SPORTS

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March 10, 2009

Wash U dominates as Maroons claim third

One year after claiming its first conference championship, a repeat title wasn’t in the cards for women’s track and field, and so third place and four NCAA qualifiers will have to do.

Competing in the Big Apple at the UAA–championship meet hosted by NYU, the 16th-ranked Maroons took third place, as 10th-ranked Wash U ran away with its 10th indoor title and 22nd-ranked Emory finished second. The Bears won with 138 points, while Emory had 113.5 and Chicago put up 99.5.

“The team felt a little disappointed afterwards,” said third-year thrower Claire Ray. “Both sides wanted to place higher than we did, but at the same time we were not discouraged. Outdoor conference is in the end of April and we are feeling more determined than ever to perform well there.”

Both Wash U and Emory boasted four individual UAA titles out of the meets’ 16 events. The South Siders claimed three individual winners: Ray and Nicole Murphy in the weight throw (16.74 m) and shot put (13.96 m), respectively, and second-year Stephanie Omueti in the 200-meter dash (25.41 s). Ray and Omeuti rounded out their podium-topping performances with other high finishes: Omueti placed second in the 55-meter dash (7.39 s), while Ray’s third-place showing in the shot put (12.74 m) helped give the Maroons a 1-2-3 finish in that event.

Murphy’s weight throw and Omueti’s 200-meter time both set UAA records.

Other standout performances came from second-year Kristin Constantine, who was second in both the weight throw (16.15 m) and shot put (12.94 m), and second-year Moriah Grooms, the pole vault runner-up (3.17 m). Between Ray, Murphy, and Constantine, Chicago’s throwers put together a stunning 44 points, nearly half of the team’s total. Only two athletes from all other UAA schools were able to best a Maroon thrower over the weekend, when Murphy took fifth in the weight throw.

In other areas, though, the South Siders simply weren’t as dominant. Wash U hit the Maroons hard in the distance events, where the Bears came away with 32 points to Chicago’s 10. With second-year Liz Lawton out for much of the year, the Maroons’ long-range scoring relied largely on fourth-year Rachel Venezia, who turned in a third place showing in the 5,000-meter (18:06.86) and a fifth-place finish in the 3,000-meter (10:24.74). Emory, meanwhile, took advantage of the short track events, where Omueti’s impressive performances weren’t enough to stop the Eagles from scoring 31 points in the 55- and 200-meter dashes.

“Wash U has always had a strong team and it seemed that they scored in every event,” Ray said. “Even if those points weren’t in the top places, they add up. Emory has produced a very strong track team this year. They had a much better sprint and distance squad than they had last year.”

Despite the failure to come away with a second-straight victory, Chicago’s consolation prize is a solid roster of athletes headed to the NCAA indoor track and field championships in Terre Haute this weekend.

The quartet of NCAA–bound Maroons, all first-timers at indoor nationals, showcases the strength of Chicago’s throwing. Murphy will represent Chicago in the weight throw, while Ray and Constantine will both compete in shot put. All three throwers have been breaking the provisional-qualifying standard throughout the season, and all three did it once more for good measure in New York.

“Our throwing program is becoming a strong force not only in the conference but now nationally,” Ray said. “It’s good to see that all the hard work we put into practice and lifting is paying off.”

Rounding out the group, first-year Paige Peltzer, who was third in high jump at UAAs, will represent the Maroons in the same event in Indiana.

While these four athletes are preparing for the national stage, Saturday marked the end of the indoor season for the rest of the squad. The Maroons kick off outdoor action April 4, when they host the Ted Haydon Invite.