Teams set for Pre-National meet: Women set for competetion

By Erin Foley

The women’s cross country team returns to action this Saturday when it competes in the Pre-National Meet in Terre Haute, Ind. The Illini, ranked No. 5 in the nation in the latest NCAA FinishLynx polls and first in the Midwest in the WICCA Regional Rankings, look to improve their 11th place finish from a year ago.

“We really want to go in and have a good, solid race; we’re more excited since we haven’t raced since Notre Dame,” sophomore Maggie Carroll said.

At the Notre Dame Invite on Sept. 30, Illinois finished in second place to defending Big Ten champion Michigan, making its mark on the National Polls after upsetting six nationally ranked teams. The Illini most notably defeated Wake Forest and Notre Dame.

Illinois will be led once again by juniors Cassie Hunt – who is now listed number three in the Illinois record books for 5k performances – and Stephanie Simms. Head Coach Karen Harvey said Hunt will be looking to get revenge and put herself out there to run against the nation’s best.

Sophomores Carroll, Katie Coppin and Rachel Hernandez, who along with freshmen Katie Engel and Liz Mengyan, will round out the top-seven runners. Harvey said she continues to be impresed with her team’s focus and tight, pack-running ability.

Junior Lisa Phillips and freshman Jamie Kuhl will compete in the 6k Women’s Open Race, following the White Race at 12:55 p.m.

The Illini will see its best competition in No. 15 Princeton, who Harvey feels is underrated, as well as No. 7 Colorado, No. 6 Arizona State and No. 2 Michigan. At the Notre Dame Invite on Sept. 30, Illinois finished second to only defending Big Ten champion Michigan.

“We are focused on Michigan and what we can do; as long as we are prepared, we will be running to our highest potential,” Carroll said.

The only concern for Harvey this weekend will be if Illinois does not stick to its race strategy, since there will be a number of distractions, among them the 30-plus teams at the meet, Harvey said.

“I’m really looking forward to them concentrating; it’s another race to prove ourselves,” she said.

From watching her team in workouts during the last two weeks, Harvey said her team wants to be one of the best teams in the country. They have been trying to finish strong in workouts, the one complaint Harvey had about the team in the Notre Dame Invite.

Carroll said after listening to Harvey at practice recently, she knows the team has the right approach mentally going into Saturday’s race.

“You can either see the race as a challenge, or you can view it as a threat,” Carroll said. “If you see it as a challenge, you are nervous about what you will accomplish, but if you are freaking out, you are mentally out of it.”