Illini fall flat with eighth-place finish at Big Tens

By Erin Foley

After Sunday’s eighth-place finish at the Big Ten Championships in Bloomington, Ind., the Illinois men’s cross country team is going through some growing pains.

Hoping to rebound from its 10th-place finish at the conference meet last year, the Illini had high expectations for themselves.

The outcome just wasn’t what they had hoped.

“It was definitely disappointing, there’s no question about that,” head coach Wendel McRaven said.

The Illini finished with 188 points, while No.1-ranked Wisconsin claimed its eighth-straight Big Ten title with 27 points. Michigan State finished in second with 88 points, while Minnesota was third with 98 points.

“At the Big Ten Championships, if you go out there and have a great day, you look like a stud, but if you have a good race, you’re going to look mediocre,” McRaven said.

Senior Jason Bill led the Illini with a 20th-place finish in a time of 25:13 for the 8K race, but at the Pre-National meet two weekends ago, Bill finished in 51st place with a time of 24:29.

“(Jason) didn’t nearly run where we would have liked him to,” McRaven said. “He didn’t fall apart by an stretch of the imagination; he just had a rough day.”

Freshman Jeremy Stevens finished in 28th place with a time of 25:26, while junior Michael Kelley came in 43rd place with a 25:47. Senior Maciej Sniegorski (48th place) and junior Dan Stock (49th) rounded out the top five for the Illini.

Stock placed 33rd at last year’s Big Tens, and McRaven said he never got into a rhythm,

Junior Trent Hoerr, who spent time in the emergency room earlier this week with the stomach flu, and junior Matt Flaherty also competed for the Illini.

Illinois will look to put the Big Ten race behind them when they compete in the NCAA Midwest Regional in Minneapolis, Minn., on Nov. 11.

Last year, the Illini finished seventh at the meet and McRaven said if the team finishes in the top five, it has a shot at qualifying for nationals.

“We’re a better team than this,” McRaven said. “We just need to go out and prove it.

“We need to put this behind us and move on to the Regional meet and do something there,” McRaven said.