Cross country names captain

Shira Weissman

Shira Weissman

By Sharon Steed

For the first time in three years, women’s cross country head coach Karen Harvey named a captain: Jaime Turilli.

Turilli, a senior, has taken it in stride with a humble attitude and a strength most NFL players cannot match.

Turilli’s career at Illinois has been anything but easy. During her freshman year, she and two of her teammates were hit by a car. Doctors told her she was fine; it was only bruising. But she ended up having a stress fracture in her leg.

The following year, knee problems plagued her throughout both cross country and track season.

During the Big Ten Championships last year, Turilli ran the 6K course in 23:10. This past Saturday, she ran it in 21:04. Her improvement is greatly attributed to her overall attitude, said Harvey.

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    “I have coached here for three years and this is the first year I have named a team captain,” Harvey said. “She’s a leader; she’s reliable, a hard worker; she never complains. She is the perfect person for freshmen to look up to.”

    Harvey said Turilli’s drive has pushed the entire team, even Big Ten Player of the Week Cassie Hunt.

    “What’s happening is she’s pushing Cassie, and Cassie hasn’t had anyone to push her,” Harvey said. “Because of those two, the rest of the team is running faster because they don’t want to be left behind.”

    Turilli’s workouts this season have been better than ever, Harvey said. She is running faster and more consistently and shines in the hard workouts. Turilli said working with Harvey has improved her abilities. Harvey focuses on everything in her training, from running to eating to resting. After three injury-ridden years, she knows how to cope with the pains that come with running.

    “The biggest thing is taking your rest and knowing when to rest. If something’s bothering me, I try to back off a little bit,” she said.

    This Saturday at the Saluki Invite in Carbondale, Ill., Turilli hopes to just keep improving her time, which might be a challenge this weekend.

    “It’s a more difficult course: it’s shorter, only 5K instead of 6K, but it’s a little hillier and the footing is rougher (than last weekend),” Turilli said.

    She still hopes that she and Hunt will finish first and second.

    Harvey said the Illini should be able to pull off a first-place finish.

    “I feel there are a few girls that may interrupt our top five, but we should still win this meet,” she said.

    This week’s A-team has 12 runners competing in the meet, instead of nine. The three additions are sophomore Michelle LaMantia and freshmen Erin Frommeyer and Whitney Laurence. Harvey wants them to have another chance to go to Big Tens with the A-team.

    Sophomore Sammie Polock will also compete this weekend. She ran half the course at the Pre-Regional meet as a workout. She will suit up this weekend so she can get the feel of racing again, Harvey said.

    As for Turilli, she will race in this meet as the team leader, continuing to set the standard on and off the course. Harvey knows her attitude and work ethic will take her far.

    “Our goal this year is for her to finish top ten in the Big Ten individually and to qualify for Nationals,” Harvey said. “I don’t see what’s going to stop her.”