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Who needs Summer Breeze when you’re too busy setting national best times on the track?
Third-year Liz Lawton did just that at Saturday’s Chicago Penultimate in the 5000-meter finals.
Her scorching time of 16:41.16 was the best mark in D-III on the year.
“It was definitely worth missing Summer Breeze,” Lawton said. “I never thought I would ever run this fast…I’ve never been happier with a race before in my life and I will never forget this [5000-meter race].”
In less than ideal conditions for running, Lawton, who was just named UAA Athlete of the Week, executed the superb race she’s been hoping for all season. She led the entire pack after the first lap and performed like a well-oiled machine as she blew away the competition by almost 10 seconds.
“It really felt easy and controlled the whole time,” Lawton said. “The entire race was even-split for the most part and it felt like clockwork.”
Lawton now anxiously anticipates trying to uphold her top time at Nationals in two weeks.
“I’m wicked pumped for the national meet,” Lawton said. “It’s going to be an unreal race and the competition is plenty deep, but I know what I need to do to win, and this weekend has given me the confidence to execute my plans.”
Lawton, however, wasn’t the only standout performer at Stagg Field on Saturday. Third-year Stephanie Omueti garnered four-first place victories on the day, winning the 100-meter dash in 12.38 seconds and the 200-meter dash in 25.26 seconds.
It was her last race—and victory—of the afternoon as part of the 4x400-meter relay team that was the most personally challenging.
“I went in the race mentally tired, coupled with exhausted legs,” Omueti said. “Despite my coaches’ disappointment at my leg of the race, I gave the team what I had left and I am proud of my performance, considering it was the first [400-meter relay race] of the outdoor season.”
On the men’s side, third-year Drew Jackson punched his automatic ticket to the National meet, notching 14.85 meters in the triple jump. It was the second longest triple jump to date nationally this year. Jackson was also just named UAA Athlete of the Week.
Third-year Felipe Fernandez Del Castillo and second-year Moe Bahrani dominated the men’s 10000-meter race, finishing in 30:52.42 and 31:09.98, respectively. Their times were over a minute better than the rest of the competitors.
The men’s 1500-meter contest was similarly an all-Chicago affair, as the Maroons brought home the race’s top four times, with third-year Harry Backlund coming out on top in 3:56.01.
Despite these top place finishes, however, head coach Chris Hall expected more from the Maroons on Saturday.
“We get to this time of the year and are looking for great performances,” Hall said. “We had some of those…but quite honestly we’re looking for more.”
“This meet was to be a warm-up for [the National meet],” Omueti added. “I’m glad it was indeed a warm-up because there is plenty that I, as well as other teammates, need to work [on].”
The Maroons now look towards the North Central Last Chance meet beginning Thursday to make their final adjustments and carve out some more automatic qualifier spots in the D-III championship.
On the whole, Hall feels good about Chicago’s readiness for the final meet. “We have some [athletes] that need to rise up, but [feeling] the pressure of this truly being the last chance will allow us to do just that,” Hall said. “Look for more qualifiers.”
The Maroons will next compete Thursday and Friday in Naperville.