There is nothing quite like burning rubber with D-I competition to gauge one’s mettle. Chicago track and field had one of its last chances of the season to fine tune its skills and strategies at the Wisconsin Twilight Invitational.
Chasing mostly personal goals in what amounted to an individual free-for-all, the Maroons inched out some impressive triumphs while falling short in some devastatingly close finishes.
The field for the Wisconsin Twilight Invitational offered all manner of competition including D-I and D-III teams present, as well as junior and community colleges. This meet, in its current form, was first run last year.
The meet offered one of the last chances for competitors to reach national-qualifying standards, thereby enabling a spot in the national championship meet in late May. Fourth-year Andrew Wells-Qu secured a spot in the national championship by posting a time of 1:51:02 min in the 800 meter run, the nation’s fourth best score at press time. Fellow fourth-year Brian Andreycak qualified provisionally with a time of 14.82 seconds in the 110-meter hurdles.
“I’m pleased that I’ve been able to record only provisional qualifying times for the past five races,” Andreycak said. “But I feel like I’m not at the level that I’m capable of getting to, which I believe would secure me a spot in the national meet.”
“It was a bit nerve-wracking to race against such stiff competition,” Wells-Qu shared. “But we had a rabbit leading us through 600 meter, which let me focus on running fast rather than racing competitors.”
On the women’s side, fourth-year Kristin Constantine posted provisional qualifying scores in two events, the hammer throw and shot put. She won the former with her second attempt of 51.43m.
Other notable performances were turned in by fourth-year Jacob Solus, who won the triple jump, fourth-year Ashley Eaves finishing second in the 400-meter hurdles, and fourth-year sprinter Stephanie Omueti finishing third in the 400-meter. One notable event, the 5,000-meter run, saw a slew of Chicago runners, led by second-year Billy Whitmore and third-year Moe Bahrani, finish in the top seven.
Some competitors deserve special mention for performance in several events. Third-year Daniel Heck won second in hammer throw and participated in the shot put and discus throw. Fourth-year Moriah Grooms-Garcia won third in the 400-meter hurdles and fifth in pole vault. Third-year Paige Peltzer won fifth in javelin throw and seventh in high jump. Third-year Madison Allen finished fifth in long jump, finished ninth in 100 meter dash, and was part of the team that won third in the 4x100 meter relay.
The overall spirit of the team hung in the balance with acknowledgements of deserving effort tempered by rumination or possibilities. “Everyone is competing at a decently high level,” Andreycak said. “But we haven’t been able to quite dial ourselves in mentally like we want.”
But overall, the team was contented with the Chicago performance at the meet. “I was able to put in a strong effort to close out the last mile,” Whitmore said. “It felt good to be back at a high fitness level.”
The recent origins of the Wisconsin Invitational hosted in Madison, WI, meant that there were sure to be uncertainties about the character and format of the contest. Said Andreycak: “Wisconsin treated it as a glorified practice. Some of their athletes only ran partial races, and the officials were very lax with some of the rules.”
One of the rules in question regarded false starts. There were two false starts in the 110 meter hurdles, which the NCAA rulebook states should result in disqualification. In this case, however, the officials simply allowed the athletes to compete.
Additionally, the nature of the competition meant that team scores would not be factored and created an informal environment for contest. Wisconsin’s distinguished distance running program utilized the 5,000–meter run as a training exercise, running an up-tempo jog which still outpaced most of the field. The Wisconsin athletes finished up their day with another workout after the race, running intervals on the track and while women competed in the 3000–meter run.
“The competition was not as intense, but it provided a great opportunity to achieve individual and seasonal goals,” Whitmore attested
The Maroons have two more meets before the national championships on May 26 in Delaware. The first, the Chicago Penultimate, is a smaller meet and will be held on the day of Summer Breeze. After that, Chicago will compete at the aptly named North Central Last Chance Meet. Those who have qualified, like Wells-Qu, may take a break, but there are still spots to be had in the national meet for those found most worthy in the fire of competition.