October 30, 2009

“Unreal” competition awaits cross country at UAAs

There will be no zombie costumes for the Chicago men’s and women’s cross country teams this Halloween. The outfits they will be donning tomorrow at the UAA Championship in Cleveland are tailored more to running fast than to getting candy from strangers.

Still, the competition the men are facing at the conference meet is downright scary, with NYU and Emory shaping up to be the dominant teams this weekend.

“NYU, Emory, and Wash U are huge factors, but this conference is unusually deep. We’ve discussed how we can be anywhere from third to seventh, depending on how good we are feeling,” third-year Nick Nunez said. “This is just an unreal field of runners, and with the exception of NYU and Emory, no one is safe.”

The men had a few injuries earlier in the summer, but through head coach Chris Hall’s training, the team seems to be feeling fit as a pack of werewolves.

“Every race thus far has gotten progressively better for us as a team. At the last invite, over eight kilometers we only had a 38 second gap from our first to our fifth runner. We didn’t have that small a split over six kilometers in the first race,” second-year Moe Bahrani said. “Our workouts at this time of the year are a lot faster and shorter too, so we’re all feeling very quick and fresh and prepared to run well.”

The men have set their sights on third place, but finishing that high will require that the team maintains its depth.

“We need a strong fifth man, and two guys ready to take over in case anything happens out front,” Nunez said. “We need to be confident in ourselves, get out ready to fight for five miles, and we need each member of the team to realize we are doing this for everyone out there and back home. Our fifth man should ideally be around 30th place.”

Before tomorrow’s meet around, it’s almost impossible to say which teams will come away with a treat, and who will go home feeling tricked.

“The UAA conference is full of good runners, and it is difficult to predict the outcome of the race because we have run on different courses, in different weather conditions, throughout the season,” third-year Jim Mumford said. “That we are facing such a talented field is part of what makes this race so exciting.”

The women are also up against tough competition.

“Wash U and Case are significantly higher than us in the rankings right now,” third-year Erin Cary said. “We’ll be running closer to teams like Brandeis, NYU, and Emory. Ideally, in front of them.”

This season, the women have suffered from some unfortunate injuries.

“[Third-year] Liz Lawton, who was our top runner at the beginning of the season, is out with a calf injury,” Cary said. “[First-year] Julia Sizek, one of our top five, is cross-training and awaiting the results of a bone scan, and [second-year] Jane Thomason, who was running consistently in our top 10, is also injured.”

In spite of the injuries, and in the face of daunting competition, the women are confident that their training will serve them well. The Maroons are feeling sharp at this point of the season, and are hopeful that they’ll leave their competition looking like a pack of slumbering zombies.

“Case Western is our biggest competition,” Sizek said, “and we hope to approach them and give them a Halloween scare at the meet.”