The men's and women's track and field teams opened their 2003 indoor season Friday with a home meet at Henry Crown Field House. Even though the meet was primarily an inter-squad affair, the lack of other schools currently in session, the level of competition and the quality of the performances were by no means lacking, though the Maroons won the meet.
The win can be attributed to the number of quality recruits that head coach Chris Hall was able to bring in for this year, his second at the helm of the University's cross country and track and field squads, a year that has already seen the men's cross country squad win the UAA title with eases.
But expectations are higher this year than last, and higher for this season than any other. This is because the men's squad is the defending UAA indoor champion, a fact only given more weight by the ease of the cross country squad's victory and the quality and sheer number of Hall's new recruits.
Once again the squad's scoring power lies in the distance events. Here the Maroons are lead by third-year Tom Haxton, who, coming off his sixth-place finish at the Division III cross country nationals, is favored to win both the 3,000 meters and 5,000 meters at this year's UAA championships, and improve upon his ninth-place finish in the 5,000 meters at the 2002 Division III indoor national meet. Here also the Maroons have third-year miler Patrick Sullivan, the returning UAA 1,500-meter champion, as well as fourth-years Peter Bugg in the three- and five-kilometer races and Tim Tuff in the 800-meter run and both 4 x 400 and distance medley relays.
The Maroons' expectations in the sprinting and field events lie in the persons of third-year Babak Yousefian, fourth-year Ryan Ramio, and second-year Greg Morgan. That is not to forget third-year Adeoye Mabogunje, the defending UAA champion in the high jump and the ninth-place finisher in that event at the 2002 Division III indoor national meet, who will be looked to for points in the long jump and triple jump as well as in the high jump.
All were in fine form this Friday, with perhaps Yousefian looking the sharpest. Yousefian won both the 55-meter hurdles in a time of 7.85, and the long jump, in which he reached 6.25 meters. Mabogunje also looked on the ball, winning the triple jump easily with a distance of 13.27 meters. And Sullivan made the biggest impression of the distance runners, winning the 1,500 meters in a fantastic time for such an early-season meet, 3:59.18, only a scant two seconds off the provisional qualifying time for this year's Division III national meet.
The event of the day, however, was the 3,000-meter race, which featured almost the entire talented men's distance squad, most notably Tom Haxton and Peter Bugg. Also appearing in the race were alumnus Jerome Tharaud, a Division III national qualifier in both the outdoor 5K and steeplechase a year ago, as well as GSB student and former professional runner Scott Anderson, a sub-4 minute miler in his prime.
The race separated early, with Tharaud leading a pack that included himself, Haxton, Anderson, and Bugg. Bugg fell off the pace at the mile mark, leaving Tharaud leading Anderson with Haxton slightly behind the two leaders. The race proceeded in this manner until about the 2,000-meter mark, at which Anderson assumed the lead from Tharaud. At this point, the two leaders separated themselves from the third-place Haxton. Tharaud and Anderson then vied for position over the final half-mile, but it proved to be Anderson's day as he easily outdistanced Tharaud with his miler's kick to win in a time of 8:36.2 with Tharaud following in 8:41.86. Haxton eased up over the last thousand meters to jog in for the third place position with a time of 8:53.78 and Bugg finished fifth with a personal best time of 8:59.09.
Expectations for the women's team are also soaring, but while the men are expected to win the UAA title, the women are merely expected to make the greatest improvement in the UAA. This expectation should be helped largely by the presence of a sprinting squad, something the women, while strong in the distance and field events, prominently lacked a year ago.
However, the women's greatest strength will still lie in the distance and field events, most notably in the persons of second-year Erin Steiner in the three- and five-kilometer races and third-year Valerie Anderson in the shot put and weight throw. Also expected to make large contributions in the distance events will be fourth-year Clarisse Mesa, third-year Niki Voelkel, and first-year Jessica Winter.
Anderson proved herself up to all expectations Friday, winning both the shot put and the weight throw handily, both with a distance of 13.63 meters. Steiner won the 3,000 meters just as easily in a time of 10:39.12 to outdistance teammate Mesa, who finished second in 10:59.4.
Winter beat out Voelkel to win the 800-meter run in a time of 2:31.44 to Voelkel's 2:33.59, and second-year Mary McGrath was the surprise victor in the 1,500-meter run with a time of 5:18.11.
Third-year Jessica Gatto finished second in the 400-meter dash with a time of 1:03.65 and ran a leg of the winning 4 x 400 meter relay squad, which beat out the squad from Cornerstone University with a time of 4:21.69. The squad also included fourth-year Jelena Pantel and first-years Kristen Hamilton and Jessica Winter
Both men's and women's squads will race again this Saturday at the Titan Relays in Bloomington, Illinois.