The men’s cross country team will run in the NCAA D-III championships this Saturday. The Maroons will compete against 40 of the Midwest’s top teams in the regional meet at Rock Island, Illinois. “The top five teams advance to consideration for the NCAAs,” explained head coach Chris Hall. “We’re not really worrying about hitting national standards during this race. It’s all about placement.”
“We are a bit of a dark horse, based on how we’ve competed this season,” Hall continued. “But I’ve been watching these guys practice, and from what I have seen they are completely capable. They just need to put everything together this weekend.”
Top challengers include North Central and Wash U, currently ranked first and second respectively in regionals. North Central claimed both the 2008 and 2009 titles, with an impressive score of 21 in the latter. The Maroons’ last trip to regionals ended in a 10th place finish with a total of 330 points.
Third- and fourth-ranked University of Wisconsin–Steven’s Point and UW–Platteville may also be teams to watch. Steven’s Point just claimed the WIAC title, and Platteville’s Jason Garvens was the individual winner at the same meet. UW–La Crosse, also holder of several regional titles (’05, ’06, and ’07) is ranked eighth regionally but may still pose a threat.
Even in the face of such tough competition, Chicago has the potential to triumph. The team will get a boost from what has proven their biggest asset this season—their ability to run as a cohesive unit.
“The men’s roster is upside down from one week to the next; they run in a very tight pack, and that is clearly our strength,” said Hall. Often there are only seconds between Maroon finishers, as in last week’s UAA championship (Bill Whitmore at 26:03.6 and Moe Bahrani at 26:05.52). This will doubtless be an advantage against such a large field.
Said Hall on the team’s strategy: “We’ve got to get out a little more aggressively in this race, without overstretching ourselves, and get into a position to be successful,” said Hall. In order to make the championships, the Maroons must hold nothing back.
If all goes well, Chicago will move on to the NCAA Division III Championship on November 20th.