This weekend, the Maroons will line up against the strongest competition they’ll see this year outside of Nationals. In the nine-team field at the Leonard “Squig” Whitewater Invitational, five teams rank in the top 10 in DIII for the men and the top 15 in DIII for the women. DI UW–Madison will also be in attendance.
Chicago has little chance to win this meet. However, it will provide an excellent opportunity for the Maroons to run against a level of competition similar to what they’ll encounter in the UAA. On the women’s side, UW–La Crosse, UW–Oshkosh, UW–Whitewater, North Central, and Monmouth are as talented as conference rivals Wash U and Emory. On the men’s side, the Maroons will challenge themselves on all fronts in a true test of their abilities.
“The field this weekend is going to be incredible,” second-year Michael Bennett said. “The only events at this meet that don’t have anyone in the top 10 in DIII are the 800 and the 3000 on the men’s side.”
The most interesting aspects of the meet will be the individual matchups. With such high-quality competition, Chicago’s studs will have their hands full against the athletes who will likely be their toughest competition to qualify for Nationals.
“We’re in a recovery week this week so our team is hoping to put up some big times and marks this weekend now that we’re rested up,” Bennett said.
The men’s distance team, led by 20th-ranked fourth-year Dan Povitsky, will likely face a faster pace during the race. The women’s 4x4 has bright hopes for Nationals and will compete against the best 4x4 in the nation, UW–La Crosse. Both the men and women’s DMRs, ranked seventh and 15th, respectively, will race the fastest runners they have faced all year.
In addition, fourth-ranked third-year Pam Yu will take on the best and ninth-ranked long jumpers in DIII.
The pole vault will also be key to follow. Including Chicago’s own Bennett, the meet will feature five of the top 10 pole vaulters in the country. Bennett currently ranks second with his height of 16 feet, 0.75 inches, and Jeffery Hill of UW–La Crosse ranks third by less than two inches. The winner in the pole vault of the meet could very well be crowned national champion come March.
“I’m coming back from a few weeks off and I’m hoping to jump high," Bennett said. “The pole vault competition is basically a preview for the national meet so I’ll get to see where I stand compared to the other athletes.”
The level of competition does not make this a must-win for any of the Maroons. The top 13 men and top 15 women in the national rankings for each event qualify to Nationals regardless of where and when they entered the rankings. No matter what happens, expect the Maroons to crowd the infield of Kachel Fieldhouse and display their love and affection for their teammates as they compete against the nation’s best.
The meet will start on Friday with the men’s events at 5 p.m. and conclude on Saturday with the women’s events, which begin at 11 a.m.