September 30, 2005

Women's cross country rocks at Rock Island

Facing their toughest competition yet, women's cross-country picked up their stride in a big way.

The Maroons had a break-out day at the Brismann-Lundeen Invite Friday, finishing second out of the 27 teams that made the trip to Rock Island. Their total of 65 points was a mere five behind meet winner Olivet Nazarene, and gave them a huge gap over much of the field. Most notably, Chicago finished far ahead of two then-ranked teams, beating 22nd-ranked Wheaton by 64 and 21st-ranked North Central by 203.

"I was surprised not by the fact that we finished second, but by how much we finished second," head coach Chris Hall said. "I don't know if those teams just had bad days, or what, but we were very pleased by the results."

The Maroons placed six runners in the top 25. Fourth-year Jessica Winter led the way, finishing third among collegiate runners in 21:35. She was 15 seconds behind Olivet Nazarene second-year Bethany McCoy. Second-year Dilshanie Perera came in seventh at 22:10, followed by fourth-year Annie Sanders (12/22:26), third-year Vidthya Abraham (19/22:42), third-year Jackie Kropp (24/22:51), and second-year Hannah Moots (25/22:52).

Olivet Nazarene nipped the Maroons by scoring runners at first, fourth, 14th, 20th, and 21st. Their sixth and seventh runners finished far behind the team, at 42nd and 66th.

"The gap is nothing. That's about two seconds better on average per runner than us," Hall said.

The race was the team's first at 8,000 meters of the season. The Maroons had previously beaten out eight opponents to win at 3,200 meters at the Elmhurst Earlybird Invitational September 3 and had finished third of eight at the Norseman Invite at 5,000 meters.

The result earned the team its first appearance of the season in the Division III national polls Wednesday, securing 18th-place standing. They received 59 points in the poll, just behind Nebraska Wesleyan (68) and Ithaca (63).

The Maroons next compete at the Loyola Lakefront Invite tomorrow in Chicago.