October 14, 2008

Cross country sees mixed results as men tune up, women grapple with sickness

Six weeks ago, cross country head coach Chris Hall probably would have been excited with this weekend’s performance at the UW–Parkside Invitational Saturday afternoon.

A split men’s team finished third in the 5K race and ninth in the 8K, helping the team’s top runners tune up for the season’s home stretch.

Even after ten days away from competition, however, sickness left the women’s team depleted once again, and a ninth-place result left Hall and his team impatiently waiting for a complete performance as the year’s most important meets approach.

“It’s beginning to get a little bit frustrating,” Hall said. “The team just hasn’t shown up on the same day this year. They haven’t been able to put all the parts together on the same weekend.”

Missing second-year Liz Lawton, first-year Rachel Ohman, and first-year Allison Klooster, the women’s depth faced a tough test against a field of mostly scholarship schools.

“If we run without three of our top four, that’s about what we could do,” Hall said. “I wouldn’t have gone into the season thinking that would be a successful meet.”

Still, Hall pointed to several positives for a team that was missing such integral parts. Fourth-year Rachel Venezia stepped up for the Maroons once again, pacing Chicago with a time of 19:02 on the 5K course and earning a 15th-place finish. First-year Jane Simpson followed Venezia, placing 45th with a time of 19:40.

“Had [Simpson] been our fifth…we would have looked outstanding,” Hall said.

Third-year Catherine Stolar, first-year Becky Durling, and fourth-year Julia Moriarty closed out Chicago’s scoring.

Chicago now has the week to prepare for the UW–Oshkosh Invitational, and Hall is hoping that his squad will finally get over the sickness that has plagued numerous teams on campus for the past few weeks so that the Maroons can demonstrate their full potential.

“Where it affects us is, we have a lot of young athletes…and they don’t understand how good they’re capable of being,” Hall said. “Until we post a performance on the same day, there’s always the question, are we capable of doing some pretty neat things, and it’s going to be hard to just flip that switch.”

The men, meanwhile, overcame the same type of illness that affected both teams at the Loyola Invitational earlier this month, putting together a strong performance in a very narrowly decided race.

Finishing just seven points out of first place in the 5K, the men raced most of their top runners in the shorter competition, while the 8K competitors still placed first among D-III teams.

“Overall, I was very pleased,” Hall said.

In the 5K, fourth-year Chris Peverada and Arthur Baptist finished fifth and sixth, with first-year Briane Wille, third-year Alex Garbier, and first-year Moe Bahrani finished 11th, 12th, and 13th.

Running the 8K, fourth-year David Yu earned 39th place overall with a time of 27:11. Fourth-year Max Working, second-year Jim Mumford, fourth-year Dan Gardner, and second-year Chris Mendez filled out Chicago’s top five for the longer race.

“The men’s team is coming together a little bit better,” Hall said. “We were running against a bunch of NAIA schools, and they’re scholarship schools, and we held our own.”

Despite the women’s roster troubles, Hall is looking forward to the Maroons’ performance at Oshkosh, as it will be one of the first times this season that Chicago will race mostly D-≠≠III competition.

Still, Chicago will meet some of the top teams in the nation, including second-ranked Calvin and fifth-ranked Wash U on the women’s side and second-ranked Calvin and fifth-ranked Carnegie Mellon for the men.

“It’s going to be a fun meet,” Hall said. “It’ll be fun to see how we match against them.”

For the men, Oshkosh will be a final tune-up for the UAA meet on November 1.

“I’d like to see our team running with more confidence this weekend,” Hall said, adding that he hopes for a top three finish at the UAA meet that follows in two weeks. “You want to get better, you want to move up, and we have the abilities to place that high.”

The women, meanwhile, will look for a complete performance in their final opportunity to improve for the meets that really count.

“We still have thoughts of getting to the postseason, but we’re not quite there,” Hall said. “We’ve got to run a lot better in order to get that.”