Coming off two early season wins, men's cross-country went into the Brismann-Lundeen Invite reaching for the skies. Little did they know the air quality was working against them.
The 17th-ranked Maroons racked up 126 points to finish third in a field of 32 at Rock Island Friday, behind 10th-ranked Augustana (58) and 16th-ranked Wheaton (91). While the squad defeated such quality opponents as Wisconsin-Stevens Point (130) and Grinnell (148), coaches and runners alike were aiming a little higher.
"Frankly, we went in looking to win this meet," head coach Chris Hall said.
Third-year Emil Bojanov was the first man across the line for the team for the second time this year, running 25:09 over 8,000 meters to finish twelfth among collegiate runners. He trailed meet winner Greenville fourth-year Josh Martsolf by 26 seconds.
Fourth-year Teage O'Connor (24/25:27), third-year Brian Hague (25/25:28), first-year John Ascolese (30/25:33) and second-year Ryan McCarl (35/25:37) filled the other scoring positions for Chicago. The 28-second gap between Bojanov and McCarl was the smallest between the first and fifth runners this year, the best mark of the season thus far.
Chicago was hurt by the failure of fourth-year Pat Hogan to finish the race. Hogan, who had finished third for the team in both previous meets, led the way for the Maroons through the 5,000 meter mark, but suffered what was likely a pollen-induced asthma attack and was forced to pull out. Coaches do not anticipate this incident recurring.
"It hasn't happened in the past three years, and it hasn't been a problem in practice. It's on an island in the middle of the Mississippi in September, that's when it's going to happen," Hall said.
Their finish led Chicago to a nine-place fall from a program-best eighth-ranked standing in the Division III polls.
The team next competes tomorrow at the prestigious Loyola Lakefront Invite in Chicago.