SPORTS

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January 15, 2008

Track and field stumbles out of the blocks

Looking to start the season off on the right foot, both men and women’s track sought victories against the highly competitive UW–Oshkosh. Though the Maroons were tripped up before crossing the finish line, they showed promise of hitting their stride sooner rather than later.

On the men’s side, the Maroons were able to grab three first-place as well as three second-place finishes out of the 15 events but dropped to the Titans 100–56. The women fought as hard as their male teammates, but they too suffered a tough loss with a final score of 93–57. On the plus side, the women gained first place on three different occasions and also achieved runner-up in six events.

The dual was the first indoor track meet of 2008 and was very much a learning experience for the Maroons, with the battle between the two universities serving mostly as a measuring stick for the talent on this year’s team.

“I don’t think we really planned on setting or breaking any school or national records,” said injured second-year sprinter and long jumper Bill Cheng.

Cheng wasn’t the only Maroon plagued with the injury bug on opening day. There were several notable injuries for the men, including those of second-years Warren McCauley and Timur Eron. Other athletes weren’t able to make the trip, including all-conference competitors fourth-year Zach Rodgers and third-year Herman Reeves. The panic button shouldn’t be pushed when it comes to the health of the Maroons, however.

“It’s nothing serious, but we didn’t want to take the risk with the injuries,” Cheng said. “But we’ll be ready when the time comes.”

Although injuries hindered the men’s success, the women had a healthy showing with their rookies stealing the spotlight Saturday. Among the first-years to step up and play a big role was Bianca Scott, who was without a doubt the strongest competitor throughout the whole. Scott either achieved a first place or came in as the runner up in all three events she competed in. Her eight points garnered over her three events—the high jump, the long jump, and the 55-meter hurdle—marked the best of any first-year on the squad.

Scott wasn’t the only rookie to pull a stellar performance for the Maroons. Jacob Solus achieved a first-place finish in the triple jump. More importantly, Solus achieved above the provisional standard of 14 meters, landing a leap of 14.25 meters. This sets a high standard for Solus to start off the year and gives the Maroons important momentum to build on for the rest of the season.

“It would definitely have to be Jacob’s jump,” said second-year Terrance Robertson about the defining moment of the day. “This sets a positive tone for the rest of the season.”

Not to be outdone by the rookies, the fourth-years on both squads filled their leadership roles. On the women’s side in the 3,000 meter run, fourth-year Hannah Moots garnered a gold medal finish. Moots legged out a time of 10:59.42, beating the next best effort by almost six seconds. On the men’s side, fourth-year and cross-country Nationals qualifier Ryan McCarl earned a victory in the mile run, crossing the line in 4:33.

“What our team can learn from Ryan is his race day approach and a tough mental attitude to competing,” head coach Chris Hall said of the impact of veterans like McCarl. “Ryan, his teammates, and I have high expectations of what he could do this winter and spring.”

Although losing the opener of the season is tough, UW–Oshkosh is no pushover team, with both its men and women raking in success last year. The men finished third in the country, while the women’s has taken home three national championships in the past four years.

“It’s always intimidating to go up against a team as good as Oshkosh on day one, but a lot of people had great showings and by the end of the day the whole team was pumped up for the season,” Moots said.

Now Chicago must look ahead to Saturday when it hosts the Phoenix Invitational and welcome some of the best that DIII can offer.