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November 2, 2004

Men's cross country earns top UAA laurels

Though it wasn't easy, men's and women's cross country accomplished their goals last weekend at UAA championships. As expected, the men won the conference and the women finished third, but adverse conditions caused problems for both teams.

Jerome Tharaud led the Chicago charge, finishing fifth overall with a time of 26:23.5. Sludging through the wet conditions wasn't easy for the favorites. "The mud, humidity and long stretches of pavement made this the toughest course we've run on this year," said Tharaud, who earned first-team All-UAA honors for the race.

First-year all-star Ryan McCarl—expected to finish in the Maroons' top five—collapsed from a heat stroke after four and a half miles. No ambulance was present on site, forcing McCarl to wait more than 20 minutes for one to arrive. It remains questionable whether he will be running in regionals on November 13.

Hampered by the messy conditions and the unexpected illness, the men beat rival Wash U by only one point, 59-60. Though the point difference could have come from anywhere, the Maroons particularly benefited from the trio of third-year Teage O'Connor (26:44.3), second-year Brian Hague (26:45.8), and third-year Pat Hogan (26:54.1) finishing 10th through 12th.

The women's top runners also struggled on their 6k course, with runners dropping out. Scoring 106 points, the women trailed both Wash U (22) and Emory (36).

After making an attempt for first place, third-year Jessica Winter faded and ended up finishing 13th (24:37.5), behind second-year teammate Dilshanie Perera, who finished eighth with a time of 24:07.5. Second-year Vidthya Abraham (28:18.0), a key runner for the Maroons, suffered from an asthma attack, and second-year Al Robertson was forced to stop because of hip pain.

Despite all of the problems, the women still finished in a solid third place. "Each of us knows that the other members will put their best effort into every race," said Perera, who earned second-team All-UAA honors along with Winter. "It is unfortunate that members of this team were battling previous injuries as well as the conditions of the day, but the fact that they still ran strong races is amazing."

Fourth-year Erin Steiner was the Maroons' most pleasant surprise, finishing in 24:43.6 after a frustrating month of calf problems and two-a-day pool workouts. Steiner, an All-American last year, could play a key role at regionals as she continues her recovery.

Although both teams hit a few snags along the way, the men and women were impressed that they could meet expectations even when not on their top game. The men in particular did an impressive job holding off Wash U.

"Well, we went out there and attacked with a fierceness not seen since the days of Julius Caesar. Damn near lost one comrade," O'Connor said. "Truly an epic performance."

In two weeks, cross country competes against Wash U and others in regionals.