Top track athletes look to secure nationals bids at Penultimate

Top men’s and women’s track athletes look to secure national bids at this weekend’s home Penultimate Meet.

By Will Fallon

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At this point in the season, track is a lot like a middle school dance.

You struggle to find a partner for the slow songs you know are approaching. Knowing the night must come to a close, you would desperately like to extend it. With two songs left, it’s time to ask the little red-haired girl to dance and proceed to sweep her off her feet. In this terrible mixed metaphor, songs are grueling track meets, and the girl is an invitation to nationals.

Within the next week, Chicago has its last two meets. First up is tomorrow’s final home meet, the Chicago Penultimate. Next Thursday and Friday will be the North Central Last Chance.

With just two meets left to show their stuff, the Maroons are ready to go. Although some athletes already have provisional bids, they are not resting on their laurels. Everyone wants to do better in the events.

“At this point in the season we are just looking to improve our marks,” fourth-year Claire Ray said. “I still need to throw discus farther which I really hope will happen this weekend. I am also hoping to have the penultimate performance.” Ray has already achieved provisional qualification in hammer throw as well as shot put, but is hoping to put up an automatic qualifying performance.

Third-year Liz Lawton is also looking to gain an automatic bid this weekend. “I’m hoping to run sub 16:55 and hit the automatic standard for the 5k.”

“It’s a big benchmark in distance running and it’s been a lifetime goal of mine to break 17 [minutes], so it should be a good race.” She has already gained provisional bids in both the 10,000 and the 5,000 runs.

Beyond Ray and Lawton, a slew of other competitors have yet to earn their invitations to nationals. One factor that has hampered their success has been the weather during the past few weeks. At UAAs a tornado watch with gusting winds seriously inhibited performances. The conditions became so terrible at one point that the meet was evacuated to the basement of the Wash U gym.

The Benedictine Twilight meet occurred two weeks ago under less severe conditions. Fourth-year Bill Cheng actually posted a time in the 100 meter dash which should have been good enough for a provisional bid to nationals. However, since the wind was working in his favor, his time was not accepted. “We are certainly looking to get a number of athletes on the national lists that have not yet hit standards,” head coach Hall said. “Weather has been an issue this season and it appears as though it will be decent enough conditions on Saturday to meet standards.”

There are other competitors with little prospects of a national bid. For them, these next two meets will be their last of the season, and possibly of their track careers. “We are trying to add to our list of NCAA qualifiers,” Hall said. “But also for athletes that are not at the national caliber to be setting lifetime best performances.”

At this point, all athletes are preparing for these last few performances regardless of goals. Whether they are going to nationals or have no chance of competing, all the athletes are tapering to reach their top times in the next weeks. “[We’ve been having] much shorter practices and more fine tuning than what we were doing a few weeks back,” Hall said.

The Penultimate will come at a particular cost for the athletes this weekend. Unfortunately, it coincides with Summer Breeze. “Sucks they are on the same weekend but maybe we can still make the concert,” Ray said. “Man, it would be pen-ultimate if I could go to Summer Breeze.”

The Maroons will compete at 2 p.m. tomorrow at Stagg Field.