Stormy weather puts damper on Penultimate

Six first-place finishes stand out as highlights for Chicago.

By Daniel Lewis

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Howling winds, pouring rain, and biting cold dampened the Chicago Penultimate in Hyde Park on Saturday. Although Chicago boasted some respectable performances across the board, the weather took center stage, with all the competitors sharing in each other’s misery.

The men’s team featured six first-place finishes, highlighted by an impressive triple jump performance from fourth-year Jacob Solus, who hit a provisional standard. Four other Maroons placed second in their event, including fourth-year Brian Andreycak in the 110-meter hurdles. But even 10 finishes in either first or second couldn’t overshadow the clouds.

“The weather was absolutely awful, even before it really started raining hard. This was definitely the worst weather I’ve ever had at track meet, which is somewhat unfair for mid-May,” Andreycak said. “Considering that, I’m quite pleased with how some things went.”

One of the six first-place finishes for the Maroons was a 4×400-meter relay team that was the only competitor in its race. The team consisted of fourth-years Pat Kacsur, Andrew Wells-Qu, and Toby Blattler, and second-year Henry Ginna. The fierce weather conditions scared off other teams from competing, but the determined Maroons ran anyway.

“That’s exactly what separates a great team from the rest: An unwavering drive for self-perfection, despite all,” Wells-Qu said. “Even when it’s downpouring, even when you’re the only one on the track, even when others are telling you to quit, we keep running and throwing and jumping because we are not here to win—we are here to never quit.”

Other first-place finishers include Ginna in the 800-meter run, fourth-year Felipe Fernandez del Castillo in the 10,000-meter run, and second-year Connor Ryan in the javelin. Fourth-year Drew Jackson finished behind Solus in the triple jump, also hitting a provisional mark. It was Jackson’s first jump since pulling his hamstring at the indoor conference meet. Last year’s national runner-up in the triple jump, Jackson will need to improve his provisional mark in order to join fellow triple jumper Solus at the national meet. Solus’s mark of 14.60m, a lifetime best, has him sitting 11th in the country, and will almost certainly guarantee him a position in the national meet.

For Fernandez del Castillo, the 10k represented a final opportunity to run while wearing University of Chicago colors. “You don’t spend half your life doing something and just walk away from it like it’s nothing. But I’m really glad it ended the way it did, glad I was able to end it at home with my teammates and friends, some of whom actually braved the weather and showed up to watch. I feel incredibly fortunate to have had this wonderful opportunity.”

The meet did not run as smoothly for the women’s team. The Maroons could only muster one second-place finish from third-year Paige Peltzer in the high jump. Beyond that performance, Chicago secured third-place finishes in six different events, including Peltzer in the javelin, first-year Jennifer Porter in the 400-meter hurdles, and fourth-year Stephanie Omueti in the 400-meter dash.

Omueti was one of the four women who chose not to compete in the 4×400 relay, due to the horrendous weather.

“We collectively decided it was in our best interests to not run the 4×400, of which we are chasing a national standard. We felt that by the time we were to compete in that race, the weather conditions would be even worse, leaving us prone to injury and just not running a fast time.”

The weather made it especially hard for throwers like fourth-year Kristin Constantine, who threw a provisional standard in the hammer throw, despite placing sixth.

“I thought I performed pretty well considering that I felt like I was competing in a small, chilly hurricane for a good portion of it,” Constantine said. “The problem with rain and throwing is that the rings get soaked. Then other competitors track mud and dirt inside them, so they get very slippery and hard to compete on. Traction issues affect hammer much less, which was reflected in my performance.”

“The weather was such a bummer because the meet was seeded to be one of the most competitive in the country, but no one could take advantage of it. It was a terrible meet for every team, in every event.”

Even in terrible conditions, the Maroons wouldn’t miss a track meet for Summer Breeze.

“I’ve attended Summer Breeze once in my four years here. It’s just not that big of a deal for me,” said Omueti.

“As for me, I’d pick a track meet every time,” Andreycak said.

Chicago will compete at the North Central Last Chance meet in Naperville on Friday, the last meet before D-III Championships.