Team to make trip to regionals

By Troy Murray

The men’s cross country team will run at NCAA Regionals this Saturday at Newman Golf Course in Peoria.

Redshirt freshman Matt Flaherty, sophomore Trent Hoerr, juniors Jason Bill, Eric Wallor, Dan Stock and Jon Houseworth and senior Kris Cunningham are scheduled to compete at the meet.

With three teams in the top 25 in the nation competing, the Midwest region is one of the toughest behind only the Great Lakes region and West region.

Iowa (No. 17), Minnesota (No. 22) and Oklahoma State (No. 25) are the ranked teams in the field, but coach Paul Pilkington said the team won’t take Kansas, Missouri or Loyola lightly.

Benson Chesang, a sophomore from Kansas who won the Big 12 Championship, and Andrew Carlson, a Minnesota senior who placed fourth at the Big Ten Championship, are expected to lead the pack. But Cunningham said Bill will also have an impact on the race.

“Jason should definitely be one of the guys vying for the title right up there with Chesang from Kansas and Carlson from Minnesota,” Cunningham said.

From the regional, the top two teams will advance to NCAA Nationals and the top four runners not on those two teams will also be eligible to compete.

Although three teams are ranked at the competition, Cunningham said the team’s chances of qualifying for Nationals are realistic.

“We haven’t run up to our potential,” Cunningham said. “There’s no team in this regional that can easily beat us. If we run to our potential, we’ll be at Nationals. If we beat Iowa, we’ll go to Nationals.”

Bill, who was hampered by a side stitch – a severe cramp in the abdomen – is expected to run at Regionals.

“He couldn’t run for three days afterward,” Pilkington said. “The last couple of days he’s had good workouts, looked very good and had no problems with it.”

The team was ranked seventh in the region earlier in the season, but it has moved up to fifth.

Pilkington said he thinks Bill should qualify for Nationals if the side stitch does not affect him. Hoerr will also have a strong chance to qualify.

“I expect (Bill) and (Hoerr) to be in the upper portion and have a good chance to qualify if the team does not,” Pilkington said. “We need two guys to run about 20 seconds faster and we’ll be in the thick of things with Jason back.”