Marking the culmination of three years of remarkable improvement, the University of Chicago men's cross country team won its first-ever University Athletic Association title this Saturday at the 2002 UAA Championships at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, New York.
Third-year Tom Haxton took home the top individual honors and was one of four Chicago men to earn All-UAA accolades, as the Maroons rolled, scoring only 47 points in the strong UAA competition, to finishing ahead of runner-up Emory University, which scored 72 points, and last year's champion, Washington University with 80 points.
The title marks the final step in the transformation of a team whose highest finish from the point of the UAA's inception in 1987 through 1999 was a fifth-place showing at the 1995 Championships.
The Maroons then began to improve dramatically under head coach Jim Spivey who saw the men go from a sixth-place finish in 1999 to third place in his final year at the 2000 UAA Championships. He was then succeeded by current head coach Chris Hall, who led the Maroons into the national rankings for the first time ever and to a disappointing, but nonetheless impressive, second-place finish at the UAA's last year.
Third-year Tom Haxton held off Washington University's Matt Hoelle to win the meet in a time of 25:34. Hoelle finished in 25:42. With the victory, Haxton, who had gone into the 2001 UAA Championship meet as the strong favorite only to lose by what was almost 29 seconds, but was actually 21 seconds, to top Brandeis runner Matt Griego, then a freshman, claimed his first UAA Cross Country individual title, the one UAA title that had thus far eluded him in his domination of UAA distance running.
Haxton was followed by third-year Patrick Sullivan, who improved on his seventh-place finish of a year ago to take fourth place in 26:00, and fourth-year Peter Bugg, twenty-eighth at the 2001 meet, who made the biggest improvement on the team to capture tenth place with a time of 26:27.
Paddy White equaled his 2001 performance, finishing 14th once again with a time of 26:37 to snatch the last position on the All-UAA second team, marking his third consecutive appearance on the second team. Haxton and Sullivan, finishing in the top seven, earned All-UAA first team honors, while Bugg joined White in garnering All-UAA second team honors.
First-year Teage O'Connor rounded out the Maroons' scoring five, finishing in 18th place with a time of 26:52. O'Connor was followed by his fellow first-year, Pat Hogan, who finished 22nd in 26:54. Third-years Karl Striepe and Kevin Drake finished 39th and 46th with respective times of 27:39 and 27:49 to round out the Maroons top eight.
O'Connor and Hogan finished with the third- and fourth-fastest first-year times in the meet, a testament to Hall's coaching abilities. These abilities were further recognized by the UAA, as Hall and assistant coach Maggie Brill were honored as the UAA Coaching Staff of the Year in the men's competition.
In the women's competition, second-year Erin Steiner finished tenth, covering the six-kilometer course in 24:01 to earn All-UAA second team honors and to lead the Maroons to a fourth-place finish overall, scoring a team total of 93 points.
Washington University won the event, scoring 47 points to finish ahead of Brandeis with 73 points and Emory University with 76 points.
Third-year Niki Voelkel was second for the Maroons finishing in 16th place with a time of 24:30 and was followed closely by first-year Annie Sanders, who finished eighteenth with a time of 24:36. First-year Jessica Winter placed 24th in 24:57 and fourth-year Clarisse Mesa rounded out the scoring five, finishing in 25th place with a time of 24:58.
The Maroons will race again on November 16 at the Midwest Division III Regional meet at Peoria, Illinois. The men need to finish among the top four teams in the meet to advance to the Division III National meet, while the women will need to finish among the top three teams.