While first-race jitters were only to be expected for track and field at the Chicago Opener on Saturday, it proved to be hard training and a depleted roster that led to their overall tepid performance.
Despite less than impressive individual times on the track and mediocre distances in the field events, the women managed a second-place finish overall and the men achieved an unexpected victory. The women (152) fell behind the Division I University of IllinoisChicago (156), while the men (140) managed to grab the top team spot ahead of five other squads.
The women did perform admirably in races and field events, collecting points after first-place finishes from fourth-year Jessica Winters 2:21.05 800-meter run, first-year Julia Moriartys 3,000-meter success (11:51.15), and second-year Aparna Hirves in the triple jump (10.24). Third-year Leon Gordon accomplished the most for the mens cause, grabbing first place in the shot-put (13.43) and weight throw (13.23). On the track, third-year Emil Bojanov (8:45.12) ran an exceptional 3,000-meter race, cinching the mens unanticipated win.
I really didnt think winning this meet was a possibility, head coach Chris Hall said. The fact that the men were able to win the entire meet, when a large chunk of our runners were at Taking the Next Step, and those that were there werent performing at their full strength, is an indication of how good our team could be this year.
Despite a dearth of individual top finishes, the mens and womens track teams came away from the Chicago Opener satisfied by their solid, if not stellar, performances.
I think the first race of the season is only fun because at the end of the season you get to look back and see how quickly you improved on that time, fourth-year Teage OConnor said.
Saturday marked the beginning of what could be a very productive season for both the mens distance and womens jumping squads. The womens jumpers lived up to their sterling reputation and offered a glimpse of what might push the Chicago women ahead of arch-rival Wash U at the conference championships. Hirve dominated the triple jump, but performances from first-year Olivia Ndyabagye (third/4.81) in the long jump, second-year Somayeh Jahedi (second/10.05) in the triple jump and fourth-year Sarah Eldridge (third/1.42) in the high jump suggest that last years outstanding jumps team will significantly improve over the course of the 2006 indoor season.
We have amazing depth, Hirve, last years freshman phenom, said. Just so many people who can all be relied on to pull off competitive jumps. Last year, we always dominated the scoring places in jump events, and this year we have even more unbelievably talented freshmen to add to our strength.
Its hard to see that in the performances from Saturday, but I think by championship time itll be evident that we have an unstoppable squad.
The mens distance team made their indoor debut with a solid 3,000-meter run. Faced with one of the most competitive fields at the Opener, the second-place finisher Bojanov, OConnor (third/8:54.88), and fourth-year Pat Hogan (fifth/8:58.27) approached the start with a wealth of experience and a reliable strategy to guide them through their first race of 2006. OConnor, Bojanov, and Hogan formed an impenetrable pack for the first 2,000 meters before Bojanov burst forward to finish just behind lead runner Derek Scott (8:39.81) of Cornerstone University.
Its always terrific having a horde of guys at the line, Hogan said. It almost feels like stepping up to a cross-country start.
The men and women competed with sore muscles from a week of hard training. With only five days of intensive practice under their belts, many freshmen were getting their first taste of collegiate competition, while cross-country runners were facing a jarring transition from open outdoor courses to airless, indoor tracks.
At this point, were training all week long without worrying about meets, Hall said. So it was really great to see our guys run a 3,000-meter race that wasnt just a first-meet-of-the-year-good race, but an excellent indoor performance.
Running indoors definitely takes a real toll on runners, and it takes several workouts and races to acclimate, Hogan said. While we fortunately dont have to take the turns as quickly as the sprinters, you definitely feel them when youre running and in your legs afterwards…The air indoors, our track especially offers a fairly hot and dry environment, and halfway through a 3,000 you can definitely feel it in your throat.
The Maroons will train through Saturdays duel against UWOshkosh, the 2005 womens indoor national champions and their sixth-ranked mens squad.
At this point were more concerned with Monday through Friday, Hall said. Were willing to sacrifice a weekend meet for a hard Wednesday practice. Until conferences we just want to see solid performances and improvement.