For most, tonight will be one of loneliness and ice cream. For the track and field team, though, it will be a day of preparation for the two-day Chicagoland Championship in Naperville this weekend. The women’s squad will compete in their last truly competitive meet of the year before conference while the men get ready for their competition tomorrow.
“This meet is going to be super competitive,” said second-year Rachel Jackson. “There are girls that have very fast times, but that will help us. This [competition] will motivate us to work harder and run faster as a team.”
Jackson has been a jack-of-all-trades for the Maroons. She tied the school record for the 55-hurdles with her time of 8.59, and also competes in the 200-meter, long jump, and 55-meter, where she ranks ninth (27.41), third (5.32m), and fifth (8.16) in the conference, respectively.
“I want to especially improve in my long jump and the 200,” Jackson said. “I know I can jump better if I can focus on my speed and technique down the runway. I am very excited to see how things go this weekend.”
Meanwhile, the men will just focus on continuing to improve. Although the team is doing well overall, the UAA has grown stronger this past year and the men will have to keep up to stay in conference contention.
“It can be difficult in this sport to stay motivated when things aren’t going well,” second-year Ben Clark said. “A lot of kids on this team are just starting to match their times from high school. Until you get over that hump, this is a difficult sport to do at the collegiate level.”
Clark, who recently came off an injury, has been driving all over the competition since he came back. He ranks sixth in the conference in the 200-meter with his time of 23.30, has a good chance of scoring in the 60-meter dash and also possibly as a key member of the 4x4.
“I’m happy to finally be healthy and back with my teammates,” Clark said. “This meet and the conference meet are really the only [indoor] competitions that I pay attention to. I’m ready to have a performance that my coach and I are proud of, and I think a lot of guys on the team feel that way.”
The men and women will have one more meet next week at home before they make their way to Boston for the conference meet. Although the Maroons will aim for victory this weekend, the real goal is to ensure they are at top speed and ready for conference play.
“Our biggest challenge [will] be staying healthy,” Jackson said. “We’re all getting to that point in the season where we are getting tired and sore. We need to take better care of our bodies both physically and mentally.”
The women’s meet starts at 5 p.m. tonight, while the men’s meet starts at 11 a.m. tomorrow.