For Chicago’s cross country teams, the 2009 season came to a close a week earlier than they were hoping.
Competing against 38 other squads at Saturday’s Midwest Regional hosted by UW–Oshkosh, the women finished sixth—missing eligibility for the NCAA championships by one spot—while the men’s team took tenth place.
The top finishers of both teams, second–year Mahmoud Bahrani and third–year Lizzie Bright, received all–region honors. Bahrani finished the eight–kilometer course in 25:09, which was good for a 27th place finish out of 282 runners. Bright finished 33rd out of 273 runners by completing the six–kilometer women’s course in 22:43.
North Central won the men’s meet with a score of 21. UW–La Crosse placed second at 105 and Wash U placed third with 118. Chicago earned a score of 331.
On the women’s side, UW–Eau Claire won with a score of 52, followed by Wash U with 72 and UW–La Crosse at 98. The women claimed their sixth place finish with 237 points.
Despite placing five runners in the top 60, the women’s team left Saturday’s meet disappointed.
“We finished well below our expectations,” third–year Molly Peverada said. “Going into the meet, we were hoping to place close to Oshkosh, but instead we weren’t even close to the fifth place team, so everyone was extremely disappointed after our race.”
That disappointment was felt on the individual level, as well.
“All I wanted was to go to the national meet in Cleveland,” Bright said. “Now I’m heartbroken, but I guess there is always track season.”
The Midwest is home to many talent–rich programs, and is perennially one of the nation’s strongest regional meets. While this makes it difficult to succeed at the Midwest Regional amidst such a wealth of top runners, the level of competition also makes for an interesting racing experience.
“It seemed like everywhere you ran there were always several crowds of fans shouting, cheering, jeering,” said first–year Bill Whitmore, the men’s number two finisher. “Cross country in the Midwest is a serious event, and all the hype only added to the excitement of regional competition.”
Though he was disappointed to miss Nationals, Bahrani was realistic about what prevented the Maroons from seriously challenging the region’s elite teams.
“Teams like North Central and UW–La Crosse are good because they have seven guys consistently [running] over 95 miles a week. There isn’t a secret to running. If you run a lot of miles, you’ll be good.”
The women also shied away from excuses.
“Course conditions were fine—no mud, little wind, little crowding. The course was fantastic and we, obviously, were not,” Peverada remarked.
Now, as the country’s best teams prepare for Nationals this Saturday, the Maroons are already thinking of ways to improve for next fall.
“We all must increase our summer mileage or at least train at a more consistent level during workouts,” Whitmore said. “Despite the loss of two senior runners, we still have a plethora of youthful talent eager to be unleashed throughout the upcoming seasons.”
As for the women, their goal next year will be cracking the Midwest’s top five teams and reaching NCAAs.
“Next year, we need to make Nationals,” Peverada said. “That is the only way we can improve. Everyone needs to have a quality, complete race at Regionals, and we need to have the confidence and desire to make it to where it has eluded us for two years in a row.”