CHICAGO – With plenty of returning talent and successful cross country seasons in tow, the University of Chicago track and field teams are primed to continue their upward trajectory in both the conference and national scene in 2019.
The indoor season kicks off on Saturday, Jan. 12 with the Maroons hosting the annual Phoenix Invitational at the Henry Crown Field House. The outdoor season will commence on March 30 at the Augustana College Viking Olympics.
WOMEN'S TEAM PREVIEW
As Head Coach Chris Hall embarks on his 18th season leading the Maroons, he believes the women possess a complete team across the board. "Our greatest strength may be in our ability to cover all the events pretty well and to have a bit of depth in each of the event areas," he said. "Coming off a cross country season in which we finished 11th nationally, we have a very strong jumps corps (long, triple, high and pole vault) and our sprinters have been very strong within our conference."
That depth proved vital in the 2018 indoor season, allowing UChicago to capture its fifth University Athletic Association (UAA) indoor team title. The Maroons followed that up with a second-place showing at the UAA outdoor championships.
More recently, UChicago placed 11th at the NCAA cross country championships this past fall. Sophomore Sophie Elgamal earned All-American status by placing 26th. Sophomore Emma Dyer, junior Maggie Boudreau and junior Claire Brockway all finished in the top 100 as well.
The Maroons return a pair of All-Americans in junior Laura Darcey and senior Nicole VacaGuzman. Darcey was the UAA Indoor MVP (Field Event) who went on to take fifth in the high jump and sixth in the pentathlon at the NCAA Indoor Championships. VacaGuzman posted top-eight finishes in the indoor and outdoor 800 meters.
The jumps have been particularly strong in recent years, with several podium sweeps during the UAA meets. "We have a lot of very talented athletes in the jumping events and I believe they take a great deal of pride in the fact that they are among the top teams in the country in those event areas," Hall said. "We've made an impact at the NCAA level in the high jump with three women in the meet last year and two that were All-Americans. The next goal would be to begin adding to the NCAAs in the other events. I do believe we will have more representation this year."
The veteran head coach is also looking forward to how the first-years perform in their collegiate debuts. "We have a good incoming class again this year, perhaps highlighted by Isabel Maletich (long jump and triple jump), Rachel TerHaar (pole vault), Meg Fitzpatrick, Kaela Jolibois, Ally Bennett (sprints) along with Kaitlyn Van Baalen and Lucy Jeffs in the middle distance events, to name a few. Kaitlyn and Lucy already got a taste of the NCAAs during cross country season," Hall stated.
MEN'S TEAM PREVIEW
The UChicago men took third as a team at last year's UAA indoor and outdoor championships. Junior Joe Previdi headlines the returners after a big indoor season in 2018. Previdi came within inches of a national title in the indoor 800 meters, taking runner-up honors in a photo finish. The 4x400-meter relay that won the UAA indoor title brings back three of its members – senior Ben Chaimberg, junior Tyson Miller and junior Elliott Paintsil. Junior Alexander Scott was last year's indoor shot put winner at UAAs.
"Like our women's squad, I feel our men's team has pretty good depth and covers pretty much all events on a weekly basis," Hall said. "Our men's cross country team submitted one of our best seasons ever, placing 12th nationally. Joe Previdi is coming off a runner-up finish nationally in the 800, Ryan Cutter was an All-American this fall in cross country and I see Alex Scott as someone in the shot put and weight throw that is ready to take the next step and compete at the NCAA level.
"I am also very enthused by what I have seen so far this fall out of our sprinters," he continued. "We are still figuring out what they can do individually, but I believe they have the ability in terms of relays to be in the NCAAs."
The fall season saw the men's cross country team finish 12th at the NCAA national meet, with underclassmen providing four of the top five times. Sophomore Ryan Cutter earned All-American status (20th place) as well. Hall believes those performances can translate to the track as well this year.
"While I believe this is a great strength of our team, I also feel it is a great strength in our conference," he said. "But our guys seem to be on the rise and I don't expect that to stall this track season. The nice thing about that cross country team as they transition into track is that we have a fairly even balance of middle-distance and long-distance runners."
This year's team captains include seniors Chaimberg, Jacob Gosselin and Owen Melia. Hall also pointed to Miller and Scott as leaders who add a lot in terms of guiding the team in the different event areas.
The rookies will also be looked to as a source of team points this year. "A couple first-years already have NCAA experience via cross country (Henry Myers and Sam Craig)," said Hall. "I look to many others in our frosh class that can also make a great impact (Wilson Hansen, Dillon O'Loughlin, Caden Kalinowski in the sprints hurdles), along with John McCormick and Sashank Rayapudi (long jump and triple jump)."