January 24, 2012

Inaugural I-55 Tri goes awry

Forget the score. On the surface, Saturday’s Illinois Wesleyan Triangular was a blowout: The Maroons were dominated. Wash U: 138, IWU: 118, Chicago: a mere 68. But at this point, it’s not all about winning, or even coming close. It’s about testing out different events, looking at varied lineups, and gaining experience.

“I think overall the team ran well this weekend,” fourth-year distance runner Robert Cooper said. “At this point of the year our goal isn’t to win every meet but rather to build towards peaking at the end of the year.”

“The team ran very well at Illinois-Wesleyan,” Ben Nickerson, a first-year distance runner, said. “The team really supported each other and cheered throughout each race.”

For the Maroons, it’s all about perspective.

“You go out there with training purposes in mind. The goal was not to cover every event or to put up significant points,” assistant coach Aaron Carley said. “Instead, we were looking at the best events for training purposes.”

There were some noteworthy performances at the meet in Bloomington, Illinois. The distance medley relay team of third-year Bill Whitmore, second-year Mike Roualet, first-year Renat Zalov, and third-year Avery Mainardi took first place. In the 3,000-meter, first-years Kevin Vollrath and Kevin On finished seventh and ninth, respectively. Zalov finished second in the 800 meters and fourth-year Moe Bahrani took second in the mile. Fourth-years Dan Heck and Nick Rockwell secured third and fourth place finishes in weight throw.

“We haven’t been competing like these are championship meets, because they aren’t. For example, Bill Whitmore and Moe Bahrani, both outstanding long distance runners, ran shorter events this week,” Cooper said. “That said, everyone in the meet has still competed at a high level, and we’re improving quickly.”

Nickerson, based on event results and the team’s mindset, remains confident.

“It is certainly a challenge to start against Wash U and Oshkosh, two of the top teams in the nation, but we have all risen to the occasion and put together some great individual performances,” Nickerson said. “We are working as a group to support all athletes in all events and create a nice, competitive atmosphere. It has become apparent to me already how motivating it is to have teammates cheer you on during races.”

The men return to Henry Crown Field House this weekend for their first home meet of the season, the Chicago Duals. The meet begins Saturday at 11:30 a.m.

“The meet at Illinois Wesleyan was a step in the right direction as far as competing well goes,” Vollrath said, “so the meet this weekend should also be an improvement.”

“The atmosphere in Crown is just unparalleled by anything else. Something about it being our house gives us a sense of familiarity and confidence,” Cooper said, “and I can’t remember a home meet that didn’t have at least a few outstanding performances.”