Autumn is great running weather (crisp air for breathing and dried leaves for crunching), and it looks like the men’s cross-country team is going to make the most of this season.
Last year, the Maroons finished 10th in their region, but this is a new year, and they are a different team.
“This year’s roster has put in way more work this summer than any team I have been a part of here in Chicago,” commented fourth-year Nick Nunez. “We have more people who have committed to higher mileage over the last summer than before, and I think that has translated to a team that is much more focused on accomplishing big things this year.”
The team’s first meet was the Elmhurst Earlybird Invitational on September 3, and despite widespread dissatisfaction with their performance, the Maroons took second place, beating out 15 other teams. Leading the charge were: fourth-years Arthur Baptist and Nunez; third-year Brian Wille; second-year Wyatt Jones, Gregor Siegmund, and Billy Whitmore; and first-year Dan Povitsky.
“I was actually pretty disappointed in the way we executed that race,” said Coach Hall, “we got out a little too quick and did not race together.” Nevertheless, Coach and athletes alike see that race as a good learning experience.
For one, the team needs to “focus on running and working together,” observed sophomore Brian Wille. As Coach Hall explained: “A number of people feel that cross country is more of an individual sport because you can have some success on your own, but the reality is if you are going to be competitive in this conference and this region you have got to be fully committed to racing as a group.”
The second meet of the season gave Chicago more reason for optimism for the season, as the Maroons took five of the top seven places at the Aurora Invitational on September 10. Baptist took second place, with four of his teammates trailing less than 10 seconds behind.
The first US Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association polls set the Maroons at 10th in the region, the same spot as they finished the 2009 campaign. Since the Maroons ended last season in that spot, some may think that this ranking indicates the resiliency of the team, despite the loss of seniors.
However, Coach Hall does not put much stock in early-season rankings: “The early season rankings are fun and can create bulletin board material, but they actually mean nothing.... Personally, I like to think we are closer to seventh in the region than 10th.”
While there may be disagreement over where in the rankings the Maroons stand, everyone agrees that “qualifying for NCAA’s is the definite goal for the season,” first-year Dan Povitsky said.
After two weeks of rest, the Maroons will return to action for the Loyola Lakefront Invitational on October 2.