Track and field still finding form after Chicago Invite

By Wayne

While track and field seems to be running behind the competition this season, all signs point to a quick turnaround to the indoor campaign.

Looking to bounce back from a slow season opener last weekend, track and field hoped to get a lift from its home turf when it hosted five squads at the Chicago Invitational Saturday. With two runners churning up first-place finishes and three others taking runner-up, the men’s team turned in a solid performance but came in second with 100 points behind Augustana’s golden effort of 163 points. While the women’s side battled hard, it had to settle for the fourth spot at 83 points without any top honors.

“Any track meet has positive and negative things,” head coach Chris Hall said. “The men showed a decent performance, but a few of our events were just middle-of-the-road finishes. That being said, I think we did everything we tried to accomplish.”

Still gearing up for the season, taking top honors wasn’t the primary focus of this weekend’s meet.

“A lot of these early season meets are just practice for us. The men’s team is not at full strength right now, yet we still held our own,” Hall said. “Our kids are learning that making mistakes is okay. We just want them to know that we can’t tolerate repeating mistakes.”

Showing few errors on the day, third-year Zach Rodgers and first-year Bill Cheng helped push the squad to its spot on the podium with a first-place finish apiece. Rodgers landed in front of the competition in the long jump with 6.38m, edging out Augustana first-year Caleb Snyder’s 6.31 mark. Following up last week’s stellar debut and setting the pace on the track, Cheng broke the tape in the 55-meter dash with a time of 6.65. The rookie took top honors in the same event last week against UW–Oshkosh.

“I was proud of our guys this meet,” Hall said. “Bill Cheng surprised us a week ago with his win, but this time, it was no surprise to us.

Other key performances came from fourth-years Brian Hague and Neil Weijer and second-year Seth Satterlee, who all contributed second-place finishes for Chicago. Clocking in ahead of his seed time of 2:00.00, Hague ran the 800-meter in 1:59.84 but couldn’t sneak in front of Olivet third-year Jerad Macari (1:59.15).

Helping take care of field events, Satterlee finished behind Illinois Wesleyan fourth-year Jon Blome’s 4.37ms in the pole vault with a 4.22m effort, while Weijer launched his weight throw 14.35m to pass his seed mark of 14.08m.

“It was great to see Neil throwing this well this early,” Hall said.

Unfortunately, the women’s team did not fare as well, as the squad continues to suffer from some notable absences on the roster. Last year’s national qualifiers second-year Lauren Nwankpa and fourth-year Nellie Movtchan from the spring squad both missed last week’s season opener, and Hall hopes to have them back in action in a couple of weeks. The Maroons have also had to compete without fellow national qualifier third-year Appie Hirve, who is studying abroad for the quarter.

“The girls tried hard, but sometimes it’s difficult to win when you’re not at full strength,” Hall said. “It’s hard to say what we’ll become later in the season because we are hoping to get our girls back. If everything goes well for us, second in our conference could be a reasonable goal.”

While Chicago couldn’t bring in any top finishes Saturday, they did manage a score of second-place honors.

On the track, fourth-year cross country All-American Vidthya Abraham completed the 3,000-meter run in 10:23.31 while classmate Abby Sheldon ran the 5,000-meter race in 18:37.96. In field events, the throwers set the tone for Chicago with fourth-year Morgan Muir recording 11.91m on the weight throw, and first-year Claire Ray tossing the shot put for 10.88m. Fourth-year Trina Ruhland led the Chicago jumpers with 5.15m in the long jump.

“Our girls are all very coachable, and it’s still very early in the season,” Hall said. “We just have to get everyone back together, and we will be in the pack.”

The Maroons head into a little break for the rest of January and will take on their next opponents when they host the Chicago Duals on February 3.

“Our team is balanced, and we still have lots to do,” Hall said. “We’ll be ready come season’s end, and our men’s team will definitely aim for the conference championship.”