Although spring break ended two weeks ago, the Maroons were unable to start their outdoor season until this past weekend after the Ted Haydon Invitational, scheduled for April 2, was cancelled due to inclement weather. Despite the hiatus, the women clearly did not miss a beat, as they finished first of 11 teams at the Chicagoland Championship this past Saturday. They continued their success from the indoor season where they finished eighth at the NCAA DIII Indoor Championship and took first place in five out of their seven other meets, including the indoor part of the Chicagoland Championship.
At the meet this weekend, the women won five events and placed in 14 additional events, including two one-two finishes. These one-two finishes came in the 400-meter by first-years Nicole VacaGuzman and Emma Koether, while the high jump saw the other from second-year Ade Ayoola and first-year Alexandra Thompson.
VacaGuzman received multiple wins on the day, as she was also part of the 4x400-meter relay team that continued its dominance from the indoor season. In addition to VacaGuzman, the team includes Koether and standout upperclassmen: fourth-year Mikaela Hammel and third-year Michelle Dobbs. One could argue that VacaGuzman had a breakout performance at this meet. Attributing that success to her preparation, she said, “I felt like my training this week was harder and more intense, so I felt stronger in my race.”
Another winner on the day was second-year Khia Kurtenbach, who took first in the 1,500-meter, adding on to an already stellar year for the three-time All-American. Classmate Megan Verner-Crist followed in third place by less than four seconds. The long distance wins were rounded out by fourth-year Madeleine Horvath, who won the 3,000-meter steeplechase in dominating fashion, by nearly 18 seconds.
The other 14 places included four second-place finishes and 10 in the third-place slot. The field saw four of these, with fourth-year Nkemdilim Nwaokolo taking third in both the discus and hammer throw, while fourth-year Nelson Trotter finished third in the triple jump and second-year Angel Fluet contributed another third-place finish in the pole vault.
Second-year Olivia Cattau also was able to chip in two third-place finishes in the both the 100-meter and 400-meter hurdles. Dobbs, who was a national champion in the 800-meter run at the Indoor UAA Championship, finished second in the 800-meter Saturday. The 4x100-meter relay team of fourth-years Rachael Jackson, Hammel, Alison Pilder, and third-year Charissa Newkirk also added a third-place finish for the Maroons.
In the long distance events, the South Siders were able to push through the less than ideal weather and add points to the overall score. Second-year Kelsey Dunn took third in the 5,000-meter while the 10,000-meter saw a pair of fourth-years, Maya Lewinsohn and Christina Leon, take second and third, respectively.
However, even though the women won quite handily, VacaGuzman asserts that the team still isn’t satisfied. “Running in this weather was definitely a challenge and since it was windy I don’t think our times were indicative of where the team really stands,” she said. The weather was difficult indeed, as the meet had to be moved from Friday to Saturday due to snow. But the first-year is staying positive about the outdoor season even after the auspicious start. “I really enjoy running outdoors,” VacaGuzman said. “I’ve always done better outdoors and feel much better when on an outdoor 400-meter track. Not having to cut in at the 150-meter mark is a great relief.”
Hopefully the Midwestern climate will make for better race conditions this weekend as both squads head to Wheaton College for the Wheaton Twilight Meet on Saturday. This is their last opportunity to fine-tune before the Outdoor UAA Championship at Wash U on April 23–24.