The Daily Illini

Illinois cross country teams compete in Big Ten Championship

Illinois Cross Country runs in the Illini Open at the University of Illinois Arboretum on Friday, Oct. 20.

Illinois Cross Country runs in the Illini Open at the University of Illinois Arboretum on Friday, Oct. 20.

Austin Yattoni

Austin Yattoni

Illinois Cross Country runs in the Illini Open at the University of Illinois Arboretum on Friday, Oct. 20.

By Jared Farmer, Staff writer

The Illinois cross country teams traveled to Indiana on Sunday to compete in the Big Ten Championships.

Sophomore Jon Davis led the Illini men’s team, running a 24:20.6 in the 8,000-meter race and finishing ninth, contributing to the team’s fourth overall place.

“Jon was battling stomach issues in that last mile, and because of that, I don’t think his body allowed him to finish the way he would’ve wanted to in the race,” coach Jake Stewart said. “He was first-team All-Big Ten and was disappointed in that, so this is something he wants to build off of.”

Along with Davis, junior Jesse Reiser ran a time of 24:30.2 and finished in 13th place. Both Davis and Reiser earned All-Big Ten honors following the race on Sunday.

“Jesse had a really good day,” Stewart said. “He’s been battling plantar fasciitis for the last three to four weeks, and on the type of course we ran I thought he was going to be challenged, and he did a really good job answering that challenge and putting himself in a position to run the best race he could.”

Junior Zach Smith finished third for the Illini, just one place short of All-Big Ten honors, and No. 15 overall with a time of 24:37.3.

“Zach had an exceptional day. I think he was around No. 29 or No. 30 last year in this meet, so to move up 15 spots in his third Big Ten race was a great performance,” Stewart said. “He had a race plan in mind and did everything he could to execute that.”

The Illini featured four runners in the top-30 with junior Billy Magnesen finishing 27th with a time of 24:55.4. For Davis, Smith and Magnesen, the finish marked their personal best times at Big Ten Championships.

“We thought this was a good day, by no means a great day for us,” Stewart said. “We finished fourth in a very tough conference, and about nine to 10 years ago that would’ve been a really high watermark for us. We still finished very well at a very competitive meet, and I think how we feel about it is a result of how much has changed with this program for the better over the last five years, and all our guys recognize that.”

On the women’s side, five freshmen ran for the Illini, led by freshman Rebecca Craddock who finished No. 45 overall with a time of 21:34.5 in the 6,000-meter race, followed by freshmen Nicki Cast and Allison McGrath, who ran 22:34.7 and 22:42.1, respectively. As a team, they finished No. 13 overall.

“All of these women have three more opportunities to be in this race moving forward and can rest assured that every year moving forward they’ll get better and have a more comfortable understand of how the race will be,” Stewart said. “We had five freshmen running, and I think the next-highest amount of freshmen that ran for another team was three, so I think that speaks volumes to where our program is at and what we can accomplish in the future.”

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