January 19, 2007

Track and field takes its lumps in season opener

Though the final scores may seem to tell a different story, Saturday’s track and field season opener left the Maroons with legs sore but heads held high.

Hosting powerhouse UW–Oshkosh, Chicago battled, but in the end, could not overcome the Titans. The visitors won by a sizeable margin, dominating the men 95.5–59.5 and slamming the women 91–51.

Though the dual meet was the first of the season, the Maroons already have their eyes on the final test. It’s the individual athletes’ times, rather than the team’s overall finish, which measures their performance.

“Our goals aren’t necessarily to win the meets that we’re in,” head coach Chris Hall said. “Our goal is to win the conference championships.”

Even with the stiff competition, the day had an impressive share of victories with superstars from both the old and new guard. Fourth-year Trina Ruhland and first-year Bill Cheng were among the top success stories on the day.

Ruhland was tasked with the grueling challenge of competing in five events in a two-hour span. She responded admirably, seizing first in the long jump with 5.27 meters.

“I was feeling pretty good,” Ruhland said. “I did not expect to do that well. It was awesome.”

It wasn’t the first time Ruhland was given a full plate to handle at a track meet. The multi-talented sprinter-hurdler-jumper has previously competed in as many as six events.

Cheng shattered expectations in the 55-meter dash, running 0.4 seconds faster than his seed time to win the race in 6.59.

“We just have a really fine freshmen sprint crew, and I hadn’t thought Bill was at the top of that list,” Hall said.

Joining Cheng in the top ranks were some of the team’s usual suspects. Fourth-year Brian Hague took first in a tense mile run (4:23.55), edging out the Oshkosh competitor by a half-second. In the long jump, third-year Zach Rodgers placed first (6.26 meters), while second-year John Eric Humphries won in the 400-meter dash (52.15). But the successes were not merely in the number-one slots; some runners notched personal records.

Running a generous 30 seconds faster than his seed time, fourth-year Chetan Huded scored a PR of 9:14.62, placing sixth overall in the 3,000-meter.

Huded had anticipated a quick start to the race but was relieved when the Oshkosh runners held off early, allowing him to keep up with the front pack.

The senior crew on the women’s side provided a strong buttress for the team with three first-place finishes, including Ruhland’s.

Fourth-year Jackie Kropp had a strong win in the 800-meter (2:20.40), easily beating the second-place Oshkosh competitor by over seven seconds—a major gap in the short race.

The women’s mile run had more Maroon runners at the top of the standings. Fourth-year cross country All-American Vidthya Abraham took first place in 5:22.04, with teammates following her in third, fourth, and sixth spots.

The Maroons are looking forward to more strong competition this Saturday at the Chicago Invitational, when they will go against five other teams.

“I think it will overall be a better meet. We’re a pretty outstanding team, and we’re not going to see anyone this weekend as competitive as Oshkosh,” Hall said.