SPORTS

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April 17, 2007

Track clears final hurdle; next stop Cleveland

With less than a week to go until the conference meet, track and field made its way to Wheaton to tie up some loose ends. Although robust competition and less-than-ideal conditions stood ready to thwart the Maroons, the squad walked away ready to bring some heat to Atlanta on Saturday.

Despite low temperatures, strong winds, and pre-UAA jitters, the team managed to deliver a collection of quality performances. Only a handful of runners, jumpers, and throwers competed at the Wheaton Invitational, but those who did vie for a spot on the winner’s stand came out in top form.

“This wasn’t a meet we went into with a clear team goal,” head coach Chris Hall said. “We left a lot of our best runners at home to rest and reduced the number of events our competing athletes ran. We wanted to stay race-ready, healthy and injury-free, and we also wanted to put our conference lineup together.”

On the women’s side, first-year Claire Ray hit an NCAA provisional standard in the discus with a toss of 41.67 for a second-place finish. Ray joined fourth-year Abby Sheldon and third-year Zach Rodgers, who also met provisional standards in the 10,000-meter run and the decathlon. While no one is guaranteed a chance to compete at nationals without pocketing an automatic qualification, Hall is optimistic about Ray’s chances to take a spin in the ring at NCAAs.

“Claire didn’t meet the standard for automatic qualification,” Hall said. “In the past, though, people who have thrown the distance she threw on Saturday ended up going to nationals. Plus, I’m pretty sure she can still throw even farther.”

Third-year Cynthia Lin and fourth-year Trina Ruhland added to the Maroons’ list of achievements, dominating two events that met considerable resistance from Mother Nature. Lin raked in a win with a 10.55-meter effort in the triple jump and Ruhland leapt 5.07 meters into the top spot in the long jump.

“The weather hovered around 40 degrees with a strong wind that often changed direction,” Ruhland said. “That made it really difficult on the back stretch of the track and for the jumps as your steps would change depending on how hard and from what direction the wind was blowing.”

Ruhland returned to claim second in the 100-meter dash, crossing the line in 13.00 and shooting into the upper echelons of the UAA rankings. Third-year Appie Hirve came home with a pair of silvers after nabbing the number two spots in the triple and high jumps with 10.22 and 1.48-meter performances. Finally, fourth-year Jackie Kropp (2:18.76) and second-year Rachel Venezia (4:59.04) finished the day for the women’s team, reeling in two more silver medals in the 800- and 1,500-meter races.

The men’s team also made strides in their quest to finish near the top at UAAs. Second-year Dan Gardner (10:06.44) scored the highest position on the day with his second-place finish in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, while first-year Blake Obuchowski (10.93) contributed a third-place effort in the 100-meter dash.

“At the UAAs next weekend I think our strongest point is our sprints,” fourth-year Chetan Huded said. “We also stack up pretty well in some of the jumps and throws. I think middle and long distance are our weakest aspects right now, but I’m optimistic that we’ll be able to get points there as well. We haven’t posted many fast times yet this season, but we have guys who have the ability to make an impact.”

True to Huded’s words, the men’s sprints and field events garnered several top-five finishes against a lineup of formidable foes. Fourth-year Mike Doll came home fifth in the 110-meter hurdles, while the men’s 4x100 grabbed the fourth spot. Second-year Seth Satterlee and third-year Brian Taylor rounded out the men’s performances, taking fifth in the pole vault and triple jump. Finally, in the longer events, fourth-years Emil Bojanov and Travis Pantin were the number four and five runners to cross the line in the 1,500 and 10,000-meter races.

No team scores were counted at Wheaton, but members of both squads couldn’t help but keep a mental tally of where the Maroons will stand in each event when they travel down to Atlanta to compete for the conference title. Factoring in the bad weather, missing runners, and a season’s worth of grueling workouts, Hall and senior team members gave favorable forecasts for the coming weekend.

“We have at least one person in a scoring position in every event,” Ruhland said. “The problem is that we don’t have enough people in every event–this is where Wash U got us indoors. We’ll be stretching the top athletes to their max in hopes of scoring the most points.”

“We are ready physically and mentally, and the weather in Atlanta is going to be great,” Hall said. “We are going to run well, and I have no reason to expect anything less than a positive outcome next week.”