January 8, 2015

South Siders break in the new indoor track with Phoenix Invitational

This past Wednesday, the temperature at the University of Chicago was colder than the surface of Mars. Luckily, the men’s and women’s track and field teams will not have to worry about braving the extraterrestrial elements in their home meet this Saturday at Henry Crown Field House.

The Phoenix Invitational is the first meet of the indoor season, with indoor being the operative word.

Expectations are high for the Maroons, who have been practicing and training for the indoor season since last quarter. The outdoor season last spring ended with several Maroons competing in the national championships. However, the South Siders know that the indoor season is not just a continuation of the outdoor.

“Our training is designed that we have our peak performances during the outdoor season. Competing indoor allows us to have a controlled weather environment,” said third-year runner Henry Blood. “The indoor track[...]has more curves which slows runners down, inducing a smaller and more competitive setting.”

Regardless of the changes in setting, conditions, or environment of competition, the Maroons will look to emerge as a competitor for the DIII National Championship. Leading that charge from the distance running sector will be third-year All-American Michael Frasco and Blood, who narrowly missed out on being an All-American in the fall season. On the women’s side, the members of the women’s cross-country team will face high expectations, including third-years Catherine Young, Brianna Hickey, Maggie Cornelius, and first-year Megan-Verner Crist.

“For distance runners, cross-country season was a great three- plus months or so of setting a base foundation for our mileage,” said third-year runner Yorkbell Jaramillo. “A good part of the team is using the weight room as well to get some more power.”

However, the Maroons’ indoor team is more than just distance runners.

One of the other leaders of the team will be third-year Michael Bennett, who won the national championship last indoor season in the pole vault with a height of 4.90 meters, which is also a school record. Bennett narrowly missed a second national championship in the outdoor track and field season, placing second in the pole vault.

On the women’s field side, third-year thrower Nkemdilim Nwaokolo will look to build off of a strong season last year which saw her attain UAA Champion status in both the shot put and weight throw. She’s been UAA Champion in multiple events each year of her career.

In the high jump, fourth-year Semi Ajibola, who was the UAA Champion last season, will look to continue his success in his farewell season.

On the whole, the team is ready for the season. Despite the individual nature of some events, the players feel team above all else.

“We are truly a family here, through every up and down,” said second-year sprinter Charissa Newkirk. “I think that this team dynamic will translate into success on the track also.”

With such high hopes emerging for the Maroons, the keys to eventual success will come down to enduring the long season by staying in peak physical condition throughout practice, training, and conditioning. With all that in mind, the South Siders have set their sights on a national championship.

The Phoenix Invitational will start this Saturday at 11:30 a.m. in Henry Crown Field House. Additional times for specific events can be found at