Over the past weekend, nine members of the men’s and women’s squads competed at the DIII NCAA National Championships. The thrilling competition, held at Wartburg College’s Walston-Hoover Stadium, marked the culminating meet of the teams’ seasons.
“When I look back on the season, I am so proud of how hard so many members of our team worked,” said second-year distance runner Khia Kurtenbach. “I am really proud of our team's success this season, even though we had a lot of meets with really bad weather. It was really great to be able to bring a big group of athletes to the national meet. Having a big group of teammates made the competition really fun.”
In the 800-meter, third-year and former national champion of the Indoor Championships Michele Dobbs, qualified for the final meet, placing sixth out of the 20 contestants. In the final, she placed seventh with a time of 2:14.5. The result still marked an impressive showing from Dobbs, who will look to feature prominently in the team’s efforts next year.
The men’s team’s lone representative, fourth-year pole vaulter Michael Bennett, began Chicago’s events on Thursday morning. Despite qualifying 18th out the 20 finalists in his event, Bennett’s height of 4.90m secured him a 14th place finish. The day marked the end of a long and storied UChicago career for Bennett, who won the national title for the indoor pole vault in 2014 before battling back from a harsh injury over the past year.
In the 1,500-meter race, Chicago sent forth second-year Megan Verner-Crist, who had also qualified 18th out of 20th for the event. Unfortunately for the Maroons, Verner-Crist was unable to make the final heat, placing sixth in her race with a time of 4.36.71, good enough for 15th overall.
The 3,000-meter steeplechase saw third-year Minnie Horvath also qualifying 18th in her field. However, due to a series of nagging injuries, Horvath was unable to qualify for the final heat. In the women’s high jump, fourth-year Nelson Trotter also was unable to make it to the final heat, though she still put in a respectable effort.
The women’s 4x400-meter team couldn’t manage to make its final heat, as the quartet consisting of first-year Nicole VacaGuzman, fourth-year Mikaela Hammel, first-year Emma Koether, and anchoring third-year Dobbs finished a few spots away from qualifying. However, the group still managed an impressive time of 3:48.60, which beat their previous school record.
Lastly, in the 5000-meter race, Kurtenbach finished an impressive sixth overall while managing to post a time below 17 minutes.
“My goal for the meet was to finish in the top 8, so it was great to make that happen,” an exuberant Kurtenbach said. “I'm really proud of myself for running a strategic, tactile race. I tried to be patient during the race and conserve energy so I could be ready to kick when the pack started to break up. I'm really happy that my strategy paid off and I was able to make the podium. As a team, I think we did a great job of supporting each other. There's a lot of pressure at national meets, and I think we did a great job of supporting each other so that we could all do our best.”
This year has come to an end, but with athletes like Kurtenbach, Dobbs, Koether, VacaGuzman, and Horvath set to return next year, the 2016–17 year will be one to watch.