On a mild spring day in Naperville, the Maroons turned up the heat when they were given one last chance to finagle a spot at the NCAA meet.
The Maroons pulled out all the stops at the North Central Last Chance Invitational Thursday and Friday. With the national meet kicking off this Thursday, it was the final opportunity to secure a place in the line-up in Waverly, Iowa. The pressure to perform was intense, but the Maroons delivered.
"I knew I had to get out there and just run," said first-year sprinter Nofi Mojidi. "As always, when the race begins, any nervousness I felt was transformed into a desire to win."
Mojidi provisionally qualified for nationals on Friday with a third-place finish (25.16 seconds) in the women's 200-meter dash. Classmate Appie Hirve met NCAA standards and took first place in the women's triple jump (11.32 meters). Two quartets of Chicago women, the 4x100 meter and 4x400 meter relay teams, ran provisionally qualifying times and finished second in their fields. Other notable performances included fourth-year Annie Yaniga, who stole second in the women's javelin, and first-year Dana al-Meer and fourth-year Emily Kay, who scored fifth-place finishes in the 100-meter dash and 800-meter run.
For the men's team, graduate student Jerome Tharaud and first-year Zach Rogers joined the ranks of NCAA provisional qualifiers with an eighth-place finish in the 5,000-meter run (14:45.85) and third place in the decathlon. Fourth-year Seyi Oyenuga broke through with a strong performance, coming home third in the men's long jump.
Ten Maroons met NCAA provisional standards during the course of the 2005 outdoor season. In addition to Friday's qualifiers, al-Meer and first-year Myra Collins met NCAA standards in the pole vault at UAAs (3.40 meters) and long jump at the Wheaton Invitational (5.50 meters). Third-year Jessica Winter is currently fourth in the nation in the 1,500-meter run. On the men's team, second-year Emil Bojanov garnered a provisional spot at nations during the Butler Twilight Invitational in the men's 1,500-meter run.
In order to race at nationals, an athlete must meet or surpass a specific time, height or distance set by the NCAA. Of those who qualify, only the top 16 will compete at the national meet. Tharaud, for example, met the standard in the 5,000-meter run, but missed placing in the top 16 by seven seconds, and thus will not be on the starting line.
"In one way of course I feel disappointed because my goal for this season and this year was to be an All-American," Tharaud said. "But I recognize that I can only control so much. I took care of what I needed to all year with my training and everything. I'm not sure exactly why things didn't fall into place. I'm disappointed but I'm not disappointed in myself."
The only Maroons guaranteed spots at NCAAs are Winter, who will be making her third national meet appearance and the women's 4x400-meter relay, consisting of Mojidi, fourth-year Stephanie St. Clair, first-year Cynthia Lin, and second-year Trina Ruhland.
With the regular season complete, athletes and coaches can pause and reflect on the year.
"I'm very pleased with the season," said head coach Chris Hall. "To finish the year with 10 national qualifying performances is an all-time high here. Our conference meet went well and I believe our future looks very bright."