[img id="80361" align="alignleft"] With UAAs looming large on the horizon, Chicago track and field had one last tune-up before the big dance at the Margaret Bradley Invitational on Saturday.
Pounding down their home turf in Henry Crown, the Maroons easily dominated the competition, taking home top team finishes on the men’s side with 171 points and for the women with 169.33. While the weekend’s competition may have offered both squads more ego boosts than formidable foes, Chicago managed to clean up in several respects as a number of Maroons advanced their ambitions to compete with the best of the best in the DIII, while their teammates geared up for what could be the Maroons’ strongest conference meet in recent years.
“It was a really mixed bag in terms of goals for this meet,” head coach Chris Hall explained. “Some of our athletes had national standards to think about, others were concentrating on moving up in the conference. We feel that we are in the position to win UAAs, but only if we have a really great day. The goal for everyone was to get through Saturday and come out feeling confident and prepared for conferences, and I think we did that this weekend.”
Fourth-year Appie Hirve bounded 11.52 meters to clinch first place, set a new program record, and move into the sixth spot in the national leader boards, also qualifying for a provisional spot at nationals. First-year Jacob Solus followed suit on the men’s side, leaping 14.04 meters into the top spot and potential NCAA contention in the triple jump. Hirve, Solus, and second-year shot-putters Claire Ray and Nicole Murphy currently constitute Chicago’s provisionally qualified contingent.
“This weekend, Appie broke a record she set at last year’s national meet, “ Hall said. “So, we’re fairly confident that she’ll compete at Nationals. Jacob, Claire, and Nicole are all on the bubble. They need to keep jumping and throwing farther to make sure they end up at NCAAs.”
Despite benching several top performers for much needed pre-championship R&R, both the men’s and women’s squads landed impressive finishes on the track and in the field.
Third-year Herman Reeves followed up a gold medal effort in the 200 meter (23.06) with a second-place finish in the 55 meter (6.64). First-years Brian Andreycak, Patrick Kane, and Harry Backlund led the 55-meter hurdles (8.10), 800 meter (1:59.00), and mile (4:20.69), respectively. In the field events, fourth-year Zach Rodgers nabbed highest honors in the long jump (6.79) while third-year Seth Satterlee pole-vaulted 4.57m to command the top spot and a new program record.
On the women’s end, Chicago dominated the sprints as first-year Stephanie Omueti took the 55 meter and 200 meter in 7.42 and 26.20 seconds, fourth-year Cynthia Lin grabbed gold in the 400-meter dash (1:00.47), and the Maroons’ 4x400 (4:16.88) snatched the top spot. First-year distance phenom Liz Lawton reserved her place at the top of the podium with a 5:20.30 mile.
As the indoor season draws to a close and conferences lie just around the corner, Hall is optimistic that track and field’s upward trajectory will continue throughout the next few weeks. If all goes according to plan, Chicago could easily cap off the 2008 indoor season with UAA pennants for the Maroons
“We have had only one disappointing meet so far this season and it was our very first competition,” Hall said. “Ever since then, both the men and women have done a good job of consistently improving every week.”
Hall points to Saturday’s meet as evidence of what he believes will be Chicago’s decisive competitive edge when track and field heads to Cleveland in two weeks.
“It’s easy to point to NCAA qualifiers, because they are the obvious successes,” Hall said. “But, to win conferences, you need to have those consistent second and third place finishes. I think this weekend definitely demonstrated that we have people to fill those roles, all we have to do is show up and perform.”