April 13, 2015

Top tier foes occupy Chicagoland Invite

This past weekend the Maroons traveled to the College of DuPage to compete in the Chicagoland Championships.

The meet was significant for Chicago in that it is the second-to-last meet before UAAs in Emory, which will be taking place in fewer than two weeks. Additionally, the South Siders had the opportunity to face stiffer competition than they usually would, as a total of 24 Division I, II, and III schools all participated in the weekend’s events.

“Whether the competition is DI, DII, or DIII, we as a team approach all of our meets with the expectation that we are taking a step forward in our progress as athletes,” said fourth-year Renat Zalov on the team’s mentality when going up against these upper-division schools.

“I believe all of us look forward to good competition every weekend because it allows us to push ourselves harder and thus become better,” he said.

Zalov managed to take a large stride in the right direction, finishing a hair behind the leader with a final time of 9:40.77 in the men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase.

“The distance group had a set of really good workouts this week, and I think the confidence and energy that comes with that kind of success in practice translates over to competition,” said Zalov on the preparation, which he believed contributed to his performance.

“My biggest challenge heading into the meet was to execute successfully the racing strategy that Coach Hall set out for me; i.e. to be patient at the beginning of the race and then really start to open up about a quarter of the way through.”

The distance group’s workouts paid off for other members of the men’s squad as well, as three Maroons placed in the top five of the 5,000-meter: second-year Gareth Jones, third-year Michael Frasco, and fourth-year Kevin On finished first, second, and fifth respectively. For the women, the middle-distance runners shined, especially in the 800-meter. Second-year Michelle Dobbs earned the victory, while third-year Brianna Hickey came in fourth at just over four seconds behind her teammate. Second-year Minnie Horvath placed fourth in the women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase, despite it being the first time she had ever competed in the event.

“Going into the meet it was really nice knowing that I’d be running with my teammate, [fourth year] Nissa [Mai], because we’ve been training together since January and she is a more experienced steeplechaser,” said Horvath on her strategy entering the race.

“I just wanted to go out and have a solid first race in the steeplechase, so I tried to focus on running with her instead of running against the other schools.”

When asked what the team needs to do to be ready for conference, both Zalov and Horvath stressed maintaining steady focus with the limited time remaining.

“As a team we simply need to continue to do the right things inside and outside of practice—get enough sleep, have a good diet, and keep getting better in practice,” Zalov said, emphasizing the importance of a balanced training regimen.

Horvath hopes that the pressure of the upcoming conference championship can be used as a tool by the team in order to improve within the closing window.

“The conference meet is coming up in two weeks, so I think that realizing that we have a finite number of opportunities to make ourselves better before then will help us get ready.”

The Maroons’ next meet will take place this Saturday at the Wheaton Twilight Meet in Wheaton,  IL.