Squad Will Kick Off Indoor Season with Phoenix Invitational

The Phoenix Invitational will start this Saturday at 11:30 a.m. in Henry Crown Field House.

By Jenna Harris

The men’s and women’s teams will host the Phoenix Invitational to kick off the indoor season this Saturday.

Looking back, the 2015 season, both indoor and outdoor, was a banner campaign for the University of Chicago squads. Now in the new year, UChicago seeks to bring that spirit back into the fold and will contend to reproduce those achievements.

The women’s team dominated the indoor and outdoor team championships in the University Athletic Association (UAA), and also found success post-season with 13 national qualifiers and five All-Americans.

Claiming its fourth and fifth UAA titles in program history, the Maroons became the first women’s team to sweep the conference since Emory University in 2011. All five of the titles have come under head coach Chris Hall’s tutelage. UChicago has finished in the top half of the UAA for 13 years and coming.

“On paper right now, I believe we will be a better team than we were in 2015. Perhaps our greatest strength is that we have the ability to cover all events. That team depth is what makes us so competitive in a conference meet setting and we hope to take a step forward on the national level,” Hall said.

On the other side, the fight for the men’s indoor UAA title was particularly compelling last year, as UChicago and Wash U battled constantly. The difference came down to the final relay race of the meet, and the Bears crept past the Maroons at the finish line to win by only a single point, 114–113.

The South Siders have not forgotten, and the men’s team has retribution on their minds this time around.

“Our team competed really well at the UAAs last year and coming up a point shy of a title was very disappointing,” Hall said. “The men want to flip the script and they’re very motivated to do so…if we come into those meets healthy, I would like to believe we will be a contender.”

After last year, there are several athletes to look out for in the 2016 season.

Fourth-year thrower Nkemdilim Nwaokolo played a huge role in the Maroon’s triumph at the UAA last year, receiving the name of Women’s Most Outstanding Performer in field events thanks to five titles—indoor weight throw, indoor shot put, outdoor shot put, outdoor hammer throw, and outdoor discus. Nwaokolo went on to earn All-American status by placing seventh at the NCAA DIII Championships in the indoor weight throw.

The women’s distance medley relay put up some of the best numbers in the country as well and finished in third place with the All-American team of second-year Megan Verner-Crist, third-year Michelle Dobbs, fourth-year Mikaela Hammel, and fourth-year Brianna Hickey.

In addition, Dobbs gained an All-American title at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in the 800-meter run. Hickey finished 12th in the outdoor 1,000-meter, and second-year Ade Ayoola came in 20th in the outdoor high jump. Hall is relying on these girls to lead the way once again.

“I feel that the experience they have had at the highest level and the confidence they give the rest of our squad is a key to our success,” he said.

The Phoenix Invitational will start this Saturday at 11:30 a.m. in Henry Crown Field House.