Two runners to make big debuts this weekend

By Jeff LaBelle

The women’s cross country team is keeping one foot in the starting gate, holding its top seven runners from competition for one more week.

The coaching decision means standout freshmen Chantelle Groenewoud and Danelle Woods will be making their collegiate debuts Friday as the Illini take on 27 other schools in the Illinois Intercollegiate Championships.

The Canadian freshmen will compete alongside Jamie Brusa, Stacy Hague, Carolyn Tysse and many others in the first scheduling of the Championships in 15 years. The top seven runners will debut next week in the Notre Dame Invite on Sept. 28.

“This is going to be a good opportunity for most of our women to get into a large race and gain some experience,” head coach Jeremy Rasmussen said in a press release. “Chantelle and Danelle both have been working out well and I am excited to see how they handle their first collegiate meet. I expect them to both make big strides this year and be key individuals to our team.”

The Illini are ranked sixth nationally and first in the Midwest in the first poll of the year, announced earlier this week. Included in the Illinois Intercollegiate field are Northwestern, Illinois-Chicago, host Illinois State, Loyola and Bradley. Division III schools Augustana, Monmouth and NAIA contender Olivet Nazarene will also compete.

Stanford is ranked first nationally, followed by Michigan and Colorado. Big Ten teams also ranked in the top ten nationally are Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan State, coming in at fifth, eighth and 10th, respectively.

Competing with a limited squad two weeks ago, the Illini finished third behind Marquette and Illinois State in the annual Illini Challenge. Rasmussen said the Illini need to focus on every meet in order to make necessary improvements.

“I told them that rankings are just that, rankings,” Rasmussen said. “We still need to put in the work and make sure we are prepared for each meet.”