Heading into this weekend’s Midwest Regional, the men and women’s cross country teams can’t dwell on the past. Both teams are coming off disappointing finishes at the UAA Championship and so are all the more motivated to prove their talent tomorrow.
A seventh-place finish at UAAs left the men’s team unsatisfied, and now the Maroons are excited to test their endurance against the runners from the 42 other D-III schools competing in the Midwest Regional in Oshkosh, WI.
“To a man, we felt that our performance at conference was not characteristic of the effort and talent we have on our team,” fourth-year Alex Garbier said. “As a result, while the regional is certain to be very difficult, we really look forward to competing strongly and mixing in with some nationally-ranked opponents.”
With just a handful of races during their season, the runners have only a few chances to accomplish the personal goals they might have. For runners who don’t qualify for the NCAA Championship, the Midwest Regional will be the final meet of the year and the last opportunity to check off anything left on their to-do lists.
“Conference was a big disappointment, but for cross country, regionals is definitely the biggest meet of the season,” third-year Felipe Fernandez del Castillo said. “The UAA was a really tight, really strong conference this year, and going in we knew we could have an only okay day and finish seventh. That’s pretty much what happened. We know we’re better than that, and we’d like to show that this weekend.”
The team is looking to place in the top 10 at the regional—not high enough for the team to qualify for NCAAs, but high enough that some individual runners might be able to make the trip to championship.
“For the team, we are hoping to be in the top eight or nine in the region,” third-year Arthur Baptist said. “The top five teams will go to nationals, and while that is likely out of our reach, I think it would be great for us to mix it up with teams going to nationals.”
The women are also looking to bounce back from their unexpected sixth place finish at UAAs. Despite that showing, the Maroons are hoping to qualify for nationals as a team. As with the men, that will likely mean finishing in fifth or better in the team competition.
“We are aiming to finish fifth,” second-year Rachel Ohman said, “with as small of a gap as possible between the fourth-place team and us, in order to maximize our chances of receiving an at-large bid for the national championships.”
At the October 17 UW–Oshkosh Invitational, at which Chicago finished eighth in a field of 34, the Maroons had a chance to run on the same course they’ll use this weekend. The women are confident that this second go-round will be even better than the first.
“Our team is extremely prepared for this race. We have trained consistently for months and are committed to our goals and to each other,” Ohman said. “In addition, three weeks ago we ran on this same course and had an excellent team race and are looking forward to matching, if not besting, that performance.”
The Maroons know that to qualify as a team, turning in a few outstanding performances will not suffice. Every one of the top five runners needs to race well for the team to move beyond regionals.
“I feel like recently we’ve really come together as a team—that is, we’re getting very good at running in packs,” second-year Jane Simpson said. “We are going to scare the heck out of whoever we pass.”
For the Maroons, the rough day at UAAs served as a reminder that success can’t be a foregone conclusion, and the women are now even more determined to extend their season past tomorrow’s race.
“The bad place we got in [conference] further knocked us out of our complacency. We know we’re a good team, but we’re a better team when we don’t count on it,” Simpson said.