Cross Country Stays Strong at Sean Early Lakefront Invitational

Clear skies and strong sunshine set the stage for the 44th Annual Sean Earl Lakefront Invitational, hosted by Loyola.

Clear skies and strong sunshine set the stage for the 44th Annual Sean Earl Lakefront Invitational, hosted by Loyola Sept. 29. The invitational included four events, and featured runners from 24 different universities, including nationally ranked No. 20 University of Tulsa and No. 23 Ole Miss University.

The invitational, named in honor of former Rambler and cross-country athlete Sean Earl after his death in 2000, was held at the Sydney R. Marovitz Golf Course in Chicago’s Lincoln Park instead of the Montrose Beach course used in years prior.

“We were just down at Montrose last year, which was fun, but it was awesome to be on the golf course,” graduate student Chris Devaney said. “A little more structured, slightly better atmosphere, it flowed really nicely.”

The course’s starting line was just north of the Waveland Clock Tower and featured a single loop of 2000 meters (2K). Graduate student Delia McDade-Clay said the course provided footing that “could not have been better” and had a “great rhythm.”

The championship event, named after Loyola Hall of Famer Tom Cooney, began at 11:25 a.m. with the start of the women’s 6K. After a large crowd of runners attempted to keep pace together in the first lap, the eventual winner became increasingly apparent as Gonzaga’s Rozina Machu (19:21) maintained a steady lead and finished as the individual winner a full 24 seconds ahead of runner-up Addie Engel of Ohio State (19:45).

Furman University took home team first-place honors while Loyola, who entered the event ranked eighth in the Midwest Region, placed 15th as a group. The highest finisher for the Ramblers was McDade-Clay (21:09) who finished at 61st place, followed closely by former A-10 Rookie of the Week first-year Eileen Seebon, who secured a new personal record with a time of 21:18.

Rounding out the qualifying finishes for the group were third-year Grace Jostock (21:29), second-year Lilian Mataway (22:00) and first-year Julia Isham, who secured a new personal best of 22:01 in her debut for the team.

McDade-Clay — who is continuing her career at Loyola after four years at Siena College — spoke about the team’s finish on home territory and what it meant moving forward.

“It’s my second race with the whole team, but it’s my first race at home,” McDade-Clay said. “Coming into a new team, it’s just great to have a lot of jerseys around, and I feel like we had a really good day and we established ourselves amongst some pretty big teams. So that’s something to look forward to and build into.”

At 12 p.m., the final event — the men’s 8K — began and featured a Loyola men’s squad ranked tenth in the Midwest Region. While the University of Wisconsin took home both the team title and individual finishes of first and second place, the Ramblers were close behind.

After four crowded laps around the course, the Ramblers were able to secure a fourth-place finish. The group was led by an inspired effort from Devaney, who secured third place with a time of 23:35. Rounding out the event’s top 20 finishes was second-year Jason Clayton, who posted a time of 24:04 at 17th place.

The remaining three qualifying runs came from third-year Gabe Smit (24:14) and second-year Jake Phillips (24:16), who both secured personal records. Another previous A-10 Rookie of the Week, first-year Cael Mulholland earned the final qualifying run with 24:23 in his first 8K event for the team.

The team garnered national attention, as the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association announced Tuesday the Ramblers received votes in the national poll, the first time for the program since 2005.

Additionally, following the event, Loyola grabbed both A-10 weekly awards for men’s cross country, as Devaney earned Performer of the Week, and Phillips earned Rookie of the Week. Both awards were the athlete’s first of the season.

Devaney praised the group’s efforts and said he was proud of the team.

“We’ve been working really well together all summer,” Devaney said. “Now into the fall and this was our first one as a full team. So a really awesome, good stepping stone to what we’ve got coming for the rest of the season.” 

The Ramblers’ next competition will be the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational in Madison Oct. 13. The invitational is the team’s last before they attempt to make an appearance at the A-10 conference and NCAA championships.

Featured image by Holden Green | The Phoenix

Alexander Sciarra

Alexander Sciarra