Illinois runners ready to compete at Big Ten meet

Shira Weissman

Shira Weissman

By Sharon Steed

This Sunday has been starred on women’s cross country coach Karen Harvey’s calendar. The Illini, ranked 27th nationally and fourth in the Big Ten, have been waiting since camp for 10:45 a.m. on Oct. 31, when they will take on conference competition in the Big Ten Championship.

“The team wants this as bad as I do and I believe we’ll get it done,” Harvey said.

This is the first year that the team has wanted to win more than their coach did, she said.

“They have taken their efforts to another level,” she said. “Workouts since Pre-Nationals have been awesome.”

Their disappointing finish at Pre-Nationals has motivated them for the past two weeks and the team is ready.

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    The Big Ten Championship at Iowa features nine runners from each school with one alternate. Senior captain Jaime Turilli and sophomore Cassie Hunt will hopefully lead the Illini to a top three finish, their goal since camp. They both believe achieving that goal is possible, especially with the progress they have made since Pre-Nationals.

    “We’ve been having good practices and workouts have been great,” Hunt said. “It’s going to be a good race.”

    Hunt’s biggest competition will be the two Big Ten runners who beat her at the Pre-National meet Oct. 16. Michigan’s Rebecca Walter and Michigan State’s Danette Doetzel finished just ahead of Hunt with times of 20:20.1 (fourth place) and 20:25.6 (sixth place), respectively. Hunt finished seventh at 20.28.7.

    “I can’t think of anyone else as good as them,” she said. “That’s my main competition. I just want to stay with them and see what I can do at the end of the race.”

    Turilli believes the team can pull off a top three finish against the steep Big Ten competition. Its biggest competitors, she said, are Indiana University, Michigan State University and the University of Michigan. She also hopes to compete well individually this weekend.

    “I’d like to run a PR, go out with Cassie and stay with her,” she said.

    Seniors Lindsey Reu and Tabitha Volling, sophomores Michelle LaMantia, Lisa Phillips and Stephanie Simms, and freshmen Maggie Carroll and Rachel Hernandez will also compete for the Illini. Freshman Erin Frommeyer will travel as an alternate.

    The top five runners will score, with sixth and seventh in a tie breaker.

    Harvey knows at this point the race is out of her hands. She said her runners have to go out there and compete like she knows they can.

    “(Assistant coach Kevin Sullivan) and I have given them all the preparation, everything they need to be ready,” she said. “We’re like educators. We have prepared the kids for the test and now all they have to do is go out there and run the race.”