Winter doesn't stop those slightly deranged individuals who call themselves track and field athletes from competing, but it does force them to take their sport inside. Chicago's men and women should have a banner year in 2004. Each squad features a number of individuals that could place extremely well at both the UAA Championships and the NCAA Division III National Championships. Moreover, for the first time in school history, each squad has a reasonable chance to capture the UAA team title.
As they have been for the last three years, the men's team will be lead by its three top individuals: fourth-years Tom Haxton and Patrick Sullivan in the distance events, and fourth-year Adeoye Mabogunje in the field events.
Haxton is finishing a running career at the University of Chicago that can be described as nothing less than legendary. During the indoor season last year Haxton captured UAA titles in both the 3K (8:32.27) and 5K (14:38.31), and was seventh at the National Championships in the 5K in a time of 14:38.31.
Outdoors he was the UAA Champion in the 5K (15:04.68) and 10K (31:52.17); was third at the National Championships in the 10K, in a school record time of 30:17; and was sixth in the 5K in 14:33.28.
Haxton is the favorite to repeat as UAA champion in the 3K and the 5K and should be among the favorites for the national Division III title in the 5K.
"Tom will again be chasing the 5K at indoor NCAAs," said head coach Chris Hall. "[He] will be one of the favorites to win the title along with people like Josh Moen of Wartburg, Marcus Murphy of Lora, and perhaps Macharia Yuot of Widener."
Sullivan had a breakthrough year in 2003 in the 1,500 meters, becoming one of the best in Division III. During the indoor season he was the UAA champion in the 1,500 meters (4:00.39), was runner-up in the 3K (8:34.52), and finished fifth at the National Championships in the 1,500 meters in 3:54.01.
Outdoors, he again captured the UAA title in the 1,500 meters, in a UAA record time of 3:51.11, and was also runner-up in the 5K (15:09.67). He then finished sixth at the national meet in the 1,500 meters in a near school- record time of 3:49.38.
Sullivan should again win the 1,500 meter UAA title and, according to Hall, "Patrick too could be one of the top two or three finishers in the 1,500 meters [at the national meet]. Matt Winkler of Williams is the only runner returning that beat him at the indoor NCAAs last year."
Adeoye Mabogunje will be the Maroon's mainstay in the field events, and will also be looking to top national honors.
In the 2003 indoor season, Mabogunje finished as UAA runner-up in both the high jump (2.00 meters) and the triple jump (13.88 meters) and was a disappointing eighth at the National meet in the triple jump (14.16 meters).
Outdoors he captured the UAA title in the triple jump (14.20 meters) and was runner up in the high jump (1.91 meters). He then finished an impressive fifth at the National meet in the triple jump with a mere 13.89 meters.
Mabogunje currently ranks first in the country in Division III in the triple jump with an automatically qualifying mark of 15.15 meters, an effort which shattered his old school record of 14.35 meters. During Saturday's Chicago Pentangular meet in Henry Crown, he broke the record again with an impressive 14.61-meter effort to win the event.
"Adeoye seems to have moved up to another level according to his first meet of the season in the triple jump," said Hall. "He's clearly put himself into the position of favorite as of right now but has a lot of work to do to accomplish that goal. Aside from the triple he could also be an All-American in the high jump."
Even aside from these three, the men should have one of its strongest teams in school history, perhaps better even than the team that captured the UAA team title in 2002, and should look, again, to be UAA Champions in 2004.
Among those returning this year are four-year Babak Yousefian, the indoor UAA Champion in the 55-meter high hurdles, with a time of 7.84 seconds; third-year Seyi Oyenuga, second in the long jump (6.57 meters), fifth in the 55-meter high hurdles, and seventh in the high jump (1.85 meters) indoors last year; fourth-year Justin Kern, third last year in shot put; and third-year Brian Eichhorn, one of the top returning pole vaulters in Division III.
The women's team, as well, should be among the favorites to capture the UAA title. Having finished second to Washington University last year, the Maroons may finally have the depth they need to dethrone the Bears.
Leading the Maroons in this quest should be fourth-year Val Anderson. A Division III Nationals qualifier during the indoor season in 2003, Anderson captured the UAA title in the weight-throw (14.66 meters) and was also third in the shot put (11.00 meters).
Along with Anderson, third-year Erin Steiner and second-year Jessica Winter should lead the Maroons in the distance events. Steiner, and All-American in cross country already this year, was fourth in the 5K (18:05.82) and seventh in the 3K (10:38.33) in indoors last year. And Winter impressively captured the UAA title last year in the 800 meters in 2:17.93, a provisionally-qualifying time for the National meet, and should be among the best in Division III in that event in 2004.
Also returning for the Maroons will be second-year Gabrielle Jones who was second in the long jump (5.17 meters), fifth in the 200- meter dash (27.72 seconds), and sixth in the triple jump (10.09 meters) in indoors last year. Competing along with her will be third-year Obi Onochie, fourth in the 55- meter dash (7.68 seconds) and third-year Karin Hong, fifth in the triple jump (10.22 meters).
Next weekend the Maroons will compete in the Titan Relays in Bloomington, Illinois. Their next home meet will be January 24 on the second level of the Henry Crown Fieldhouse; events begin at 11:30 a.m.