In the waning days of winter quarter, for the first time in a year, University of Chicago varsity athletics competed. As the pandemic has ravaged life as we have known it since last March, games for UChicago athletes can seem like an insignificant victory. But they also represent a light at the end of the tunnel, a sign that we can—and will—return to a semblance of normalcy. Baseball and softball both took to the mound on March 12. Women’s lacrosse kicked off their season on March 13. Track and field competed on March 27. Now several weeks into their seasons, student-athletes are shaking off the rust and adapting to competition in a pandemic after 12 months on the sideline.
The UChicago baseball team sits just north of 0.500 with a record of 5–4. The team has relied on its offensive firepower, exploding for eight home runs and an average of 8.56 runs per game. Outfield-player Payton Jancsy has slugged 0.625 to complement a team-high 10 runs batted in (RBIs), while third-year Carson Weekley boasts two home runs, nine RBIs, and a 0.303 batting average. Second-year pitchers Tyler Sarkisian and Michael Allegri have shouldered the pitching load, each earning the most starts at three apiece and touting earned run averages of 1.42 and 2.53, respectively. The baseball team will lean on its veteran presences, including all-conference performer Brian Lyle, to navigate the remaining 26 games. While the status of NCAA championships is uncertain, the team is striving to claim the Midwest Conference crown, which barely eluded them in 2019.
Looking to incorporate new and returning talent, the softball team has struggled early this season, recording two wins against seven losses. The team had a challenging slate to start the season, facing off against perennial stalwarts in Calvin, UW–Whitewater, Carthage, and Carroll eight times in their first 13 games. Third-years Samantha Lauro and Maddy Mudrick have paced the offense, both hitting 0.414. Third-year catcher Katie O’Donnell has anchored the young pitching core of first-years Delaney Choi and Delaney Romanchick and second-year Elizabeth Press. While certainly not the start that they had envisioned, the softball team has the upperclassman experience to finish out the last 22 games in impressive fashion. Without a conference, the Maroons will hope that a second-half turnaround is enough to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA postseason, where the program last appeared in 2017.
The lacrosse team has wasted no time racing out to an undefeated start. Poised to finish first in their conference, the Maroons have rolled through Hamline, Northern Michigan, and Aurora. Their average margin of victory? Eleven goals. This dominance has come from a balanced attack and a stout defense, directed by second-year goalkeepers Emily Feigen and Kat Berritto. Six players on the team have accumulated at least eight points this year, while 16 total have contributed either an assist or a goal. Third-year defender Adriana Shutler has collected a team-high 10 ground balls and second-year midfielder Charlotte Rapp has nabbed 10 draw controls. After finishing second in their conference during the program’s inaugural season, the lacrosse team has the experience, depth, and talent to sweep through their conference and make a compelling postseason run.
At their first and only meet of the season so far, both the men and women’s track and field teams finished second in a field of seven. First-year runner Maddie Kelly notched victories in the 800-meter and 1500-meter, while first-year thrower Molly Laumakis won the shot put and discus. The women’s 4x400-meter relay also claimed the top spot. On the men’s side, fourth-year Kiyan Tavangar won the 1500 meters, second-year Jabari Owens won the 800 meters, and first-year Renato de Angelis won the 110-meter hurdles. First-year Alex Lee was the top finisher in the high jump, and fourth-year Ted Falkenhayn nabbed the triple jump. UChicago will seek to capitalize on a strong debut in their next meet at the North Central College Invite.
The NCAA has yet to announce any modifications to the NCAA postseason for DIII, but, after cancelling fall and winter championships, there is uncertainty about their status. In the meantime, UChicago student-athletes will seek to capitalize on the seasons they are having. Each of these teams has higher aspirations, especially after being sent home last year just a few games into the season.
Of course, pandemic precautions abound. The stands are noticeably empty, save for the cardboard cutouts of parents, dogs, and other select members that “cheer” on the lacrosse team. Mask-clad figures populate the sidelines and appear on the field, in the batter’s box, and on the mound. Players sit more than six feet apart on buses to and from away games, likely inspiring nostalgic remembrance of crowded and sweaty seating. The fate of every game and practice hinges on continual negative testing and sufficient social distancing. But, regardless of these steps, we can celebrate that, after a long winter, spring is here, and the Maroons are back.