Hunt, Turilli break records in first race

By Sharon Steed

In their first races of the season, Cassie Hunt and Jaime Turilli smoked the competition, along with the school 6k record.

Hunt finished first Friday at the Pre-Regional meet in Peoria, Ill., with a time of 21:01. Turilli was right behind her, finishing in 21:04. Both scores broke the school record of 21:29 set by Amber Hunt in 2000 by more than 20 seconds.

“Those two had no one to push them,” said head coach Karen Harvey. “They did it on their own. They pushed their entire team.”

Hunt and Turilli proved themselves as two of the best runners in the Big Ten Friday, Harvey said. Turilli not only broke the record and finished second, she beat her personal best time by an astounding 2:37. Hunt also surpassed her personal best by 28 seconds and was pleased at the progress she made under Harvey.

“It’s so exciting to see the results from last year to now and see how far ahead I’ve come,” she said. “It’s very encouraging.”

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Hunt added the race was a great way to gauge the Illini’s abilities and see how they matched up with their Big Ten competition.

“It’s a great starting point,” she said.

The Illini had seven finishers in the top ten, including Maggie Carroll and Rachel Hernandez, both running 6k for the first time in competition. Carroll finished third overall with a time of 21:47. Hernandez finished sixth among her teammates and seventh overall at 22:09. Harvey was impressed with both freshmen, especially Hernandez.

“She was the big story this weekend,” she said. “She ran awesome.”

Hernandez was just excited to run with her teammates on a course she was comfortable with.

“I wanted to do well for the team,” she said. “I didn’t expect to place seventh out of 45.”

Although this was her first time running the 6k, she was not nervous. She fed off her teammates’ adrenaline; many of them, including Hunt, were running their first race of the season.

Both Hunt and Hernandez were happy with not only their performances, but the team overall.

The Illini’s next meet is Saturday in Carbondale, Ill., at the Saluki Invite. Harvey said they were excited and ready to work, but he also knew the effect meets had on the team and the program.

“It was definitely a great day for Illinois cross country,” Harvey said.

A-grade for B-team

Illinois’ B-team was not outshined by the A-team on Saturday at the Lakefront Invite in Chicago.

“I handed them the results from Friday’s meet in the van and said: ‘Look at what their team did,'” Harvey said.

They rose to the challenge, with six Illini running personal bests including top finisher Michelle LaMantia with a time of 18:45, a personal best by 28 seconds. Natalie Young broke 20 minutes on only her second 5k race at 19:59, beating her previous time by 35 seconds.