Sports Shorts 2/13/07: Track takes on top competition at invite

By Tim Murphy

With UAAs in the back of their minds, the men’s and women’s track and field teams entered this weekend’s meet seeking to get some seasoning against top competition.

Going up against a field crowded with top-25 programs, the Maroons continued their postseason preparations and earned a surprising NCAA qualification. At the UW–Oshkosh Invite, the men’s squad finished seventh out of eight while the women also took seventh in a 10-team field. The final standings, though, are more indicative of the overall strength of the meet than of how the Maroons performed.

“I think the big thing that we were trying to accomplish is getting comfortable in an environment that has just a whole lot of really, really competitive teams,” head coach Chris Hall said. “And without exception, every event that was contested had national qualifiers in it. I think it’s important to go up against that in order to prepare for our conference championships, and also for those athletes that are chasing national standards so that they don’t feel completely uncomfortable at the NCAAs.”

Continuing their strong senior campaigns, fourth-years Vidthya Abraham and Dilshanie Perera just missed out on national qualifying times in the 5,000 with their fastest times of the season. Abraham took fourth in 17:50.96 while Perera was right behind her, crossing the line in 17:58.66.

“We tried to take advantage of those competitive fields to help some of our athletes that are aspiring to national standards to be in a race environment where they’d be helped instead of having to do all the work on their own,” Hall said.

After winning the UAA outdoor title in the long jump last spring, third-year Myra Collins got off to a slow start this winter but put it all together Saturday on her final flight. Collins leapt to a third-place finish with a mark of 5.41 meters. The distance was good for an NCAA provisional qualifying standard and is the eight-best jump in DIII this season.

“It seemed like she was pretty fatigued going into that time of the day,” Hall said. “It was a pleasant surprise. I think that as her fitness catches up with her she will go a whole lot further.”

On the men’s side, fourth-year Mike Doll pulled off a surprising sixth-place finish in the 55 hurdles, finishing in a personal best of 8.09.

“I think Mike competed extraordinarily well,” Hall said. “He’s got a lot of heart and a lot of hard work, and it’s beginning to pay off.”

The rest of the sprinting corps also had a strong weekend, with first-year Bill Cheng taking fifth in the 55-meter dash in 6.6 seconds and classmate Blake Obuchowski finishing five spots behind him in 6.75, narrowly missing out on the cut for the finals.

Showing no signs of the injury that has limited him during the offseason, fourth-year Emil Bojanov finished third in the 3,000 with a personal-best performance of 8:43.66.

Both squads will return to action again this weekend at the Chicagoland Championships. The women’s squad will travel to Romeoville Friday for the event, while the men will host the competition Saturday at Henry Crown.