen, Paige Peltzer, Rachel Ohman, and Sonia Khan, have led the team thus far with particular emphasis on support and cohesion among teammates. The focus is not just on individual performance on the track—an approach that, Maroon leadership admits, has not always been taken in the past.

“It’s a different dynamic that this year’s captains are creating, and it will hopefully result in us being the strongest team at Conference,” Akuoko said.

Whether or not this new atmosphere is the driving force behind the team’s progress, the team’s successes at Chicagolands cannot be ignored.

Several standout performances and personal bests, while not first-place finishes, have left the South Siders in a position to be serious contenders at the Conference Championships.

“There were tons of performances that would put [the team] in scoring position at Conference…. We had three 5k runners go under 18:10, which is great this time of the season,” Khan said. Those runners were second-year Elise Wummer, Ohman, and third-year Julia Sizek, with times of 18:09.76, 17:52.76, and 17:32.38, respectively.

Khan, the fourth-year co-captain, placed fourth in the 10k run (37:12.37).

“I had a lot of help from my teammate, [fourth–year] Jane Simpson, who led me through 5k at a pace I normally wouldn’t have been comfortable with,” she said. “We had such a good rhythm going that I was able to negative split the second half of the race by quite a bit.” Simpson went on to take seventh in the same race with a time of 37:56.37.

Other top point earners included second-year Michaela Whitelaw with a third place finish in the 1,500m run (4:45.01), high-jumpers Peltzer (1.57m, third place) and third–year Emily Hren (1.52m, fourth place), third-year Kayla McDonald with an impressive 58.87 in the 400m dash (fourth place), and both the 4x400m (4:07.95) and 4x800m (9:54.47) relay teams each finishing fourth.

Despite an impressive performance at Chicagolands, the team remains focused on making further improvements for the long haul. “It looks like we have a lot of momentum going…Coach [Aaron] Carley and Coach [Chris] Hall were very pleased with how the meet went for us,” Whitelaw said.

Chicago will next compete at the Wheaton Invite at 1 p.m. this Saturday in Wheaton, Illinois.