Ayoola, Dobbs place first at Dr. Keller Invite

With two weeks to spare before the NCAA DIII National Championship, Chicago men’s and women’s track and field individuals seize last chance opportunities to qualify.

By Russell Mendelson

This past weekend, the Maroons competed in the first of two back-to-back meets at North Central.

The Dr. Keeler Invite kicked off a busy nine-day span in which Chicago will go to Naperville twice in what is, for some, the final opportunity to qualify for the Outdoor National DIII Championships in Canton, NY. The National Championships will take place in two weeks, and the Maroons will be giving everything they have to advance to the “The Empire State.”

Second-year Michelle Dobbs may have cemented a bid to the championships in the season’s culminating meet. After taking first in an 800-meter race, Dobbs made a case as one of the top performers in the country.

“Emily Warner [Wash U runner] had pulled away by about two meters with 200 to go, so I had to catch her at the line for the victory,” Dobbs said, reflecting on the tight finish.

“It’s always fun to race her, as we see each other at conference, last chance, and often nationals races. We compete against each other very well and typically seem to post great times when we compete head-to-head.”

This time was no different. The head-to-head rivalry once again paid off for both competitors. Dobbs’s and Warner’s times currently slotted fifth and sixth in the country respectively, making a trip to New York very likely for both middle distance runners.

For some, this meet and next week’s meet serve as a final opportunity to qualify for nationals in their collegiate careers. Fourth-year Pam Yu placed second in the long jump with a season best of 5.28m.

“My goal is first to improve upon my mark last meet. I’ve made nationals before, and I really hope that my last meet in college will be at nationals,” Yu noted on her performance and her goals for this week’s last chance meet back in Naperville.

“However, I don’t have many expectations going into the meet, but I do hope that I will be jumping where I jumped last year indoor season. Fingers crossed.”

With Yu and her fellow fourth-years’ imminent departure comes a rising class of first-years who hope to pick up where they left off. First-year Ade Ayoola made a strong case to be one of these quick-risers as she caught the most air in the high jump, finishing with a height of 1.64m.

“My goals heading into this meet were the same as my goals heading into any other meet: jump as well as I can, perhaps hit a personal record and have fun doing it,” explained Ayoola who attempted a jump at her personal best, but fell slightly short of successfully completing it.

“I go into every meet wanting to jump as well as I can and if I can stop thinking about it too much, I know I can jump higher than last week. If that happens this weekend, that would be fantastic.”

Like Yu and the other upperclassmen who will be leaving the team soon, Ayoola and her fellow underclassmen exhibit the drive and determination needed to perform at the highest level possible. The final number of Maroons who end up going to nationals will be based on how good their best can be. The North Central Last Chance Meet will kick off this Thursday at noon, with individual event times to be posted at a later date.