Illini return to South Bend

By Erin Foley

The Illinois men’s cross country team hasn’t made an appearance at the Notre Dame Invitational in quite a while, but that won’t stop Wendel McRaven’s team from being competitive.

The Illini, looking to once again become a force in the Big Ten after regaining their top three runners who had red-shirted last season, like their chances at the 51st running of the meet.

“It’s the first time Illinois has been here in a long time, but the course is fairly flat and there are no major characteristics,” McRaven said. “Of course, the team’s running varies from year to year.”

The team’s biggest competition will come from top-ranked Wisconsin, No. 15 Michigan, No. 16 Notre Dame, No. 24 Florida State and No. 27 Providence.

“We’re looking forward to seeing some good competition and seeing where we stack up,” McRaven said. “It’s been a while since we’ve gotten the whole team together against some nationally ranked teams.”

McRaven said he believes that if senior Jason Bill puts himself in a good position, he could finish in the top 10 and that senior Trent Hoerr should not be too far behind. The Illini’s top nine runners will be competing in the Blue Division race at 4 p.m., while senior Jon Houseworth and junior Justin Aronson will be running in the Gold Division Open race at 1:45 p.m.

“We’re running against six nationally ranked teams, and we see ourselves being in that group,” McRaven said. “We just want to have fun and run fast.”