Despite severe snowstorms that prevented Augustana from participating, the men's and women's track and field teams managed to heat up Henry Crown at the Chicago Invitational Saturday.
Even before the first event, fourth-year captain Dave Barr was raising the temperature by putting head coach Chris Hall's philosophy of high spirits yielding individual success into practice with a fire-and-brimstone speech. "I knew if I went in the huddle and went a little crazy, the team would respond. I lit a spark, but the team knew what it needed to do and was ready to erupt," said Barr following the daylong meet.
In the end both teams finished fourth out of a challenging field of six teams, including Division I opponents Valparaiso and Chicago State. The men scored 106 points, placing them only 10 points behind first-place Valparaiso (116) and two points behind Chicago State and St. Joseph's (tied for second with 108). The women also finished in the mix with 102.5 points, finishing within 20 points of second place St. Joseph's but far behind Valparaiso's 214. However, the standings were not the only place the Maroons were looking for results. Both teams fought through fatigue and competition, and were able to successfully establish a tempo for the year early in the season.
"I do pay attention to [team scores]," Hall said, "but not to the point where we will try to win a meet in January versus preparing for our conference championships in March. I do think our team is tired, but this weekend we decided to rise up a notch emotionally in the meet. This weekend our team as a whole prepared just a little better."
Despite intense early-season training, Chicago pulled off several noteworthy performances on the day. Third-year middle-distance runner Jessica Winter won the women's 3000-meter run with a time of 10:28.63, the fourth-fastest time in program history, in only her second attempt at the event. One of the team's leaders on cross-country this fall, Winter finished 12 seconds ahead of Valparaiso first-year Rachael Button.
Second-year sprinter and hurdler Mike Doll had good performances in the 55-meter hurdles (sixth, 8.29 seconds) and in his leg of the 4x400 (team finished fifth). While Doll was pleased by his personal success, he was far more impressed with the team's progress. "[My] performances were good for early in the season," Doll said. "The same can be said for the whole team. We had a strong early season meet, a good step towards our goal of winning UAAs."
Both distance medley relay squads won their final heats, with the men finishing in 10:37.68 and the women in 13:02.54. Maroon distance runners easily dismissed their opponents in the men's 3,000-meter run. Post-graduate student Jerome Tharaud (8:44.19), and third-year Teage O'Connor (8:48.47) finished on top, lapping the competition multiple times in the course of the race.
Characteristic of this season's team, a star first-year led the women in the field. Cynthia Lin finished third overall in the triple jump with a distance of 9.72 meters, narrowly beating fellow first-year Somayeh Jahedi.
Fourth-year Stephanie St. Claire stood up for the veterans, delivering a strong fifth-place performance with a 1.53 meter high jump.
Second-year Leon Gordon once again led the men in the throwing events, placing fifth in the shotput with an impressive 13.38-meter throw and ninth in the weight throw (13.35).
While the results so far are extremely promising, Hall said that these performances are only a taste of things to come. "This is truly exciting since we know the performances will get significantly better when we back off [the rigorous training program]," he said.
The teams host their second meet in a row, the Chicago Off-Distance Meet, 5 p.m. Friday at Henry Crown.