Men’s cross country has home meet

By Erin Foley

“Every race is an opportunity.” That’s the method of thinking head men’s cross country coach Wendel McRaven will take into today’s “Pack-It-Up” Challenge at the Arboretum in Urbana.

The race, which begins at 5:45 p.m., is the second and final home meet of the season for the Illini.

McRaven has a “November vision” for the Illini, knowing that the races at the end of the season are the ones that matter. But he also knows that the races leading up to those in the championship phase of the season are crucial.

“For some of our younger guys it’s a stepping stone,” McRaven said. “For some of them, it’s their first 8K, since the last race was a 6K. And it gives guys who are battling for a spot on the traveling squad some experience.

“These races give them insight for later in the season without them spending too much emotional energy.”

The Illini will take on Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Illinois-Chicago and Illinois State.

McRaven originally planned for the entire team, with the exception of senior Jason Bill, to run in the 8K race. But with senior Trent Hoerr getting sick earlier in the week and freshman John Popejoy “banged up,” McRaven has decided to run every runner, but the above three.

Right now, McRaven said the Illini are busy building for the future, but also knows that the miles put in now will go a long way later.

With the team training hard and running faster, McRaven thinks they may be tired.

On Tuesday, the Illini earned a No. 6 ranking in the United States Cross Country Coaches Association Midwest Region preseason poll.

Illinois also received votes on the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association preseason national poll.

“It’s hard to put so much stock into the rankings. Based on last year’s ranking they just bumped us up one spot after last year, so they thought we were a little better,” McRaven said. “It’s nice, but it doesn’t mean anything right now.”

After today’s race, the Illini will take a two-week break before competing in the Notre Dame Invitational on Sept. 29 in South Bend, Ind.