Close, but not quite was how it went for Chicago in 2007. Despite fielding a squad that boasted a number of UAA individual champions, the Maroons had to settle for second at the conference meets, as perennial power Wash U took home team championships in both indoor and outdoor track for the eighth year running.
Though the team as a whole came up short, several individual Maroons came up big at the conference and national levels. Then-first-year Nicole Murphy grabbed the gold in the shot put at the UAA indoor meet and reprised that performance in the spring, while then-third-year Nofi Mojidi finished first in the 55- and 200-meter dashes at the indoor meet.
At Nationals, then-second-year Rachel Venezia came in 15th in the steeplechase and 2007 newcomer Claire Ray took sixth in the discus. For her efforts, Ray garnered All-American honors and captured the UAA outdoor track Rookie of the Year.
As the squad prepares to open its season tomorrow in a dual meet against UW–Oshkosh, the Maroons are counting on their balance and consistency to give them an edge.
“Our goals really center around the conference championships,” head coach Chris Hall said. “There are 18 events at the UAA meet. You can’t rely on any one or two events, and we have a well balanced program.”
The team should remain competitive in short-distance events, as fourth-years Myra Collins and Cynthia Lin return from the 4x100-meter team that finished first at last year’s UAA outdoor meet. Chicago hopes to complement such proven talent with an influx of promising underclassmen.
With so many athletes returning, the cupboard will hardly be bare this season, but there will be some noticeable gaps to fill. Nellie Movtchan (A.B.’07) took first in the 400-meter hurdles at last season’s UAA outdoor meet. Classmate Trina Ruhland finished third in the 100-meter dash in the same meet, and third in the long jump and 200-meter dash in the indoor meet.
Any other problems the Maroons have will become clear early on, as the South Siders face one of the season’s toughest tests this weekend. The Titans have won three of the last four national championships in indoor track and are expected to contend for the title again this season.
WHO TO WATCH: NICOLE MURPHY & CLAIRE RAY
Murphy, the UAA indoor track Rookie of the Year, combined with Ray for three gold medals in last season’s league showdowns, and they figure to build on the success of their first seasons. The Maroons will need more strong outings from the second-years if the team is to finally get over the hump and knock off Wash U for a conference title.
“We’ve got some really fine young sprinters that will add a lot to what we had a year ago,” Hall said.