Chicago track and field will have its first official meet of the season this Saturday, hosting the Phoenix Invitational. Eight teams are expected to compete, ranging from club level to DI.
The South Siders began practicing early in fall quarter in preparation for what they hope will be a very successful season. With the graduation of dominant figures in Chicago track and field history, such as sprinter Dee Brizzolara (A.B. '13) and distance runners Billy Whitmore (A.B. '13) and Julia Sizek (A.B. '13), there are a lot of deep holes the Maroons will need to fill. However, with a promising incoming class and some star-studded returners, the Maroons do have the talent to make noise this year.
“I feel that both teams are very complete and will be competitive within the UAA and our regular season meets,” head coach Chris Hall said.
At the end of last quarter, the Maroons held an inter-squad meet to see where they stood as a team. The results looked encouraging. Second-year Michael Bennett would have set a new school record in the vault had the meet been official, and did set a new meet record of 4.75m, defeating his own previous record of 4.41m. He also would have qualified for nationals with that height according to last year’s national rankings. Other strong performances came in the triple jump from third-year Pam Yu, who has been recovering from injuries over the past year, and from second-year Mikaela Hammel, who set a meet record of her own in the uncommon 300-meter run.
“We [also] have returning UAA champions in [second-year] Nkemdilim Nwaokolo in the shot and weight throw, [third-year] Semi Ajibola in the high jump,” Hall said.
In addition, a strong cross country season holds promise for the distance runners. With both the men’s and women’s teams having made the national championship last quarter, the distance runners look as good as ever. Fourth-year Dan Povitsky led the men’s pack throughout the fall and should do the same this winter. Second-year Catt Young earned All-American honors in cross country and will attempt to replicate that feat for the indoor track season.
“A number of [distance runners] appear to be ready for a good track season. We had a number of top runners from the fall,” Hall said. “Expect all of them and more to have wonderful track seasons.”
The Maroons’ largest concerns for the meet this weekend will include conditioning and injury. Some athletes find conditioning difficult to maintain over long breaks, despite workouts throughout the time period. Numerous members of the team fell prey to injury last year, and staying healthy will be key to a successful season.
“This meet is a starting point,” Hall said. “We really want to know what we have to work on and the early season meets show us where we are at. As coaches, we need to see where everyone is in terms of fitness, etc., so we can get a good gauge on how to train them moving forward.”
The Phoenix Invitational will start at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday and will be Chicago’s only home meet until February. Additional details, such as event times, will be posted later in the week on athletics.uchicago.edu.