Track hopes for home boost

By Steve Saltarelli

For track and field this winter, there’s no place like home.

The men’s and women’s squads look to find the winner’s circle for the first time this season when they play host to the Phoenix Invitational Saturday at Henry Crown Field House. Joining them at the meet will be a challenging set of opponents including Ashford University, Augustana, Calumet, Illinois

Wesleyan, Indiana University Northwest, Olivet Nazarene, and D-I foe, Valparaiso.

Both the men and women hope to rebound after being blitzed by a strong UW–Oshkosh team last Saturday. The trip to Oshkosh saw the men exit with a 100–56 loss while the women were downed 93–57. After a rough beginning, the Maroons look ahead and hope their intense training will pay off down the road.

“We are still lifting hard and throwing a lot in order to be well prepared for the long season ahead,” second-year thrower Claire Ray said.

Head coach Chris Hall echoed Ray’s statements. “I can tell you we are working extremely hard at this point in the season,” he said.

The Phoenix Invitational marks the first of four home meets for the Maroons, comprising the majority of their six regular season events. This home-loaded schedule allows everyone on each team to compete, whereas normally budget limitations restrict the amount of players that travel with the team. This can be crucial when trying to develop young talent, and this season the home field advantage gives Hall the luxury of inserting rookies into a competition atmosphere in order to evaluate them. This, however, is only one in a long line of reasons why Hall has packed his teams’ schedules with home meets.

“We host for a number of reasons. Firstly, I believe our athletes compete better at home. I also know they have a lot of classroom responsibilities, and being home allows them more time following the competition to concentrate on school. We can do this because we have a good facility, which allows us to attract some very good teams,” Hall said.

“There is a definite home field advantage, just like in any other sport. Without the three-hour bus ride we had last week we should be much looser and more prepared to compete,” first-year jumper Jacob Solus said.

The lack of wear and tear from travel this year may very well pay dividends when the squads compete at UAAs in early March—where last year the men placed fourth while the women placed a strong second.

This weekend, UAA Athlete of the Week Solus, second-year sprinter Bill Cheng, and fourth-year runner Ryan McCarl will lead the men. They will face their main competition from talented Valparaiso and Augustana squads.

“The competition this week should be decent. There will be some D-I schools at the meet but I think we can match up well with them,” Solus said.

On the women’s side, fourth-year runner Hannah Moots and first-year high jumper Kari Lynn Ostgaard will try to improve on their first-place performances last week as they go up against strong teams from Illinois Wesleyan and Valparaiso.

“I feel that this week is going to be very exciting. We are competing against some

great teams and home meets are always a lot of fun. I think there is going to be a lot of breakout performances and personal bests,” Ray said.

Those high expectations for this weekend are mirrored on the men’s team.

“Overall, I’m just excited for our first meet here in Chicago. Support from our fans never hurts so I’m expecting some big crowds and some great marks on Saturday,” Solus said.

The action begins Saturday at 11:30 a.m. at the Henry Crown Field House.