February 5, 2008

Sports Shorts 2/5/08: Distance runners pace track

In a meet that saw a number of close runs against D-I foes as a pair of opposing athletes passed NCAA automatic qualifiers, men’s and women’s track and field kept up the quick pace set by both squads two weeks ago.

Saturday’s Chicago Duals marked the first competition for the Maroons since both sides finished at the front of the pack at the Phoenix Invitational January 19. With Henry Crown crowded by 10 teams, the meet was scored as a series of dual meets, as the men went 7–1 against their opponents and the women rode their depth to a perfect 9–0. The men topped the podium in four events, while the women were narrowly muscled out of the top slot three times by D-I DePaul.

With second-year Bill Cheng the only sprinter to take gold after clocking at 6.62 in the 55-meter dash, distance runners set the tone for the men. Outlasting the opposition, first-year Arthur Baptist completed the mile in a swift 4:27.71, and the distance medley relay teamed up to post a 10:39.99 to secure first place with five seconds to spare.

The most dramatic race of the day, however, went to fourth-year Ryan McCarl in the 3,000-meter run. He jumped out to a big lead from the starting gun, and no one could come close to him as he maintained an even pace and crossed the finish line at 8:44.64. He was working on catching his breath when the runner-up came in at 9:05.80.

For the women, the only gold came from the “A” distance medley relay’s 13:08.30. Rookies Stephanie Omueti and Liz Lawton, along with third-year Rachel Venezia, led the way for the Maroons in the rest of the events, with all three surrendering first place to the Blue Demons.

Omueti trailed second-year Shuana Lurey by a step in the 200-meter dash, finishing in 26.61 and one-hundredth of a second behind Lurey’s time of 26.60. Lawton ran another photo finish for Chicago with a 5:23.89 in the mile to stay hot on the heels of first-year Stephanie Hughes’s 5:23.75.

Things weren’t quite as close in the 3,000-meter run with second-year Terah Cheatham’s 10:18.41 setting a huge gap, but Venezia managed to edge in front of a close pack of runner-ups. Her 10:48.40 beat out the third- and fourth-place times of 10:50.19 and 10:53.68.

Maintaining her reputation as a powerhouse thrower against any kind of competition, second-year Claire Ray scored some big points for the women, coming in second to Monique Bostert of UIC in the weight throw and taking fourth in the shot put. Rookie Kristin Constantine came away with a bronze in the shot put, setting a personal record with a shot of 12.06 meters.

With the runners taking care of business on the track, the Maroons had to battle steep competition in the field events. Two visiting athletes walked away with automatic bids to Nationals, with fourth-year Mike Bina from North Central matching the 5.06-meter standard in the pole vault and Goldstein Okafor from Chicago State passing the 14.64-meter cut in the triple jump with a leap of 14.76 meters. Giving the men’s best effort, first-year Jacob Solus went the distance to take third place in the triple jump. Fourth-year Appie Hirve lead a wide field attack from the women, earning valuable points with a second in the triple jump and third in the long jump.

From here, the South Siders will hit the road for the Illinois Wesleyan Titan Open Saturday as they inch closer to UAAs in Cleveland March 6–7.