Fourth-year Tom Haxton took top individual honors at the UW-Parkside Invitational this Saturday, beating the field of 225 runners for his second outright victory of the season. Haxton finished the eight-kilometer course in a time of 25:36, easily outpacing second-place Preston Grey of Cornerstone University who finished in 25:50.
Haxton lead the men's cross country team to a second-place finish overall. The University of Whitewater edged out the Maroons by a mere 5 points, scoring 65 points to Chicago's 70. Chicago soundly beat Whitewater earlier this year at the Division III Challenge on September 20.
Second through fourth runners for the Maroons also performed well. Fourth-year Patrick Sullivan ran what was easily his best race of the year to finish seventh in a time of 26:23. Second-year Teage O'Connor raced well, as he has all season, to finish 13th in 26:46.
The race of the day belonged to third-year Sam Jacobson, who also had the best race of his season, finishing 15th with a time of 26:57.
"I could see Teage [O'Connor] the whole race, but I just couldn't get enough of a surge in to catch him," joked Jacobson.
What the Maroons clearly lacked on Saturday was a strong fifth finisher. Cross country races are scored by adding up the place numbers of a team's top five finishers. The team with the lowest total wins the race. Though the Maroon's top four finishers scored well, their fifth man, second-year Pat Hogan, finished 34th, with a time of 27:32. If the Maroons hope to advance to the NCAA Division III National Meet they will have to close the gap between their fourth and fifth runners.
Head coach Chris Hall agrees.
"Our only flaw today was the lack of a fifth man. We had a 35-second gap from fourth to fifth. This was our meet to win, and for the most part a pretty good day, but someone has to fill that gap," Hall said.
The meet was nonetheless a strong showing for the Maroons. They now begin what Hall calls the "championship time of year" with the UAA Championships on November 1, the Midwest Division Championships on November 15, and, should they advance, the Division III Championships on November 22.
"Whitewater may be the team we need to beat, along with Washington University and Eau Claire, to advance to the NCAAs. Even though Whitewater beat us today I feel like that won't happen again," Hall explained. "Last year they beat us in this meet, and we came back at regions to beat them by over 80 points."
"Eau Claire is still running well, but Grinnell beat them by 54 points today, and we beat Grinnell a week ago," Hall said.
If the men's team improves significantly before regional meet as well as it has in pervious year, the last advancing position at the regional meet is ripe for the taking.
Hall was cautiously optimistic about the upcoming conference championship meet.
"I am looking forward to UAAs and seeing if we can win back-to-back titles, but Wash U is going to be tough to beat. This is our time of the year," Hall said.
In the women's race, third-year Erin Steiner finished seventh to lead the Maroons to a fourth-place team finish. Steiner covered the 5K course in 18:47. She was followed by second-year Jessica Winter, 19th in 19:18.
The Maroons then had a strong pack, starting with second-year Annie Sanders, 42nd in 19:49; third-year Emily Kay, 47th in 19:52; fourth-year Darcy Flora, 52nd in 19:56; and third-year Dilshani Perera, 53rd in 19:56.
Indiana Wesleyan University won the meet easily with 84 points. University of Illinois at Chicago was second with 114, DePauw University was third with 164, and the Maroons were right behind with 167.