The men’s and women’s track teams made the trip north to Whitewater, WI, this past weekend to compete in the highly competitive UW–Whitewater Invite. In the eight-team fields the women placed second and the men sixth. The Maroons’ coach Chris Hall described the meet as “the best competition we will see outside of the NCAAs.” Hall commented that he felt the teams handled themselves well. “As most track meets go at this time of the year, we had some good and some not so good things happen,” Hall said.
On the whole, more good things than bad happened for the women: They showed their national prowess by placing second in a competition that included three nationally ranked teams. The Lady Maroons, who placed fourth indoors last season, came into the week unranked but showed that they could fight for a trophy again this year, placing only 17 points behind number-one ranked UW–Oshkosh and 25 points ahead of third-place (14th place in the country) North Central College.
Fourth-year distance veteran and multinational outdoor champion Liz Lawton showed that she was in top form again this year by winning the 5,000-meter run in a national automatic qualifying time of 17:01.12. Lawton destroyed the field by a half minute to post the nation-leading time in the event. “The effort felt comfortable as it was evenly split,” Lawton said. The time was just where she hoped to be at this point of the season. The race was a stepping-stone for Lawton, who has big goals for the national meet.
“I think this performance sets me up to have as good of a shot as anyone at becoming the national champion [at 5,000 meters],” Lawton said. “I feel like I had a lot of gas left in the tank, so I know I can run faster.” Lawton hopes to lower her time down to 16:40 and gain the school record in the event along with the national title. Lawton is well on her way after this weekend’s race. “Confidence is one of the most valuable things you can have when you step up to a starting line,” Lawton stated, “so I’m really happy to have this under my belt to start to propel my season in the direction I want it to go.”
The other event winner for the women was third-year Julia Sizek who handily won the 3,000-meter in 10:26.02. The performance was exciting for Sizek: It showed she could be a major contributor for the Maroons at the UAA championships. “UAAs, as always, is our main goal [this indoor season],” Sizek said. “I also hope that this race is a sign that I’ll be able to contribute to our conference team, because I think that we can win the conference title again this year.”
Also worth noting was Kristin Constantine’s national provisional qualifying weight throw mark of 15.84, good enough for fourth place in the event. Hall also said he was very excited about the 4x400-meter relay team of first-year Stephanie Twellmeyer, fourth-year Stephanie Omueti, second-year Kayla McDonald, and fourth-year Ashley Eaves, which placed second with a time of 4:00.24. Eaves also placed second in the 55-meter hurdles with a time of 8.71.
On the men’s side the competition featured the nations’ top two ranking teams. Of the five squads topping the Maroons, all were ranked in the top 15 of D-III schools, UChicago came into the meet ranked 16th.
A big reason the Maroons have garnered that ranking has come from the performances of fourth-years Andrew Wells-Qu and Drew Jackson. As veteran point scorers Jackson and Wells-Qu made major contributions to the Maroons’ point total of 46, and did so with national qualifying marks.
Wells-Qu was the sole event winner for the Maroons, clocking a season-best time of 1:53.15 to win by over a second and a half in the 800-meter run. The performance is better than the time 1:53.52 he ran two weeks prior, lowering his own school record and giving him the fourth-best time in the nation. Despite the blazing times, Wells-Qu believes he can further lower his time as the season progresses and garner all-American status.
“At this point, I don’t expect my best races, and I expect to be tired,” Wells-Qu said, after having put in heavy weeks both in terms of mileage run and time in the weight room. Wells-Qu commented that he appreciated the high level of competition at the meet. “That level of intensity helps with the mental game required for racing,” he said. With all the work he has put in, Wells-Qu is happy with where he is right now but hungry for the future. “I had a pretty good day at Whitewater,” Wells-Qu stated, “so I expect even better things down the road.”
Drew Jackson saw stiff competition in the triple jump where he placed third jumping 14.75 m. The effort was not far off his previous nation-leading mark of 14.94 m from earlier in the year. Jackson was only beat by Augustana and UW–Whitewater jumpers Patrick Zuenik and Marcus Smith, whose 15-m jumps pass Jackson for the top two spots nationally.
Other top male performances came in the 3,000-meter run where third-year Bill Whitmore came in second with a time of 8:51; he was followed by third-year Brian Wille’s fourth-place finish at 8:53. Fourth-year captain Brian Andreycak also placed fourth in the 55-meter hurdles at 7.93.