April 11, 2006

Track and field sets personal marks despite icy weather

Despite a tough line-up and inclement weather, men’s and women’s track and field delivered a slew of personal records in weekend action.

At the end of Chicago’s two-day sojourn in Naperville at the Chicagoland Championships, the women placed fourth overall (72) while the men churned out a tenth-place team finish (35). While solid showings all around failed to produce big wins, coaches and captains are confident that a few more meets and some signs of spring will produce even more outstanding performances in the coming weeks. Top-notch performances and quality experience gave both squads plenty of reasons to view the rest of the season in a positive light, though the Maroons were unable to break into the top spots in some events they normally dominate

“The weather has been a daily factor in practice and competition,” head coach Chris Hall said. “So they haven’t been able to post the exceptional times and distances that I know they’re capable of, but they’re handling the elements pretty well.”

With the wind in their faces and twenty other teams on their heels, the women delivered numerous personal bests, with a few cracking the top five. Second-year Myra Collins produced the only first-place performance of the meet for either the men or women with a 5.35-meter leap in the long jump. Another quality finish emerged from the jumping pits, as second-year Appie Hirve earned the third spot in the triple jump with a 11.02-meter bound, just missing the provisional standard.

Hirve wasn’t the only one to come maddeningly close. A similar situation popped up on the track as fourth-year Jessica Winter took fourth-place in the 1,500-meter run, but fell less than a second outside the provisional cut-off at 4:41.71. The third-place women’s 4×100-meter relay (49.56) also just missed the conditional qualification mark.

In a quest to prove that her winter hip injury won’t slow her down in the spring, fourth-year Annie Sanders (12:04.7) scored the second spot in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. First-year Missy Graham (12:25.6) and third-years Nellie Movtchan (1:07.87) and Trina Ruhland (5.10) scored a trio of fourth-place finishes in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, the 400-meter hurdles and the long jump. Meanwhile, fourth-year Katie Meinhover landed fifth place in the javelin with a personal best of 36.08. A fifth-place, 4:08.48 effort in the 4×400-meter relay capped off the weekend for the Maroons.

Like the women’s squad, the men battled the elements and came away with a few high finishes, a pair of NCAA-worthy performances, and numerous personal records, including four attained in the course of a particularly grueling 10,000. Fourth-year Teage O’Connor toed the line in the 3,000-meter steeplechase hoping to hit a provisional mark. Ultimately, his 9:25.5 second-place showing was above the standard by a mere two seconds. Third-year Emil Bojanov’s commendable 3:57.48 1,500-meter run garnered second place but similarly fell outside the qualification range.

Third-year Neil Weijer posted a fifth-place finish in the hammer throw with a 45.44 career record while fourth-year Dan Dickinson displayed remarkable resilience in the 10,000-meter run as he fought debilitating head-winds and wintry weather for fifth place and a 32:49.27 personal best. Fourth-year Nick Juravich (sixth/32:58.59), first-year Chris Peverada (thirteenth/33:49.71) and third-year Chetan Huded (sixteenth/34:28.29) battled the elements alongside Dickinson to achieve individual marks despite the foul conditions.

With the league meet conferences looming in just two weeks, both squads are focused on continuing to improve performances. The competition at Chicagolands and even the bad weather provided both teams with an invaluable opportunity to gear up for what’s waiting for the Maroons in Cleveland.

“The most important thing for us to accomplish at this time of year is to get back into competition and establish some marks to build upon,” Hall said.

“I’ve competed in Illinois track and field for eight years, and Friday night was one of the coldest meets I can remember,” fourth-year thrower Stephanie Lewis said. “It’s good practice though. It might be cold and windy in Cleveland for UAAs.”

The plethora of strong showings delivered at this weekend’s meet provides both teams with a good reason to be optimistic for conferences and beyond. The Maroons will travel to Wheaton on Saturday for their final pre-UAA tune-up. If men’s and women’s track and field can continue the trend they’ve established during their first two meets of the season, opponents at Wheaton and conference rivals will have more than just potentially bad weather to fear.