January 24, 2006

Unit successes not reflected in track team scores

The Chicago Invitational at Henry Crown on Saturday was business as usual for men’s and women’s track and field. Still reeling from a long week of workouts, the Maroons dug deep and delivered some excellent individual performances despite lackluster team scores.

While the men—led by national provisional qualifier third-year Emil Bojanov—dominated the distance races, they only managed a third-place finish overall with 64.5 points. The women’s jumpers and throwers cleaned up in their events, yet stood fifth in a six-team field with only 70 points, most of which came from first-year Olivia Ndyabage’s multi-tasking.

“Team scores are fun,” head coach Chris Hall said. “But in track and field the only times they really matter are at conferences and nationals.”

Major contributors to the Maroons’ cause included fourth-year UAA Athlete of the Week, Jessica Winter, who chased down Valparaiso first-year Laura Rolf in the 3,000-meter run to slip into first in 10:13.27, an indoor time that ranks second behind only 3,000-meter national champion Rhaina Echols (A.B. ’00) in program history. The women’s distance medley relay dominated a particularly weak field as third-year Jackie Kropp, first-year Lauryn Nwankpa, third-year Ali Robertson, and first-year Missy Graham—all fatigued from a long day of competition—managed to sail into the winning spot in 13:20.58, 29 seconds ahead of second-place Augustana.

The women’s jumps squad made a strong showing with first-year Olivia Ndyabagye stealing the top spot in the long jump with a 5.26-meter mark, just .01 meters ahead of Augustana first-year Suzanne Udehn (5.25 meters). Second-year Myra Collins took third in the same event jumping 5.17 meters, while classmate Appie Hirve gave a solid, second-place performance in the triple jump bounding 11.08 meters, just shy of the provisional standard. First-year Tiffany Hosten rounded out the field events shot putting 11.08 meters for a third-place finish.

On the men’s side, third-year Emil Bojanov took the 800-meter (1:59.41) and the 1,600-meter runs (4:14.61). Fourth-year Pat Hogan grabbed the top spot in the men’s 5,000-meter (15:05.08) as classmate Teage O’Connor sailed into second in 15:16.98.

Bojanov, also reigning UAA Athlete of the Week, is currently the second-fastest metric-miler in the nation, with a provisional qualification to compete at the indoor national championship. While Bojanov isn’t guaranteed a spot at Nationals, his stellar 1,600-meter time will be a feat to beat.

“It’s nice to take care of qualifying early,” Bojanov said. “Now I can focus on racing people as opposed to obsessing about times.”

Winter’s prodigious 3,000-meter run wowed crowds and provided a glimpse of what the cross-country All-American could achieve during her senior track seasons. It was newbie Ndyabagye who stole the show with her victory in the long jump plus fourth- and fifth-place finishes in the 200-meter (27.49) and 55-meter (7.68) sprints.

The coming week will give both teams a much needed break from the routine of weekend competition on top of five days of grueling training. When the Maroons step out on February 4 for the Chicago Duals at Henry Crown, feeling a little fresher and a little more confident, they expect to deliver more rock-solid performances and possibly a few more NCAA qualifications.