The Maroons traveled west to Warrenville, IL last Friday, where they placed first in the North Central Open. 19 Maroons competed, comprising exactly half of the field of 38.
It seemed appropriate, then, for a competition dominated by Chicago athletes to be defined by usual Chicago weather. After a week of rain, the course was wet and provided a muddier race than would normally be expected. For some Maroons, though, the conditions were a welcome change.
“I had a lot of fun running over the sloppy, mucky course; It felt like real cross country, as opposed to the track meets on grass which tend to make up the majority of cross country races,” second-year Jake Mullen said.
The Maroons placed eight out of the top 10 overall runners and six out of the top seven team runners. This was not, however, the South Siders’ strongest lineup. Chicago’s top eight runners were given the weekend off in preparation for the UAA Championship meet that will take place this Saturday.
“This rest is essential in order to give our top eight, who have been training and racing pretty much full throttle for the past two months, some hard-earned rest,” Mullen said.
Even without their star performers, the Maroons did well. Although Sergio Miranda, an unattached runner, beat the field by a full seven seconds, Maroon fourth-year Gregor Siegmund finished first among the remainder of competitors with a time of 15:12.92 in the 5K. Chicago made up nine of the top 10 finishers of the day, with DuPage’s Daniel Woldesilass as the runner up, only two seconds behind Siegmund.
Third-year Griffin Brunk came in third for the Maroons (15:17.11) and second-year Kevin Vollrath followed close behind (15:17.69). After the top four, there was a drop-off of about 20 seconds followed by a slew of Maroon finishers.
One of the keys to the South Siders’ success was their ability to race as a single unit. This strategy allowed the less experienced Maroons to reach new personal records alongside their teammates’ marks.
“The majority of the [first-years] took the opportunity to race together in a pack, which led to many of us achieving significant personal bests over the three mile distance,” Mullen said.
With the younger members of the team doing so well, the burden of the Maroons’ success will now shift back to their veterans. This weekend, the South Siders travel to Rochester for the UAA Championship, ranked as the 22nd best team in the nation. That number will mean very little, though, as they prepare to face Wash U, NYU, Carnegie Mellon, and Rochester, all of which are also ranked in the top 25. The Maroons are well aware of the talent in their conference, but still believe they can accomplish big things.
“The hay is in the barn for our runners,” Mullen said. “They just need to be mentally ready to give it their all this Saturday.”