April 20, 2010

Track and field hits top gear at Wheaton

The time for mistakes is over. Last Saturday at Wheaton the Chicago track and field team had their final meet before heading to UAAs. Despite competing with with their focus on this weekend’s championship meet, the Maroons still came away with favorable results.

The women took first, defeating Illinois Wesleyan University and North Central College, while the men finished third behind North Central and Central Colleges.

“[I] feel very good about the meet,” head coach Chris Hall said. “We did not enter to do well as a team with UAAs a week away, and still won the women’s meet over the team we tied with for fourth in the country in the indoor season [Illinois Wesleyan].”

Not only that, but both the men and women had several provisional qualifiers. For the Lady Maroons, fourth-year Claire Ray led the team with three first-place finishes in shot put, discus, and hammer throw. Fourth-year Nicole Murphy followed close behind in both shot put and discus. Both Ray and Murphy achieved distances good enough to provisionally qualify for Nationals later on this season.

Third-years Dipti Karmaker and Stephanie Omueti also qualified for triple jump and the 200-meter dash.

Additionally, third-year Lizzy Bright turned in a solid first place performance in the 3000-meter run, a race not held at nationals.

The men were led by the gargantuan leaps of third-year Drew Jackson. Not only did he post a long enough distance to qualify for nationals with his first-place jump, he was declared UAA Athlete of the Week.

Following his lead were three other first-place finishes by second-year Mahmoud Bahrani and first-years Chris Cheng and Eric Villhauer in the 3000-meter run, 800-meter run, and javelin, respectively. The 400-meter relay, consisting of fourth-years Blake Obuchowski, Patrick Offner, Bill Cheng, and first-year Dee Brizzolara, took first place as well.

“Outdoor is a weird season in that we only have three meets leading up to the conference championship, whereas in indoor we had six or seven,” Ray explained. “Especially with throwing, it takes a while to get back into the groove of throwing the different outdoor events (hammer, discus, and weight).”

Ray, however, was pleased with the day’s results. “I think our team did an excellent job. It was nice going against Wash U and seeing what they were made of,” she said. “And of course it’s always nice winning meets!”

In terms of the season overall, however, this meet was less important than the end goal. “I didn’t race a number of people last weekend in preparation for the UAAs,” Hall said. These included third-years Liz Lawton and Brian Andreycak, who should benefit from the rest.

This kind of strategy at this point in a season is fairly typical for the track team. The runners are tapering in practice in order to reach maximum potential in the coming weeks. “Basically, we want to reap the benefits of a lot of hard work by maintaining fitness and freshening up,” Hall said.

“We have switched to lighter explosive power lifts rather than high-intensity and difficult lifting [this week],” Ray said.

This training strategy will hopefully mean a slew of new qualifiers for the upcoming nationals meet.

When asked about NCAA qualifiers, however, Hall was quick to draw the focus back to the team as a whole. “Our focus at the UAA meet will not be on national-qualifying performances, but on competing to win the meet,” he said. “We do have several qualifiers already and expect more will occur at UAAs. But [we] will be focusing on the NCAAs after this weekend.”

For the women, this means looking to repeat their results from the indoor season, and Hall predicts that their greatest competition will come from Emory.

While they defeated Emory last quarter at the indoor UAAs, the Maroons won by just 13 points. In outdoor, different events are scored than in indoor, which could or could not be to their advantage.

The men, on the other hand, have a difficult challenge ahead of them, Hall predicts. “Our men’s team will be in a three-team battle with Wash U as the favorite, and ourselves and Emory very close together,” he said. Looking back to indoor UAAs as an indicator, they came in second, 27 points behind Wash U and five points ahead of Emory.

Other recent Maroon success will serve as inspiration: “Our teams will recognize everything they [women’s tennis] have accomplished and try to live up to the success they had,” Hall added.

Ray has high hopes for the competition. “I think big things will are going to happen in St. Louis,” she said. She’ll be sure to be wearing her lucky headband: “I wouldn’t let anything fly from my hand without it,” she said.

The men’s and women’s teams will head to Wash U this weekend to compete in the UAAs.