"I'm not God, but I was pretty sure that we were going to make it to nationals," said second-year Brian Hague of men's cross country.
Although the Maroons couldn't guarantee their predictions before the starting gun at Saturday's Midwest Regional Championship in Rock Island, IL, they certainly delivered. The men's team qualified for nationals by finishing third in the 8k race behind UW-LaCrosse and North Central College. The women's team, which ran a 6k course, finished 11th.
The top five runners for the Chicago men's team finished in the top 36 to earn 128 points. That total was enough to lift the Maroons past rival Wash U by more than 80.
Cool competitivenesscrucial against aggressive opponentswas one factor that helped Chicago earn a berth in the NCAAs.
"I got a couple 'bows thrown at me, I got knocked around a bit around the corners, and someone stepped on me, but I just laughed to myself and kept going," Hague said.
"The guys did a great job of rising to the challenge of knocking off seven other nationally ranked teams," Hall said.
It has been over two decades since the men's cross country team made an appearance at the NCAA Division III championships. The last team to compete at nationals ran in 1977.
"I've received e-mails from alums who ran for Chicago several years ago congratulating this team for finally qualifying," said top finisher Jerome Tharaud (24:38.7). "One of them said we've done what every men's cross country team for the last 20 years or so has wanted to do."
The women's team didn't qualify, but had solid runs. Second-year Dilshanie Perera finished first for Chicago at 22:07.3.
"She had what I would consider her best ever collegiate race," Hall said. "She fought until the last 100 meters for the last individual qualifying position in the women's race."
Perera reflected on her team's efforts with satisfaction."I am extremely proud of all of the members of this team. Despite setbacks due to injury, we've had a great season, primarily because everyone brings her best to practice everyday," said Perera of running without fourth-year Erin Steiner (tibia stress fracture).
Next week the men race in Colfax, WI, for a shot at the NCAA Division III crown.