January 14, 2011

Chicago prepares for season with Oshkosh Dual

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Women’s and men’s track and field will set the indoor season into motion on Saturday at noon with a home dual meet against UW-Oshkosh in Henry Crown Field House. For the women, the meet will offer the first chance for the Maroons to showcase their speed, strength, and hops since winning the UAA crown and nabbing a national trophy last March. The Lady Titans of Oshkosh will serve as a good measuring stick against top competition for Chicago. They placed second nationally indoors in 2010.

Fourth-year throws captain Kristin Constantine stressed that the women are going out to compete on Saturday and then work towards the larger season goals over the course of the winter. “We are hoping to start off strong,” the All-American weight thrower stated, “and build upon our performances throughout the season.” Constantine, along with All-American and double Outdoor National Champion distance runner fourth-year Liz Lawton, fourth-year three-time sprint All-American Stephanie Omueti, and multi-time qualifier high jumper Paige Peltzer, lead a plethora of Maroons hoping to make the transition from major contributors at the UAA meet to competitors at the national meet.

While the women hope to improve on their fourth place national finish last year, Constantine and crew are not at all overlooking the UAA Championship which will take place in Chicago at the end of next month, where they will face rivals Wash U and Emory. Constantine said that the Maroons are “eager to defend our title on our home turf.”

The UAA focus is shared on the men’s side, who were runners-up in the conference a year ago. Like their female counterparts, the male squad is also looking for solid performances on Saturday to start off the season. Fourth-year captain and hurdler Brian Adreycak recognized the opportunity that the dual against the Titans represents. “It allows us to measure ourselves against a program consistently ranked among the top in the country,” said Andreycak.

He also noted that the Maroons have graduated a couple of key scorers, but are looking for a talented freshman class to fill in the gaps. Andreycak highlighted the triple jumwvp duo fourth-year national outdoor runner-up Drew Jackson and fourth-year national qualifier Jacob Solus as well as the 4x400 meter relay as events where the Maroons can make noise on the national level.

Head coach Chris Hall noted that in these early weeks of the season, the team is training heavily while working on team cohesion. “My greatest expectation is that the athletes learn how to prepare for competition and then show up and give their best effort,” Hall said, adding that he did not care as much about great times or marks at this early stage.

He hopes the hard training sessions make for a successful finish at the UAAs. Hall made clear that conference competition remains the team’s top priority.

“We hope to do great things at the NCAAs, but from a team standpoint, the UAA is our primary focus,” Hall stated.

The dual competition will serve as an opportunity for the Maroons to kick off the season on a smaller stage. However, there is a special event reserved specifically for this traditional Maroons opener. The Dizzy Bat relay against Oshkosh, a venerable Maroon tradition, consists of competitors sprinting 50 meters, then spinning five times with their heads pressed down to an erect baseball bat, after which they navigate back to their teammates. It will be scored as the final event. It emerges as a relaxing and absurd way to begin what will be a long and hectict season.

“We’d like to win the dizzy bat [relay],” Constantine said. “It’s sort of a pride thing.”

The field events kick off on Saturday at 11:30 a.m., with events on the track beginning at noon.