Ah Naperville! Classic Midwest. Painfully neat brick and plaster houses, cheerfully painted in blue-boy blues and alpine-leaf greens. Little ugly gnomes menacingly guard meticulously manicured lawns. And small children bang their soft little fists on the hard surface of the Jay and Dot Buikema Track at North Central College, creating a decibel level rivaling that of several small northern African countries (under lights of course). And this past Friday and Saturday host to the Chicagoland Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
The event also marked the first time that North Central College has hosted a track and field meet at Jay and Dot Buikema Track without the presence of the track's sign that reads "Jay and Dot Buikema Track": the sign now resides in the living room of my apartment.
The performance of the meet came from fourth-year Jerome Tharaud in the men's 3,000-meter steeplechase. Much like the Western Civ sequence and political science B.A. papers, Tharaud proved himself too tough for anyone to handle. He won the race going away in a time of 9:17.99, a new school record, and a time that places him third overall in the nation in the event and earns him UAA Athlete of the Week for the second time this year.
When asked about the race and his national ranking, Tharaud responded, "Being ranked third is kind of unreal, but it's also very gratifying. The steeplechase is kind of a gamble. The pace is slow compared to other races, so you can always push harder, but then you risk being too tired to clear the barriers by the end. If I miscalculate, I'll smash my knee and that'll be it. I was better this week at negotiating that, but I think I can go faster. If you put me on the line with the top two, it would be a good race."
Tharaud's time provisionally qualifies him for the Outdoor Division III National Championships in the steeplechase. However, Tharaud will have to run the automatic qualifying time of 9:08.40 to secure a spot in the meet.
The team's top distance runners, second-years Patrick Sullivan and Tom Haxton squared up against one-another in the men's 1,500-meter race. From the gun, the two opened up a large gap on the rest of the field prompting early speculation of a one-two finish for the Maroons. Moreover, of course, the question was raised: would Haxton, the gutsy pure distance runner from the tough streets of Seattle suburbia be able to cut down the gangly miler Sullivan in his own backyard? Bets were quietly laid yet all for naught as Haxton fell off pace with 100 meters to go and finished fifth in 4:00.17 while Sullivan held on to win easily with a time of 3:57.99
Second-year Adeoye Mabogunie continued his impressive unbeaten outdoor campaign, winning the high jump (he won the triple jump last weekend) with a height of 2.01 meters. Third-year Tim Tuff looked impressive through the whole length of the 800-meter race, finishing fourth with a time of 1:56.25. And second-year Babok Yousefian finished fifth in the 110-meter high hurdles in a time of 15.75.
Fourth-years Keith Mastronardi and Sean Phelan rounded out the scoring for the Maroons. Mastronardi finished fourth in the Triple Jump with an effort of 13.44 meters and Phelan finished fourth in the hammer throw with a distance of 41.98 meters.
On the women's side of things, third-year Britt Lundgren certainly provided the most interesting, perhaps even heroic, performance of the meet. Running the women's 3,000-meter steeplechase for the first time, she finished fifth and set a school record with a time of 13:08.55 despite tripping early on and cutting her knee open.
Lundgren later commented, "Yeah, my knee bled. But it was worth it. Pain is only temporary. Yet glory is the hurt that never heals."
Second-year Valerie Anderson had the highest finish for the women's side placing second in the hammer throw with a distance of 44.54 meters. Third-year Diana Valos finished third in the pole vault with a height of 2.75 meters. And first-year Karin Hong finished sixth in the triple jump with a jump of 10.40 meters.
The women's distance runners continued to look impressive, especially in the longer races. Fourth-year Catalina Hoyos and second-year Amanda Parrish placed sixth and eighth respectively in the 10,000 meter race, Hoyos finishing in a time of 41:12.31 and Parrish right behind her in 41:46.21. First-year Erin Steiner placed fourth in the 5,000 meter race with a time of 18:19.00.
Head coach Chris Hall said of the meet, "We had some outstanding performances at Chicagolands highlighted by five school records. Valerie Anderson in the hammer, Karin Hong in the triple jump and Britt Lundgren in the steeplechase for women. Adeoye Mabogunje in the high jump and Jerome Tharaud in the steeplechase for men. While we have a number of those outstanding out-front performances, what we really need to do to contend for the UAA title is for the athletes who have a shot at scoring sixth-, seventh- and eighth-place finishes to begin to perform a little better. I'm sure as the weather improves they will perform at a higher level."
The men finished sixth overall in a field of 15 teams while the women finished 11th in a field of 15 teams. The Maroons next race is the Cardinal Classic, this Saturday, again at North Central College in Naperville.