Having solidified their top 25 positions this week, the men's and women's cross country teams travel to Rochester, NY, looking to dominate at UAA championships.
The 15th-ranked men, favored to come out of this race as conference champions, face serious challenges this weekend from Carnegie Mellon (19th nationally), NYU (23rd), and Washington University (25th last week). With one of their deepest programs and most successful seasons in school historytheir ninth ranking earlier this year was a school recordthe Maroons are looking to stick to their game plan at UAAs.
"It's going to be a tremendous test for us, but if we run the way we have been leading up to this meet I feel pretty good about our chances of winning the UAA title," men's and women's head coach Chris Hall said.
Throughout the season the men's team has done a great job of running close together as well as running hard, helping them to win two meets and finish second and third in two others.
The 25th-ranked women are expected to finish third behind 14th-ranked Washington and 17th-place Emory. Though injuries have kept some of the team's top runners out, the leadership of third-year Jessica Winter and the underclassmen's progress could create an upset.
"It's going to be difficult for our team to move up into the top two with a couple of highly ranked teams in front of us, but I've got great confidence in the character of this team and feel we will begin to move back into the national spotlight this weekend," Hall said. "Chances are we will finish third, but we should put pressure on the squads in front of us."
For the first time since mid-September, the women will be competing at full strength. Nagging injuries kept fourth-year All-American Erin Stiener (calf), fourth-year Emily Kay (hip and foot), and second-year Al Robertson (hip) from running together most of the season, and the women are excited to play their true hand this weekend.
The last time Chicago raced against Wash Uthe men's and women's main rivalwas at the September 18 University of Wisconsin-Whitewater D-III challenge. An example of their superior depth, the men defeated Wash U despite the Bears' top runners taking first and second place. The women finished second behind Washington, losing 76-48. Having raced two thirds of their meets with incomplete rosters, it remains to be seen what a complete team can do.
Chicago's strategy will be to work together and run in packs to take advantage of the small race. With at most 80 people running in each race, a group of five passing even a single person could make a huge difference point wise.
"I'll bring the turkey if you bring the bacon," said a highly spirited Emily Kay, happy to get back into the rotation.
In their biggest meet of the year, Chicago is looking to race for each other, and race to win.