Heading into the UAA championship last season, head coach Chris Hall and the Maroons saw themselves in the midst of a tight four-way race for the conference crown, but a close fourth-place finish left Chicago eager to climb the ranks in the 2008 season.
“I don’t think we accomplished everything we had hoped to at the beginning of the season…but there wasn’t a big difference between first and fourth,” Hall said.
Despite a disappointing finish for the team, the UAA championship featured six Maroons posting All-Association scores, including four of whom will return this season.
Coach Hall views his team as one of the strongest overall in the UAA and predicts that the team’s solid balance will be a major factor in Chicago’s drive for a conference championship.
“We didn’t lose a whole lot [from last season],” Hall said. “Our strength is the fact that we’re a balanced team. We’re capable of scoring in every event.”
New faces will be abundant for the South Siders this year, as 28 first-years have joined the team’s ranks. However, 23 returning upperclassmen have Hall firmly believing in his squad’s stability. The Maroons’ strong core of second-years, including 100-meter conference champion Blake Obuchowski, will also look to put strong points up for the team’s younger half.
Chicago’s greatest weakness this season may be out of its hands.
With Carnegie Mellon, Emory, and Wash U placing just ahead of the Maroons at last year’s championship, Hall predicts competition to remain tight among the four top finishers.
However, with the season beginning Saturday, Hall said it remains to be seen whether the other conference contenders have added extraordinary talent to their rosters.
WHO TO WATCH: ZACH RODGERS & BLAKE OBUCHOWSKI
Zach Rodgers: This fourth-year jumper placed second in the high jump, triple jump, and long jump last season at the UAA championship, gaining All-Association honors.
Rodgers set the pace for indoor competition in the triple jump on last year’s conference leader board, posting a best of 13.72 meters. He also topped the list in the long jump in the outdoor season with a best of 6.78 meters.
Blake Obuchowski: Obuchowski returns to the track this season after taking the 100-meter crown at last year’s UAA championship. His time of 10.82 seconds at the championship meet set a high for any conference competitor all season.