May 19, 2014

NCAAs on the horizon for Bennett, Dobbs, Hickey

Last week’s contest at Naperville marked the final meet of the season for both the Maroons’ men’s and women’s squads before the year’s apex of competition in Delaware, OH, where the Division III National Outdoor Championships will begin this Thursday.

Although no Chicago athletes took first place at the Last Chance Meet, the South Siders tried to make the most of the opportunity, either by holding onto the hope of qualifying for Nationals or by tuning up for their already guaranteed spot.

Second-year Michael Bennett chose the latter, as he is preparing to compete in the pole vault this weekend.

“My goals last week were just to get some more practice in a competition setting, have fun, and don’t get hurt,” Bennett said. “I didn’t have a spectacular day, which was a bummer, but discovered some things I can adjust before Nationals. I had a few technical issues at North Central, which was good to discover now before I go to Ohio.”

Bennett ultimately finished in a four-way tie for second place with a jump of 4.67m.

First-year Michelle Dobbs, who had already secured a spot in the 800-meter, was there to help her team attempt to qualify for the 4x400-meter as well.

“Last week our main goal was qualifying for Nationals with our 4x400 team,” she said. “Unfortunately we didn’t quite run what we needed to, but our team is still happy with how we competed Friday night.”

Dobbs still felt that running the 4x400-meter and 400-meter, both of which left her with personal bests, was a good warm-up for the coming weekend, especially with regard to the conditions she experienced in the relay. She did not run in the 800-meter.

“Running in such a race was a good way to stimulate the nerves, pressure, and crowding that will likely occur this coming weekend,” Dobbs said.

Both athletes also noted the brisk temperatures they faced in Naperville.

“North Central’s biggest challenge was the weather. It was supposed to be 40 degrees, although we got bailed out by having it moved inside,” Bennett said.

Bennett acknowledged that Nationals would be very different, as he will be competing at the hottest point of the day, where the temperature is expected to be in the 80s.

“I’m not too worried, though, because I tend to jump well in hot weather,” Bennett said. “In pole vault you have a lot of downtime between jumps, and I need to not overthink things during the meet.”

Dobbs was also most concerned with staying focused going into Nationals.

“I will likely be concentrating most on staying calm and confident in the high-stakes preliminary round,” Dobbs said. “My physical training is done by now, so it’s up to these mental factors at this point.”

Three Chicago athletes have qualified for Nationals: Dobbs, Bennett, and second-year Brianna Hickey will compete, with Hickey having qualified in the 1,500-meter. All three Maroons will begin what is expected to be an intense three-day competition at Ohio Wesleyan University, at 11 a.m. Thursday morning.