April 22, 2008

Track edged out of first outdoor crown

[img id="80507" align="alignleft"] Solid performances and home field advantage were not enough for men’s and women’s track to repeat the historic success of last March’s indoor conference championship.

Hosting the outdoor UAA Championship this weekend, Chicago hoped to repeat the success of its previous performance at the indoor conferences in Cleveland, where both the men and women finished at the top of their fields.

Unfortunately for the Maroons, the spring repeat did not come after the culmination of Sunday’s events. The second-ranked women’s team (243.50) fell short in points to old foe Wash U (259), while the 23rd-ranked men’s team (180) failed to out-pace Carnegie Mellon (198.50), leaving both squads with a respectable second-place finish.

Before ultimately being eclipsed, the women finished the first day of the meet with a commanding 12-point lead. This was due in part to galvanizing performances in the hammer throw and shot put, in which the Maroons swept the top three slots.

“I think we expected the sweep in the shot put. We would have been disappointed if we didn’t take away that event, but the sweep in the hammer throw was unexpected,” head coach Chris Hall said. “[Third-year] Tiffany [Hosten] really rose up to the challenge.”

Hosten broke her own personal record to take home a gold medal with a 43.53-meter throw. Following Hosten’s lead, second-years Claire Ray (42.77 meters) and Nicole Murphy (42.43 meters) placed second and third, respectively, to give the Maroons 24 points from a single event.

The exceptional 24-point sweep was repeated in the women’s shot put, as anticipated. Murphy, continuing her success from the hammer throw, won the event (14.08 meters) and in the process shattered the previous UAA record by a full meter. Ray (13.03 meters) and first-year Kristin Constantin (12.48 meters) followed, placing second and third, respectively.

Triumphs in the throwing events continued for the women into day two, but it was not enough to impede Wash U, the Maroons’ only real competition in the field of teams.

“It was becoming abundantly clear that this was a competition between us and Wash U. There was no one else remotely close in points,” first-year sprinter Margaret Bujarska said.

The Sunday point spread guaranteed Chicago and Wash U a finish in the top two of the seven-squad conference meet. The women, in fact, finished the championship with 243.50 points and an unprecedented 127 point margin over third-place Emory.

Despite the vast point advantage over Emory and the remainder of the field, the Maroons’ failure to place in the 800- and 1500- meter contributed to a Wash U lead change.

The women’s last chance to pull off a first place finish came down to the 5000-meter run. The Maroons looked to experienced third-year runner Rachel Venezia and first-year Liz Lawton to place. Venezia had a career run (17:30.04 minutes), breaking the previous school and UAA records, but unfortunately the would-be clutch run was not enough.

Fourth-year Ester Erb (17:22.20) of Case Western and fourth-year Tyler Mulkin (17:27.64) of Wash U bested Venezia with standard-setting runs for themselves, placing first and second, respectively. The third-place finish for Venezia and Lawton’s collapse midway through the race clinched the win for the Bears.

In the men’s competition, Carnegie Mellon built on a slight six-point lead after the first day to finish the meet with 198.50 points to Chicago’s 180.

The men’s success last March was aided by Carnegie Mellon’s second-year James Hulley’s absence from the shot put finals after a disappointing appearance in the preliminaries. The star shot putter, looking to redeem himself this weekend, gave the Tartans the edge over a tight contest between Chicago and Emory with wins in both the shot put and discus throw.

Highlights from the men’s performances included a first-place finish for first-year Arthur Baptist in the 10,000-meter run (32:05.38). Also coming up big were rookies Brian Andreycak and Jacob Solus. Andreycak took first in the men’s 110-meter hurdles (15.18), while Solus won the triple jump (14.20).

Among other noteworthy achievements was the large number of members from the women’s squad who met the provisional-qualifying standard. Perhaps the most notable was first-year sprinter Stephanie Omueti, who met the NCAA benchmark in three events. Omueti and others will be eligible for an appearance in the NCAA Division-III Championship this May in Oshkosh, WI.

Despite the number of impressive individual performances, the Maroons walked off Ted Haydon Field Sunday discontented with their second-place finishing.

“I am not in anyway disappointed with anyone. I cannot think of anyone who did not dig down deep and give it their all or come through big in some way, but sometimes things just don’t fall in your favor,” Hall said.

Even with four meets remaining to make a run for a spot at Nationals, Hall stressed the yearning he and his team had to stand out at the UAAs.

“Our goal was to win the conference. We’d like to go again. I’d like to play this tournament again next week,” Hall said.