Senior reaches final home race

By Erik Hall

Senior cross country runner Kris Cunningham has logged thousands of miles running the streets in and around Champaign.

Cunningham is scheduled to run his final home meet Saturday and only hopes that football fans will skip tailgating to see the race.

“If some people came out, that would be great,” Cunningham said. “It would be nice to have my last trip in cross country in front of some people.”

The Illinois men’s cross country team competes at 8:30 a.m., after an alumni race at 7:45 a.m., at the Arboretum east of the intersection of Lincoln Avenue and St. Mary’s Road in Urbana.

The women’s team runs against Augustana at 9 a.m.

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The Illini men will have to run alone because of a changed date for the race from 2003, which caused teams to drop out of the meet, so they will run a team time trial with no outside competition.

Without a school to compete against, the Illini must beat each other and help coaches decide who will run Sept. 25, at the Roy Griak Invitational in Minneapolis.

“They’re racing for spots to see who travels,” said men’s head coach Paul Pilkington. “They’re going to go at each other and assert themselves a little bit. We’ll have the whole group in there other than Seth (Pilkington) and Dan (Stock). We’ll let those guys just go at it and see what kind of shape they’re really in. It will give me a little better feel of where we’re at with our top five or seven guys.”


Jason Bill beat some of the top runners in the country early in his sophomore year, but as the postseason approached he was slowed by a side stich, a diaphragm muscle pain. The condition prevented Bill from challenging for the Big Ten individual title and qualifying for the NCAA Championships.

Bill said in November 2003 that the way he ended the season was “pretty disappointing.”

So far this season, Bill has run pain-free through practices.ÿHe will test himself Saturday in his first cross country race since November.

“We changed his stride a little bit and shortened him up,” Pilkington said. “What they think was happening is the organs were bouncing and hitting the diaphragm muscles and causing spasms.”

Illinois track coaches helped Bill adjust his stride, helping him to remain healthy.

“We shortened him up and he hasn’t had a problem since,” Pilkington said. “(The side stitch) is completely gone and he’s had no problems. We’ve just got to keep his stride short and see what happens. I think he will be fine this year.”