Men stumped, women in top four at X-C conferences

By Kathryn Stewart

Following a season filled with barely missed marks and mixed results for Chicago, cross country continued to follow other fall squads at the UAA Championships Saturday in Boston. Despite posting uninspiring individual times, the women came together as a team and easily rolled into the fourth spot, while the men landed with a thud in eighth place.

With sights set on pulling out their first perfect race of 2007, the Maroons headed out to Beantown entertaining visions of tightly packed runners blazing over a relatively flat and familiar course for fourth-place finishes for both squads. Yet again, a mix of youth and inconsistency thwarted the men’s mighty efforts, relegating them to the bottom of the league.

“Naturally we’re pretty disappointed with a last place finish,” third-year Chris Peverada said. “Going in, I personally thought we should be able to place in the top four, which may have been a bit optimistic, but I certainly didn’t expect eighth.”

“Halfway through, we were in fourth place and closing in on third,” head coach Chris Hall said. “But then, things just came apart. A few runners started to fade and then a few more. Things just started to compound and we fell back.”

Managing to stay up front, fourth-year Ryan McCarl clocked a 25:30 to lock up the seventh individual position out of a field of 78 and take home All-UAA First Team Honors. Behind McCarl, second-year Adam Kaye, a Boston-area native, used his hometown advantage to pull in a 37th-place finish in 26:32 with Peverada (40/26:32) hot on his heels to fill out the men’s top three.

“I think the only great individual performance came from Ryan McCarl,” Peverada said. “He’s been in this type of race before and rose to the occasion very well to place seventh. A couple others had solid races, but we needed four more efforts like Ryan’s to achieve our pre-race goals.”

While the men ran out of steam, their counterparts slid into their expected number-four team finish. Still, individual efforts ranged from award-winning to average, leaving the squad content but not entirely satisfied with the weekend.

“We ran well enough to place where we should, but we didn’t run well enough to press Emory like we wanted,” Hall explained. “I think our athletes were clearly the fourth- best group in the Conference.”

“Many of the girls walked away from the day a little bit disappointed about their individual performances,” said fourth-year Hannah Moots, the 13th runner to cross the line. “We finished where we had expected to place. Even though our team didn’t have its best day, we weren’t threatened for that place. We learned that even when we don’t have our best day, we can still turn out a formidable performance.”

The dynamic duo of veteran Moots and first-year phenom Liz Lawton topped the charts for Chicago’s women. Moots’s 23:24 on the 6k-course garnered her All-Conference Second-Team Honors. Lawton fell just one spot short of joining her for the All-UAA honors list with a 23:33, 15th-place effort. Saturday’s race required all the Maroons to come up with an extra four minutes of competitive energy to finish the squad’s first 6k of the season.

Overall, Chicago’s showing at UAAs provided more questions than answers, and the men in particular have been left scratching their heads.

“I can’t quite put my finger on what it is that’s holding our men back. They certainly haven’t made any mistakes,” Hall said. “They are young and inexperienced, and, as a result, I think it’s hard for a lot of our younger guys to figure out how they fit into the big picture at these meets.”

The postseason continues with the Regional Championships up next, but that will most likely close the books on the fall. With neither team likely to score a trip to NCAAs, focuses are shifting to how the Maroons can get better and stronger from here.

“The team goals for Regionals are primarily to have a nice finish to the season,” Hall said. “We’re not going to apply some sort of specific measurement of success at Regionals. We’re developing young talent, and we want to give them something to build on, and a solid performance at Regionals will be a nice jumping-off point for track and field and the 2008 cross-country season.”

Still, Maroons fans should prepare for some excitement in two weeks when Chicago heads to UW–Oshkosh for the Midwest Regional Championships. Both Moots and Lawton are poised to take All-Regional honors, and McCarl could earn the chance to toe the line with the best of the best at NCAAs November 17.