The clock has been reset.
After last weekend’s UAA Indoor Championship, Chicago turned its attention to the outdoor season. Tonight’s North Central Last Chance Meet, in many ways, will be a fresh start.
The penultimate meet of the indoor season is the Maroons’ final opportunity to post national standard times and earn a place at the NCAA Championships in Grinnell, Iowa. For a large portion of the squad, however, the focus has already shifted to the outdoor season.
“This has been a light week for us,” associate coach Laurie McElroy said. “For most of our athletes, this Friday is more of a transition to the outdoor season. As of last Saturday, we only have eight weeks to the outdoor conference, so the countdown begins now.”
There are, however, several Maroons still vying for NCAA bids. Chief among those will be the distance medley team, comprised of fourth-years Jaleesa Akuoko and Madison Allen, third-year Julia Sizek, and second-year Michaela Whitelaw. These athletes’ potential has not gone unnoticed.
“I think [the distance medley] team has the best shot in our squad of reaching the national standard,” McElroy said, “But, if they’re trying to qualify for the NCAA meet, it will certainly increase the pressure on them to perform.”
Third-year Kayla McDonald is hoping to make it to the national meet in the individual 800-meter. She has enjoyed an extraordinary season, breaking school records three times and posting the second fastest time in the UAA this season at last week’s conference championships. She is currently ranked seventh in the nation.
But, while head coach Chris Hall knows that some members of his squad will have more on the line tonight than others, he’s trying to keep the focus on the bigger picture.
“We have a lot more than a few weeks left to our season,” Hall said. “We build up all year to the outdoor championships—we freshen up a little for the indoor one—but our goals are centered more around the month of May than the month of February. So we’ve got a lot left to do and we’ll try and start improving performances again starting at North Central.”
The North Central Last Chance meet begins tonight at 5 p.m. in Naperville, Illinois.