Winter makes NCAA final

By Kim Song

It was perfect running weather in Waverly, Iowa as the Maroons broke the tape at the end of the line of the 2005 outdoor track and field season.

Four female Maroons competed in the NCAA Division III National Championship meet May 26-28 hosted by Wartburg College.

Third-year distance runner Jessica Winter, competing in the 1500-meter run, had a busy weekend scheduled entering the meet. She was faced with the prospect of preliminary heats on May 26, with a final on May 28 for those who made it through. It was clear at the beginning of the weekend that the competition would be fierce, necessitating increased attention to tactics.

“Everybody in your race is close together, literally and talent-wise. This makes it so that you have to think a lot more than you do in other races. You have to think about where you are so that you don’t get boxed in or trip over other people,” Winter said. “In the preliminary, I almost fell going into the last lap because there were 10 of us in the heat and we were all within a few meters of each other.”

While the tight pack for the closing sprint was an unusual situation for Winter, she was able to adjust and finish in 4:36.88 to move on. In the final, she did not enjoy the same level of success, coming home in 10th-place with a 4:38.62 mark.

“I would have liked to have finished top eight and been an All-American. The time I ran earlier this year [4:35.26 at the Butler Twilight Meet] would have put me in there,” Winter said. “But what with the crowded race it felt like you couldn’t get into a steady pace. You had to keep going to the outside lanes to pass people and then slow down to avoid collisions. Now I’ll know better next year. I’ll just lead the whole thing.”

Winter, who entered the meet with the seventh-fasted time over 1,500 meters in Division III and currently holds the second-fastest time ever for a Chicago woman in the event, was bidding for her second All-American certificate in three national championship meets. She finished off her season with All-UAA honors in hand, thanks to a second-place finish in the 1,500-meter run at the UAA championship meet April 24. She was also named UAA Athlete of the Week April 12 for her 4:38.80 performance in the event at the Chicagoland Championships.

The only other individual qualifier was first-year sprinter Nofi Mojidi, who ran a 25.16-second 200-meter to make it to the meet. While the national championship meet experience will hopefully prove valuable, the results were not quite up to Winter’s par. She ran her heat in 25.49 seconds in her May 26 heat, missing the final by 0.41 seconds.

Mojidi also competed in the 100-meter and 400-meter dashes over the course of the season. She, too, earned a league Athlete of the Week honor, with hers coming April 19 for her 25.34 mark in the 200-meter dash at the Wheaton Invitational. The award was the first of her career, despite consistent solid play at guard for women’s basketball in the winter. She is the All-Maroon voters’s pick for Rookie of the Year.

Fulfilling head coach Chris Hall’s goal for the season, the 1600-meter relay team was also in action May 26. The squad, consisting of Mojidi and teammates fourth-year Stephanie St. Clair, first-year Cynthia Lin, and second-year Trina Rulhand, also fell just short of the final, crossing the line in 3:56.31, 2.12 seconds off the pace required to move on.