SPORTS

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April 24, 2007

Peaches and dashed dreams for track

Coming off of heartbreaking results at the indoor championships last March, both track and field squads entered UAAs with a burning desire to set the pace. Unfortunately, neither of Chicago’s teams could go the distance.

After being painfully edged out by Wash U just six weeks ago, the women’s squad found itself nipped once again by the Bears. This time, Chicago’s top rival took first with 221 points, with the Maroons finishing with 199.5 in Atlanta this weekend. Looking to build upon a disappointing fourth-place finish at indoors, the men’s side also wound up in a familiar spot as they rolled in behind Wash U, Emory, and Carnegie with 124.83 points.

Eclipsed by Wash U’s seven first-place finishes, Chicago couldn’t match its top opponents’ ability to score on top and to go deep. The Bears frequently put three or more in a top five. Several potential weapons for the Maroons came up short, leaving Chicago with another bitter pill to swallow.

Yet despite a failure to meet its self-set goals, the South Siders can still boast an impressive ranking and a hat trick of individual champions, not to mention a victorious relay team for the women. Chicago found two of these victors on the field, where first-years Claire Ray and Nicole Murphy made a strong statement about the future of Maroon throwing.

Making the second-place throw in the discus preliminaries, Ray stepped up in the finals, blowing away competition and shattering an 18-year-old UAA outdoor record with a toss of 43.91 m. The launch landed far enough to garner a NCAA provisional qualifying slot. Ray also picked up points with a fifth-place finish in the hammer throw. Murphy matched Ray’s victory with her own in the shot put (12.41m) and also placed fourth in discus to snag more points for the Maroons.

Rounding out the trio of victors, fourth-year Nellie Movtchan cleared her nearest rivals by more than two seconds in the 400-meter hurdles before teaming with fourth-year Trina Ruhland and third-years Cynthia Lin and Myra Collins to win the 4x100-meter relay.

Injured for much of the winter season, Ruhland had hoped for a more triumphant return to the UAA scene than this single gold. Seeming to epitomize the Maroons’ difficulty in topping the podium, she was narrowly edged in several races as she struggled throughout the weekend, often posting faster times in her preliminary rounds.

Lin was also deprived of an individual medal, placing third in the 200-meters and running up in the 400-meters after winning the same event at indoors.

Across the gender line, injuries and close calls left Chicago just short of the bronze slot, as the men fell six points behind Wash U’s 131.33. Getting silvers instead of golds from the Maroons’ four runners-up could have been the difference, as third-year Zach Rodgers took second in the high jump, triple jump, and long jump, while classmate John Anderson fell a meter short in the shot put.

Clinching the men’s sole first-place finish, first-year Blake Obuchowski ran a blazing 10.82 seconds in the 100-meter dash to fall just hundredths of a second short of an NCAA qualifier. The rookie still has several weeks to accomplish the feat with three meets left on the schedule before Nationals May 24–26.

The clear standout in Chicago’s distance department without fourth-year Brian Hague, classmate Emil Bojanov managed a third-place finish and a NCAA provisional qualifying time in the 1,500–meters. Despite being plagued by injuries in his final season, the Bulgarian native was just seconds behind his personal record in the event. Bojanov’s return to the peak of his abilities had been seen as a virtual necessity for the Maroons to break out in the UAA rankings.

Clearing the same distance as he did at indoors (4.15 meters), second-year Seth Satterlee watched Emory’s third-year Jordan Knight sneak past him in the pole vault rankings. Satterlee fell to the third spot in UAA standings after edging out Knight last month for second.

Despite each team’s static rankings, there are signs of something great on the horizon for both squads. Although winter UAAs come mostly as another stop on a long season with a focus on team improvements, the outdoor marks the beginning of intense preparation for individuals eyeing a shot at NCAAs. The host of marginal losses and silver finishes over the weekend suggests that a couple of track members stand on the cusp of a breakout.