April 16, 2013

Maroons grab 11 top five finishes at penultimate UAA tune-up

In the race to prepare for the UAA championship, the men and women finished fourth and fifth, respectively this past weekend at the Benedictine Invitational. The men’s squad scored 60.83 points, finishing behind NAIA Olivet Nazarene (105.5), DI Loyola (105), and DIII Carthage (96.33). The women scored 59 points to finish behind Loyola, Carthage, and DIII Illinois Wesleyan.

Again, the frigid weather on Saturday proved to be the Maroons largest obstacle. However, the cold did not prevent Chicago from placing in the top five in 11 different events.

“Conditions were tough, it was cold, windy, and rainy for most of the meet, and I thought we still performed well,” fourth-year sprinter Dee Brizzolara said.

Brizzolara returned to the track for the first time since the indoor conference championship over a month ago. He competed in the 100m (4th, 11.18) and 200m (6th, 22.37) sprints in addition to the 4x100m relay (5th, 43.47).

“Other than the cold weather, it felt great [to get back on the track],” Brizzolara said. “I had a nice extended break, and I felt good running again.”

Numerous other Maroons continued to improve and place well in their events: a positive sign with the conference meet now less than two weeks away. Third-year Sam Butler came in second in the 3000m steeplechase with his time of 9:48.25, and first-year pole vaulter Michael Bennett took second with a height of 4.24m. Third-year Jennie Porter took third in the 400m run with her time of 1:07.53. In the women’s 1500m run, fourth-year Julia Sizek (4.40.32) and first-year Brianna Hickey (4:44.15) sealed second and third for the Maroons, respectively. Fourth-year Vicky Espinoza won the 3000m steeplechase in a time of 12:01.48.

“It was exciting to have won my first collegiate race in the steeplechase,” Espinoza said. “It started snowing a bit before the steeplechase. During the race, it was hard to stay focused given that there was no one to work with throughout the race. Hearing my teammates [cheer for me] throughout the track helped me regain focus when I felt I could not keep track of how I was performing.”

The Maroons have only one meet left to gear up for the UAA championship. Physically, the Maroons are not likely to improve drastically in the next 12 days. However, in their current condition, they do have the talent and ability to contend for the conference. This weekend they will compete in the Wheaton Twilight Invitational to get in one final round of races before the climax of the season.

“Coach has done a great job keeping us healthy and prepared,” Espinoza added. “As a team, I think we will be focusing on conference and trying to meet goals [and times] close to what we would want to hit then. Most importantly for me, I need to focus on the mental aspect of the race.”

As the clock ticks toward conference, many South Siders, in particular the fourth-years, are beginning to feel the brevity of the season. Outdoor season started only three weeks ago, and the season is already at the halfway point.

“I think we just need to stay focused and remember that conference is only two weeks away,” Brizzolara said. “We have a very short outdoor season and we need to continue to improve in order to be ready.”