April 24, 2009

At outdoor UAAs, Maroons look to top indoor showing

Men’s track was so close to gold at the UAA Indoor Championships in March, they could smell it.A couple of seconds here, a couple of inches there, and three points wound up separating the Maroons from the conference crown.Now, they get another shot at the UAA’s best when they head to the Outdoor Championships this weekend.It’s already been a strong season for both the men and the women. After three meets, both teams have recorded two first-place finishes and one runner-up performance. Now the focus turns toward Pittsburgh, where Carnegie will host what figures to be a fiercely contested conference meet.With March’s UAA Indoor Championships fresh in their memory, the teams will attempt to improve upon their third-place finishes. It won’t be easy. Women’s indoor champion Wash U is seeking its 10th consecutive outdoor championship. Meanwhile, on the men’s side, the Maroons will have to contend with both indoor champions Emory and two-time defending outdoor champions Carnegie.While the athletes are hoping for victory, they are fully aware that it will require outstanding performances from the entire roster, and that won’t come easily.“Coach [Hall] has set second place as an attainable goal for the women’s team,” first-year Paige Peltzer said.However, Peltzer added, “I don’t so much pay attention to where we are seeded; I just hope a majority or all of us can do our best and have satisfying performances and leave without huge regrets.”In order to maximize the team’s preparedness, the focus in training has shifted to refining technique. “We are backing off with intensity and focusing on the little things that can perfect races: block starts, form, taking care of body parts, etc.,” second-year sprinter Stephanie Omueti said.Peltzer expressed a similar sentiment, saying that her focus has been on “perfecting [her] technique in all three of [her] events: triple and high jump and javelin.”The knowledge that there are still technical improvements to be made provides hope that the Maroons can improve upon this season’s already impressive results. There is plenty of other motivation, too. Nationals are only four weeks off and the push to reach qualifying marks is a powerful motivator. Omueti, who has already met provisional qualifying marks in both the 100 and 200 meters, is determined to reach the automatic qualifying standards. “I am trying to qualify for the national meet before my academics get hectic. I think that being in the back of my head before racing is a definite driving factor,” she said.While nationals may not be in sight for all of the athletes, top performers like Omueti and second-year jumper Jacob Solus, both of whom earned UAA Athlete of the Week honors last week, understand that they need to lead the way in order for their teams to contend. “I think we have a great chance to win this conference meet as long as we get solid efforts across the board,” Solus said of the men’s team. “We need our higher-seeded athletes to take care of business and the rest should fall into place.”Of course, whether things will fall in place for Chicago or some other team remains to be seen—that’s why they run the races, throw the throws, and jump the jumps. And so the Maroons simply have to wait until the action begins at 10 a.m. on Saturday.