May 25, 2012

Chicago hurdles injuries, finishes fourth in UAA

The Maroons have become accustomed to high expectations over the last few years, but their goals were a little more modest this time around.

Chicago’s fourth-place finish at the UAA Championship in April was probably the best it could have hoped for given the squad that was available and, as injury problems at the culmination of the season offered the Maroons very little time to prepare, it can be considered a success.

“On the whole, it was a bit of a disappointing year for us,” head coach Chris Hall said. “But the disappointment didn’t come from the way our student-athletes who are healthy achieved; it was just that we were shorthanded at the end of the year. We didn’t have bodies in place to make a great run at doing some really special things within our conference, [but] we had a good year. We really did.”

The South Siders got off to a slow start, with mixed performances at the Ted Haydon Invite and Chicagoland Championships, but there were encouraging signs from the beginning. Third-year sprinter Dee Brizzolara returned from an oblique injury sustained during the indoor season to finish second and fourth in the 200m and 100m respectively.

However, the standout early season performance came from Billy Whitmore. His time in the 10,000m (30:18.56) was enough to qualify him for the NCAA National Championship, in which he finished 12th last night.

Chicago began to hit its stride as it approached the UAA Championship, with strong performances in the Wheaton College Twilight and the DePaul Invite. At DePaul, the South Siders beat DI schools Chicago State and UIC, and their improvement continued through the conference championships.

The Maroons missed out on the top three at the UAA meet by five points to Case Western, but after lowering their expectations, the way the squad stepped up bodes well for the future. Brizzolara was dominant, winning the 100m and 200m, third-year thrower Brandon Meckelberg won the discus, and there were third-place finishes for Whitmore and first-year Renat Zalov in the 10,000m and 1,500m respectively.

If there’s one positive the Maroons take from this season, it will be how many of their point scorers at conference will be returning next year. As, they hope, will their high expectations too.