November 4, 2008

Fourth-place finish at UAAs gives women’s cross country hope for regional meet

Women’s cross country handed in one of their most complete performances of the season at Saturday’s UAA Championship, taking fourth place in the eight-team field.

Finishing the day behind Case, Wash U, and Emory, the Maroons improved on last year’s fifth-place finish, and while the South Siders were far from perfect, head coach Chris Hall said that their performance over the weekend showed this team’s postseason potential.

“The way that our women ran this past weekend, I think we would’ve gone to nationals,” Hall said. “I think if we had that same performance as what we did last weekend in two weeks at the regional meet, I think we’d be in the top five in the region and likely advance on to the NCAAs.”

Second-year Liz Lawton led the way for the Maroons, posting a 22:17 that was good for eighth place in a field of 76. Fourth-year Rachel Venezia took home 16th place, with a 22:45.17 finish that left her just two places shy of joining Lawton on the All-UAA Second Team.

Lawton started the season strong, but a prolonged sickness hurt her ability to compete in the middle of the year. On Saturday, however, Lawton returned to form and gave Chicago its second All-UAA performer since 1999.

“Last week was the first time in a month when I have actually felt healthy, and stepping to the line Saturday, I felt like I did at the beginning of the season,” Lawton said. “A lot of our team was really sick this season and it has been hard for all of us to bounce back from that.”

Nearing the end of a season in which the women have struggled to get a strong day from the full roster, Chicago’s top runner set the tone in a race that saw several personal bests. Fourth-year Julia Moriarty (23:02), second-year Molly Peverada (23:04), and first-year Ali Klooster (23:05) posted six-kilometer bests en route to 26th, 27th, and 29th finishes, respectively.

First-year Jane Simpson (23:06) and third-year Catherine Stolar (23:08) took 30th and 32nd to close out Chicago’s scoring.  The fourth-place Maroons tallied 108 points at the meet. Case was first with 48 points, followed by Wash U at 52 and Emory at 80. Rochester totaled 145 points, good for fifth.

“In our team meeting the night before, Coach Hall described our team as one with interchangeable parts—our main advantage is our tremendous depth,” Venezia said. “Both myself and [first-year] Rachel Ohman did not run as well as we expected, but we had other people on the team who stepped it up. I think that if the two of us had had better races, our team would have knocked off Emory.”

Ohman, who led Chicago at the Loyola Invitational September 27, finished out of Chicago’s top seven for the first time this season. While the Maroons failed to reach their goal of finishing in the top three in the conference, Hall said that he is confident that the team will be at its most complete at the Midwest Regional in two weeks.

“We didn’t go into the conference meet with an easy goal. When you’re trying to have your best goals, then your key components all need to show up on that same day,” Hall said. “I don’t know why it wasn’t their best day, but I fully expect them to rebound from that.”

The women will now prepare to replicate their conference meet success at the regional meet, where they must finish in the top five to be considered for the postseason.

“Coach Hall has made our program so we peak at nationals, not at conference,” Lawton said. “We are on a training cycle that will ensure that we get faster with the more important meets, not just focusing on the UAA conference meet. Although I would’ve loved to be in the top three, I think it’s more important to beat those girls later in the season at NCAAs.”