In what was supposed to be a meet where individual glory gave way to the good of the team, third-year Patrick Sullivan nearly stole the show. At the UAA Conference Championship held this past weekend at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, Sullivan smashed a 13-year-old UAA record, running 1,500 meters in a stunning time of 3:51:11.
The men as a whole did not finish quite as spectacularly, amassing 131 points to earn a respectable third place among the seven-team field. Washington University's 231 points made them runaway UAA champions. Emory University also finished ahead of the Maroons with 157 points.
At last year's championship in Atlanta, the men came in second place while the women came in last. This past Sunday, in a happy turnaround, the women finished second, while the massive corps of Washington steamrolled to a 127-point margin of victory, more than doubling Chicago's 121 point total.
As has been the trend all season, the women distinguished themselves most in the throwing events. Third-year Valerie Anderson, named last Tuesday as the UAA athlete of the week for her All-UAA caliber performance at the Millikin University Invitational, won the hammer throw and the shot put and was the runner up in the discus. Both her victories were convincing. Her mark of 45.83 meters in the hammer throw was more than 2 meters better than her nearest competitor, and her throw of 11.31 meters in the shot put also effectively turned that competition into a fight for second place.
Though it is her weakest event, Anderson almost pulled out gold in the discus as well. Seeded fifth, she was first coming out of the preliminary round, but Carnegie Mellon's Alina Carron unleashed a monster throw in the finals to make Anderson's excellent mark of 35.84 meters only second best.
The 28 points Anderson scored were more than any other female competitor and accounted for nearly a quarter of the 42-member Chicago squad's total output.
Yet Anderson was only one of several Chicago woman to earn All-UAA honors. Fourth-year Meghan Cosgriff-Hernandez took second in the hammer throw with her qualifying mark of 43.20 meters, fourth-year Jalena Pantel qualified with her second place 25.75 second time in the 200-meter dash, and first-year Sarah Eldridge's high jump of 1.57 meters was good enough for both All-UAA's and third place.
Washington University was expected to dominate on the women's side, but the Wash U men came from out of nowhere. Chicago head coach Chris Hall, who had expected the indoor champions Emory to come out on top, was left trying to account for his miscalculation.
"[Washington] showed a lot more team depth than what we were prepared for," Hall said.
But as well as the Wash U men performed, none could match the dominance of Chicago's Sullivan. The temperature was a warm 65 degrees, and there was little wind on Sunday when Sullivan burst out with a 59-second opening quarter mile and a 63-second second lap. Still, the pack hung with the favorite until the final 600 meters. Sullivan then opened up a 5-meter gap and was on his own the rest of the way, crossing the finish line in the third quickest time run in Division III this year. Canton, New York, the site of the national Division III meet which will be held in late May, now awaits.
Joining him there will be his roommate, third-year Tom Haxton, who qualified for the national meet in the 10,000-meter run earlier this season, and, over the weekend, won both that event (15:04.68) and the 5,000 (31:52.17) with relative ease.
Third-year Adeoye Mabogunje hopes to make it to Canton as well. That should happen in the triple jump, which he won Sunday with a hop, skip, and jump of 14.20 meters. Mabogunje also competed in the long jump and high jump. In what he called his most "consistent performance so far this year," he placed second in the high jump, clearing the bar at 1.91 meters.
Over the next few weeks, those who believe they have a chance to qualify for nationals will try to improve upon their best marks at various invitational meets. But the national meet is a long way off. For most Chicago track and field athletes, this past weekend was the highlight of the season
Said second-year Emily Kay, who earned 3 points for her team by finishing sixth in the 800-meter dash in a personal best time of 2:20.43: "Our team was out there around the track helping cheer, watching our jumpers and throwers. The team atmosphere rose to a new level for the competition--it was awesome."
Chicago's next meet is the Butler Twilight Invite this Friday in Indianapolis.