Track and Field Start Off on the Right Foot

As hosts of the Phoenix Invitational, the men’s and women’s track and field teams defended their turf with first-place finishes and astounding performances from new team members.


Patrick Gorski

Fourth-year Grace Penders takes home the gold in the triple jump.

By Matthew Lee, Co-Editor-in-Chief

At home at the Henry Crown Field House, the University of Chicago men’s and women’s track and field teams began their seasons on the right foot with a dominating pair of wins at Saturday’s Phoenix Invitational track and field meet. Both teams took first in their respective fields by a wide margin, with the women’s team scoring 309 points to runner-up Aurora College’s 79.5 and the men capturing 290 points to second-place Aurora’s 72. 

This weekend’s meet was highlighted by stellar debut performances by both team’s newest members. On the men’s squad, first-year John McCormick took first in both long jump and triple jump with a pair of stellar leaps of 6.49 and 13.88 meters, respectively. First-year excellence continued in men’s distance running events, where Jonah Estabrook’s 5,000-meter (16:06.31), Henry Myers’s 1-mile (4:26.01), Dillon O’Loughlin’s 400-meter (51.29), Wilson Hansen’s 200-meter (22.96), and Sam Craig’s 3,000-meter (8:55.96) won each athlete first place in their college debuts. Meanwhile, on the women’s team, first-years Kaitlyn Van Baalen and Meg Fitzpatrick each took first place finishes with their 800-meter (2:21.83) and 400-meter dash (1:00.72), respectively. 

Emphasizing the team’s strong debut, Van Baalen is optimistic about the season to come. “There were really strong performances from returners and freshmen alike, and it made me excited to find out where the season will take us,” she said. “Our goals at this point are to improve week to week and stay healthy as the competition gets harder and eventually prepare to place highly at the conference meet.” 

The first-years’ stellar debut performances were further rounded out by a strong showing by the team’s more veteran members. First-place performances for the Maroon men include third-year Alexander Scott and his 15.32 meters weight throw, fourth-year Owen Melia’s 800-meter (1:59.17), and the men’s 4×400-meter relay team—Tyson Miller, Elliot Paintsil, Ben Chaimberg, and Caden Kalinowski—who completed the event in 3:30.93. Meanwhile, event winners in women’s track and field include fourth-year jumpers Alexandra Thompson and Grace Penders, who leapt 1.64 meters in the high jump and 10.32 meters in the triple jump, respectively. On the track, third-year Mary Martin’s 200-meter (26.00), second-year Margaret Habib’s 5,000-meter (19:13.93), second-year Emma Dyer’s 1-mile (5:11.39), third-year Robin Peter’s 60-meter hurdles (9.27), and second-year Zoe Smith’s 3,000-meter (10:41.12) all proved to be first place performances. The woman’s relay team, consisting of Kaela Jolibois, Mary Martin, Tali Naibryf, and Alexandra Thompson, also took first place with a blistering 4×400-meter relay (4:11.98). 

The Maroons look to follow up their stellar start with a strong next step at Illinois Wesleyan University’s I-55 Triangular meet at 11 a.m. on Saturday, January 19.