Bears best conference, build momentum at UAA Championships
The men’s and women’s track teams won the University Athletic Association Championships this weekend, defeating their six conference foes to claim their 11th and 12th titles in the last decade. The men’s track team had a dominant showing, besting second place University of Chicago by 86 points, 201-115. On the women’s side, juggernauts Wash. U. and Chicago duked it out for first before the Bears upset the Maroons and eked out a narrow victory, 168-161.
As the Bears prepare for their last chance to qualify for the NCAA tournament at Wartburg College next week and the national championship in two weeks, they hope this meet will give them momentum.
“Energy feeds off itself,” senior Nick Matteucci said. “I think this gives us a lot of energy going forward into the last chance meet next week and the national championship.”
“The athletes were ready; their coaches had them ready,” head coach Jeff Stiles said. “They’re great competitors. They’re poised. We have a history of doing well and I think they rode a lot of that. Our saying for the weekend was ‘A cord of three strands is not easily broken.’ We talked about ‘Two teams, one family.’ It was a snowball.”
The men’s track team was projected to do well, yet they were determined to exceed those lofty expectations.
“We knew coming in that we were in a strong position, but we wanted to make a statement,” Matteucci said. “Not just do it, but show that we really earned it, without a doubt. Across the board: from the sprints to the hurdles to the distance events to the jumps and the relays, too.”
That statement was made. The men were dominant, posting podium finishes in nearly every event. By the time the meet ended, they had made it clear that they were not merely the best team in the conference. They are one of the best in the country.
On the women’s side, No. 2 Chicago was expected to claim victory by a wide margin. Going into the meet, the Bears needed strong performances across the board to have a chance at first place. They got that, overperforming in multiple events while Chicago underachieved.
“We scored a little more than we were supposed to and Chicago scored a lot less,” Stiles said. “We just performed where we were supposed to. It was just one after another. [Junior] Randal Walker went from sixth to the third in shotput and that started the momentum.”
The result was a close meet that the Bears managed to take.
“We were not supposed to be in the race for a team championship at all,” junior Caira Watson-Haynes said. “Even after the first day, we were down 30. [University of Chicago] will definitely be [at] nationals, so it was nice to get that win against them today.”
The UAA championships have given the track team a jolt of momentum heading into the home stretch of the indoor track season. The Bears will take a caravan of competitors to national championships this season, which they hope will lead to another stellar team outing.
“We want to have a busload of people going in. That’s a special thing [when] you can bring a whole team,” Matteucci said. “We’re super grateful. A lot of teams, they may send a couple athletes max, if any. So the fact that we can have a bus is something really special and I don’t want to take for granted but also [is] something I want to celebrate.”
On the men’s side, freshmen Christian Bean and Marcus-Jay Wilkes finished first and second in the 60m dash. Wilkes won the 200m dash as well. In the middle-distance events, the Bears were particularly dominant. Senior Greig Dimailig and junior John Harry Wagner finished first and second in the 400m dash. Sophomore Jacob Ridderhoff edged out Carnegie Mellon University’s Graham Eversden for first place in the 800m run. Matteucci won the mile run by nearly five seconds. Matteucci also came in second in the 3000m run. Senior Brad Hodkinson took gold in the 5000m run. Freshman Gio Alfred, senior Jacob Gray and junior Andrew Whitaker took third, second and first respectively in the 60m hurdles. In the 4x400m relay, Dimailig, Whitaker, Wilkes and Wagner took first. In the distance medley relay, senior Jack Sebok, senior Jon Fleming, freshman Jackson Cox and Matteucci claimed victory over CMU. Senior Collis McKenzie won the high jump. Sophomore Matt Moore was on the top of the podium in long jump. Sophomore Melvin Aninagyei-Bonsu won the triple jump by a margin of .14m
On the women’s side, junior Sophie Grigaux, senior Sara Mesiano and freshman Aoife Dunne took the top three spots in the 800m run. Senior Paige Lawler won the 3000 meter run. Junior Katie Snodgrass took gold in the 5000m run. Watson-Haynes won 60m hurdles. Junior Julia Dannenbaum took first in the pole vault.
National championships are March 13 and 14 in Winston Salem, N.C.