March 31, 2006

Pumped-up men’s track set for shortened spring

For men’s track and field, the outdoor season will be the next step in a long construction project. After building a solid foundation over the course of the winter, the squad intends to expand on their success and experience this spring.

While the men have the benefit of an exceptional distance contingent and an experienced throwing squad, the youthful sprinters, jumpers, and hurdlers are still primarily looking to gain experience.

“Looking at how the men’s team competed and performed during the indoor season, I think they definitely achieved,” head coach Chris Hall said. “I think our men are motivated and the next thing we need to do is simply build on what we already have.”

Hall points to the men’s strong performance at indoor UAAs as an indication of the steady progress that should continue into the spring. The 4×400-meter relay’s second place finish offered the athletes an example of what they were capable of at the end of the indoor season, renewing the Maroons’ drive to stand out in the spring.

“Being able to just throw a couple guys together and then have them win second place really made the younger guys on the team feel great,” Hall said.

Some gaps in the roster could still prove frustrating for the Maroons. Matt Kolbe (A.B. ’06), who anchored that 4×400-meter relay, graduated at the end of winter quarter. Third-year Brian Hague, an integral member of the men’s cross country team, will not return for the spring, and fourth-year captain Pat Hogan is still recovering from the Achilles tendon injury that benched him for the second half of the indoor season.

Fortunately, the team’s strength in several events exclusively run in the spring should ameliorate those three absences. First-year stand-out Herman Reeves and third-year Mike Doll will finally get the chance to compete in the intermediate hurdles, their primary event. Similarly, second-year Zach Rodgers will be able to participate in the decathlon, and fourth-year Teague O’Connor will have opportunity to show his stuff in the steeplechase.

“Being able to run new events, particularly the ones some of our men specialize in, should really contribute to the men’s overall performance,” Hall said.

An early challenge for the Maroons will be the upcoming conference meet. With Emory and Wash U conducting final exams during the week leading up to the traditional league meet date, the UAA scheduled the championships a week earlier than is customary. Only three weeks will separate Chicago’s spring opener from the league meet.

“With conferences so early this year, we have to make smart decisions very early in the season,” Hall said. “We won’t have a chance to play around and try athletes in one event and then another. It’s especially hard with athletes that are strong in multiple events.”

The men will begin their three weeks of smart decisions on Saturday at Elmhurst.