“We ran for our teammates!”
Such was the unifying rally cry from third-year Rachel Ohman as the Maroon women’s cross-country team tied for second at the UW–Oshkosh Brooks Invitational last Saturday. Despite the discomfort of bad weather across the Midwest over the weekend, the girls from Chicago were able to channel their inner Rocky as they achieved season-best times across the board. Now, as the UAA championships approach, the Maroons will look to capitalize on their strong performance.
At Oshkoch, Chicago entered the race ranked 15th in the nation but faced 10 of the top 25 teams in the country. After the win, the Maroons moved up to seventh in the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association poll.
“Our coach has been telling us all season that we are an excellent team and have great potential, but I don’t think any of us fully believed it until Oshkosh,” exclaimed Ohman. “At Oshkosh we finally trusted ourselves and each other.”
The dominant placing was indeed a team effort as Chicago gained 116 points from its top five runners. They were led by fourth-year luminary Liz Lawton, who finished second in the 6,000-meter race with a time of 21:15.
Even for Lawton it was an incredible run. Her time was the fastest result in the UAA in 2010.
The team also benefited from magnificent times by Ohman who finished 17th at 22:22, second-year Julia Sizek who placed 23rd with a time of 22:32, and fourth-year Elizabeth Bright who came in 29th at 22:41. First-year prodigy Michaela Whitelaw rounded out the group at 45th with a time of 22:55.
All this came as the runners were feeling the stress of a long season and as if they were running on empty: “[It was one of] those days in which things don’t go so well, and your legs feel like cinderblocks,” explained Lawton.
“Not one of us felt fresh or sharp during the race,” added Ohman. “But we were able to push through the fatigue of midseason training.”
Though they did not feel too well pre-race, the women began the race with a bang. They struggled with the middle portions of the event, but constant encouragement among the team members helped them keep up the pace. “We all took it out pretty fast but managed to finish well,” said Whitelaw. “However, my teammate Sonia [Khan] really helped to keep me going the last 0.7 miles.”
In fact, the beginning may have been too fast, and the runners may have overstrained themselves. Lawton admitted that this “wasn’t the smartest tactical race I’ve run.” Nevertheless, the Maroons displayed their tenacity and heart in the showing—one can only wonder how good they would have been fully rested.
Head coach Chris Hall expects tough competition in the UAA Championships on Saturday and considers a fourth-place trophy finish or higher to be a sublime accomplishment. “We have goals of winning the UAAs and expect our greatest competition to come from Wash U who did not have their best meet at Oshkosh and Case Western Reserve.”
The Maroons, who are now ranked 7th in the USTFCCA poll, expect strong competition this weekend from 16th ranked Wash U. The team will look to finish higher than its 6th placed ranking at last year’s UAAs.