Despite less than ideal weather and muddy conditions, the South Siders came out strong and captured the team title.

By Tatiana Fields

The Maroons dominated the North Central Cardinal Open last Friday, continuing to build on a strong season. Despite less than ideal weather and muddy conditions, the South Siders came out strong and captured the team title.

The Cardinal Open was a good chance for experienced and rookie members of the team to find their footing against non-conference teams. Fourth-year Elsbeth Grant placed first, finishing the three-mile course in 18:27.32. Second-year Alexandria Proffit from DuPage kept the race close, but came up just short to finish in second place with a time of 18:29.19. First-year Maya Lewinsohn came in shortly after, finishing in third place with a time of 18:32.71.

Other impressive showings came from fourth-year Vicky Espinoza and first-year Kathryn Vandervalk, who finished fourth and sixth respectively. In total, the Maroons had six athletes place in the top ten.

This may not have been the most important meet of Chicago’s season, but it was an opportunity for several first-years to get more racing experience and determine their standing heading into the UAA Championships.

“I couldn’t be more pleased with our performance this Friday,” head coach Chris Hall said. “A number of younger runners got the opportunity to run in a varsity position and really came through well.”

In the end, the Maroons won by a wide margin. Chicago finished with 19 team points, with hosts North Central coming in second with a team total of 52 points.

Though each runner ran her own race, it was a team effort that propelled the Maroons to their first place finish.

“Teamwork is always an important element for us,” Vandervalk said. “We all ran the first mile in a pack, and then it really just kind of separated into who was going to do what that day. Everybody really worked together and we all ran fast.”

Heading into the later stretches of the race, teamwork became even more important.

“It was nice to have teammates around to push through the second mile where it was a little tough,” Espinoza said. “It helped individuals set personal records regardless of the weather.”

After a few low-pressure meets, the team is now heading into the most important part of the season. Within the next few weeks, Chicago will compete in the UAA Championships, the Midwest Regional, and, if it can rise to the challenge, the NCAA Championships.

The Maroons are ready to step up their game.

“We need to be a more aggressive running team and continue our pack mentality,” Hall said. “We have really strong teams but they have got to be ready to raise their competitive edge to the next level.”

Chicago will compete next at the UAA Championships at the University of Rochester on Saturday, October 27.