SPORTS

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April 23, 2002

Track and field dominates at UAAs in Atlanta

Hello. A simple word, yet when pronounced with the correct accent-Eastern European, of course-it takes on a meaning and significance of far greater scope than a simple exchange of salutations. Put mathematically:

E(d-size|Uchicago|)>E(d-size|Emory|)

What this equation demonstrates is the obvious correlation between the track & field at Chicago and the Chicago in the track & field. That correlation being that the Chicago men's and women's track and field teams are the closest examples for Nietzsche's little-known and untranslated writings on "the next generation of athlete."

Now take that same team and place it in Atlanta, Georgia for three days, heat well with the Southern climate, and the most probable result should be an Outdoor UAA Conference title. For after winning the Indoor UAA title hands down, the men's team came into this weekend's UAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships as heavy favorites.

Yet the Maroon men managed only a second place finish behind host Emory University who scored 179 points to Chicago's 155.5 in a repeat of the team results a year ago. But while the second place finish in 2001 had been relished and celebrated, this year the silver had an undeniable bitter aftertaste. In spite of the disappointing team finish there were several high points and several heroes as Chicago dominated the distance races, highlighted the jumping events, and had several strong finishes in the throws and sprints.

Fourth-year Keith Mastronardi, second-year Adeoye Mabogunje, and first-year Seyi Oyenuga outclassed all the competition in the jumping events. Mabogunje finished first in the triple jump with a jump of 13.89 meters and second in the high jump with a provisionally NCAA-qualifying height of 2.01 meters. Mastronardi completed his final UAA competition taking second in the triple jump with a distance of 13.61 meters. Oyenuga finished third in the long jump with a distance of 6.65 meters and sixth in the high jump with a height of 1.76 meters.

Second-years Babak Yousefian and Ryan Prassas highlighted the sprints for the Maroons. Prassas finished a surprising second in the 100-meter dash, with a time of 11.26. Babak Yousefian, by far the most versatile athlete, competing in five separate events, finished third in the 110-meter hurdles with a time of 15.27. Second-year Justin Kern augmented their scoring with a second-place finish in the discus with a distance of 41.53 meters.

Tom Haxton and Patrick Sullivan, also both second-years, secured Chicago's strong finish in the distance events. Haxton placed first in the 10,000 meters with a time of 33:29.01 and second in the 5000 meters at 15:20.30, and he did it all coming off a tour de force at Maggiano's Little Italy two nights before. Sullivan finished first in the 1,500 meters, running the race in just 3:56.78 and surviving a shoving match with Emory's George McCleary near the end of the race. He then braved the 5000 meters and finished fifth with a time of 15:42.95.

Fourth-year Jerome Tharaud provided the performance of the meet for Chicago. He began the second day of competition by winning the 3000-meter steeplechase in sportsmanlike fashion. Although he had far more talent than the rest of the field and a 5K race still to come, Tharaud nevertheless pushed the pace to a UAA meet record of 9:18.98, only two seconds short of his personal best.

Less than two hours later, Tharaud again toed the line along with teammates Haxton and Sullivan in one last effort to take down Emory in the team standings, and as a last UAA hurrah after four years as a collegiate distance runner. Haxton broke from the field late and the race quickly strung out with Matt Holle of Washington University and Tharaud in pursuit. With two laps to go it appeared that the race would finish in that order: Haxton, Holle, Tharaud. But Tharaud, perhaps remembering his Indoor UAA 5K Title, kicked shortly thereafter and quickly passed Holle. He continued to increase his pace and drew even with Haxton 200 meters from the finish line. Haxton, knowing full well he could not outkick him, moved out to lane two allowing Tharaud to claim his second title of the day in a time of 15:16.76, completing the sweep of the long distance events for Chicago.

"I couldn't have asked for a better way to finish my last UAA meet," Tharaud later told me. "The heat got to me during the steeplechase, and I was nervous about coming back for the 5k two hours later. But it wasn't really a question: all that work to come back and run again this year wouldn't mean much if I couldn't follow through. Besides, it was fun. Sometimes racing just feels like hard work, but once in a while the race really gets into you and you forget how hard it is. It was great to end with that kind of race."

Second-year Valerie Anderson highlighted a disappointing last place finish for the women's side. Anderson finished second in the hammer throw with a distance of 45.89 meters and fourth in the shot put with an effort of 10.47 meters. Third-year Meghan Cosgriff-Hernan finished in fifth place behind Anderson in the hammer throw with a distance of 35.40 meters.

Fourth-year Caroline Sham ended her UAA career on a high note, finishing sixth in the 400 meter hurdles with a time of 1:10.53 and first-year Margaret Shute finished sixth in the triple jump with a jump of 9.79 meters. The women also had several strong performances from their distance runners as fourth-year Catalina Hoyos finished fifth in the 10,000 meters with a time of 42:28.96 and third-year Clarrise Mesa finished fifth in the 800 meters with a 2:26.76.

Both men and women will look to improve on their performances next year. The attention for the rest of the outdoor track season will now shift to qualifying for the national meet. Three athletes, Tharaud in the steeplechase, Sullivan in the 1500 meters, and Mabogunje in the triple and high jump, have already qualified provisionally but will look to solidify their positions. Haxton and Mastronardi are expected to join them and will look forward to qualifying in upcoming meets, including the Drake Relays, which begins this Thursday.