The Maroons head to Rochester, New York this weekend for their biggest competition of the season: the UAA Championship.
Last year, the Maroons placed third at the conference meet, losing to NYU and Wash U. This year, the team is looking to take its performance to the next level.
“Our team is right in the thick of it, and our ambitions are high for the weekend,” fourth-year Isaac Dalke said. “We’re out there to fight, to run hard, to mix things up, and to see what happens.”
But this will be no easy task. Five out of the eight teams that comprise the UAA rank in the top 25 in the nation. Currently, the Maroons sit tied with Rochester at 22nd. Wash U, NYU, and Carnegie Mellon all rank higher, with Wash U leading the pack at 10th in the nation.
In order to prepare for the race, the Maroons rested their top eight runners last week. After a long season of races, this rest is crucial to getting physically prepared for the run this weekend.
“The team is currently tapering down; mileage is low and workouts are less intense,” fourth-year Billy Whitmore said. “We are just trying to get enough rest to be ready for this Saturday.”
The Maroons have competed with some of the best runners in the country this year, including the defending national champions at the DIII and DI level—North Central and Wisconsin respectively. However, the South Siders have not yet found a way to come away on top against such powerhouse squads. Two weeks ago, at the UW–Oshkosh Brooks Invitational, the Maroons finished 94 points behind Wash U. While not insurmountable, the numbers are not exactly promising.
In order to defeat their rivals, the team’s top five runners will have to improve their finishes. The top five runners from each team have their finishing places in the race added up. The team with the lowest score wins.
“We are asking ourselves to rise to the level of competition,” Dalke said. “This weekend will be decided by where our fifth man is, not our first.”
Big things need to happen in the main pack for Chicago’s top runners. First-year Henry Blood, second-years Renat Zalov and Kevin On, and third-year Samuel Butler all need to have top races in order for the Maroons to be successful. Two weeks ago at UW–Oshkosh, their times spanned a difference of three seconds, with Zalov running the 8K the fastest of the four with a time of 26:09.01.
There will be no big changes in strategy this week. The Maroons remain confident in their abilities to compete and run the way they always have.
They know what they need to do. Now is the time to deliver.
“We simply have to run ‘our race’,” Whitmore said. “It’s important to remain conscious of the other teams, but we can’t let them dictate the pace.”