Bill finishes fourth at Pre-Nationals

By Troy Murray

The Illini men’s cross country team came out of Pre-Nationals with mixed feelings.

Junior Jason Bill set a new personal best time, running the 8,000-meter race in just 23:59.4. Bill dropped almost 36 seconds from his previous personal best time, finishing fourth out of 242 runners. Bill’s time was only 16 seconds away from Illinois’ 22-year-old record set by Ty Wolf more than 20 years ago.

Bill could be the man to break that record.

“He’s going to break the record; it just depends on the conditions he’s given,” said head coach Paul Pilkington.

Bill stayed with the top of the pack for most of the race, until Ryan Hall, last year’s runner-up at the NCAA championship, pulled away. Hall finished just five seconds ahead of Bill.

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Saturday at Pre-Nationals, runners dealt with 15-30 mph wind gusts. With good conditions, Pilkington said he believes Bill could have run 10-15 seconds faster, which would put him just off the record time.

But Bill does not put too much emphasis on setting the record.

“It’s not about breaking the school record,” Bill said. “It’s about placing high in the Big Ten Championship meet, going to Nationals, and running your best in each race.”

Although Bill was successful under the extreme conditions, the team did not fare as well, finishing 24th out of 35 teams.

“We didn’t execute as a team,” Bill said. “Hopefully we can get it together.”

Although most of the teams were nationally ranked, Pilkington said the team could have run faster.

“I’m disappointed with our third, fourth, and fifth runners,” Pilkington said. “They know they can run faster.”

Matt Flaherty, a redshirt freshman, ran his first 8,000-meter race this weekend in the competition’s open race. Flaherty ran fast enough to be the team’s third man. This might have sent the third, fourth and fifth runners a message.

“Matt should have woken those guys up,” Pilkington said.

The team’s next meet is the Big Ten Championship at Iowa on Oct. 31. This will provide the team with its last major test before Nationals in November.

“The Big Ten Conference is loaded with talent,” Pilkington said. “It’s probably the best cross country conference in the nation. Six teams should be in the top 30.”